With just eight months to plan a wedding, Claire Smith married Alejandro Hevia Riopedre in Gijon, Spain on a rooftop terrace overlooking the beach
How did you meet?
We met through Tinder. We were both about to delete the app and luckily, we matched and started chatting. Within a few hours, we met up in person after discovering that we were going to the same bar that night with respective friends. Little did I know, that Alex´s friends decided not to go to that bar in the end but he convinced them because he really wanted to meet me. His friends left the bar within ten minutes and he stayed alone to talk to me and get to know my friends. He then proceeded to forget my name, but that was forgiven when he walked me home, and we stood talking outside my flat until 7am in the morning. He asked to see me the next day - well same day by then - and we haven´t been apart since.
Tell us about the proposal.
A couple of mutual friends asked Alex and I to go to an escape room, which I love doing, so thought nothing of it. Upon entering the escape room, Alex and his friend started finding clues quite quickly and I remember thinking how clever they were and us girls were trying to keep up. It was all going so well and then I found a box with a lock. I carried this box around the rooms with me to find another key, and upon escaping, I put it back down to run out the door.
I was so impressed as it was the fastest time in which I had ever completed an escape room! The owner then asked me to unlock the box with the ´missing´ key. As I unlocked it, Alex got down on one knee so suddenly that it made me jump. He blurted out ´will you marry me´ before I had even opened the ring box inside. After saying an emotional yes, I then realised a video camera had been set up in the reception and had captured the whole thing.
Alex had been there the day before with his friend and they had completed the whole escape room together, to see where best to put the ring box. That´s why they knew it all and we escaped so fast. They hadn´t counted on me carrying the box all the way around the rooms though and only managed to switch the key for the correct one in the last minute, when I put it down and we escaped.
What was the theme for the day, and did you have a colour scheme?
Our colour scheme was black, grey and deep purple. I am quite a rock chick with a love for skulls, and luckily Alex quite liked the idea, so our general theme was skulls but also some travel elements thrown in. We had a very international wedding in general, with guests from Spain, the UK, the USA and Singapore. Our table seating plan was a world map and the tables were all places Alex and I have visited, as we have both travelled for our jobs.
What venue did you choose and why did you choose it?
We chose to get married where we live in Gijon as it´s Alex´s home city and the place we met, so it has such a special place in our hearts. We mainly chose the hotel because of the stunning rooftop terrace that we were able to have the legal ceremony on. The views look over the beach and it was a beautiful backdrop. We chose to have the ceremony and reception in the same hotel because it meant we could all stay in the same place and didn´t have to organise any transport. This took a lot of pressure off and meant that guests could go back in the lift to their rooms at the end of the night.
How did you know you’d found ‘the’ dress?
I went dress shopping back in England, as I wasn´t finding the style I wanted in Spain. They can be more traditional in Spain and I was looking for a more alternative style. On the first day of dress shopping, we went to Fairy Gothmother in London and the third dress I tried on just made me stop and say ‘wow’. We went to one other shop for fittings after that, but I just knew my dress was in the first shop. The dress is called the ´Dulcie´ and is the perfect strike between black lacy goth and white tulle bridal skirt.
Does the dress match the one you originally thought you would choose?
Originally, I had wanted an all-black or all grey dress and wasn´t entertaining the idea of any white or cream. However, my dress surprised me as it gave me the black lace top I wanted but the skirt said ´bride´ with its puffy white tulle layers. I always knew I wanted a shorter, tea length dress so I could dance.
Who were the bridesmaids and what did they wear?
I have quite an international bunch and friendships spanning my whole life. I had six bridesmaids: Tara (from LA, USA), Steph (from Indiana, USA), Refiye (from England but lives in the USA), Tarquin (from South Africa but lives in Spain), Nicky (from England but lives in Singapore) and Lisa (from England).
The dresses they wore were rockabilly style, with black tutus underneath to puff them out. The top and bottom of all the dresses was black lace and then three of the girls were in pale grey and three in deep purple. They each had a black wrist cuff and black drop earrings.
Where did you find your suits?
They were found in a small, locally owned business here in Gijon. As it wasn´t a chain company, the owner couldn´t have been more helpful - he offered special discounts and was very attentive with the fittings.
Did you hire a wedding planner?
No, we did all the planning ourselves but had a very good events planner from the hotel who took care of all our queries and requests.
Tell us about your floral arrangements.
I am very allergic to flowers and so had to get creative with my ideas for the bouquets. I have always loved feathers and so in the end, I had some feather bouquets made from a shop on Etsy.com. The lady did a beautiful job using our colour scheme and it meant we could all keep the bouquets afterwards as a memory. We had small unpollinated flowers on the back of the chairs in the ceremony but apart from that, we were flower free.
Tell us about the details of the day.
I think the wedding could have been sponsored by Etsy.com as I bought most details from there. I loved being able to support small businesses whilst finding original and quirky pieces for our wedding.
For our favours, we had shot glasses with a skull design on them, filled with M&Ms that had our photo on and little phrases. I stumbled across these personalised M&Ms online and they went down a treat. Alex is a real gin fan, so he had placed little bottles of gin next to the shot glasses.
Our table decorations were a bit DIY as I had a vision that I collected pieces for. We bought clear glass bottles (two for each table) and then had string fairy lights running up to silver and black balloons. We weighted down the lights and balloons with grey stones within the bottles and had the lights go around inside the bottles too, so they created a lovely effect. It took some tries, but we got there in the end.
We had a tattoo station from Doris Loves, which I highly recommend, and the tattoos were very popular with guests.
I also handmade a photo selection with a quote in memory of those who couldn´t be with us on the day. I had photos of my gran and grandpa attached to my bouquet, so they were with me on my walk down the aisle.
We had a sweet table, personalised post box and a photo booth complete with various props.
How did you feel as you walked down the aisle?
I was just so excited and once we walked up to the terrace and I saw everyone waiting there, I was trying to take it all in and couldn´t stop smiling. My dad looked so happy and proud as he walked me down the aisle and that was an important moment for me. When I saw Alex, I got emotional and the moment really hit me.
How did you make the ceremony personal to you?
Ceremonies in Spain have a different format to the UK and we tried to stick to this idea whilst adding a few of our own. I said my vows in Spanish and Alex said his in English, which was a cherished moment for me in our bi-lingual life together. Saying those important words in each other´s language made it even more meaningful.
It is tradition to make the speeches during the ceremony in Spain and so we followed this, but I found it rather strange that the groom or bride speech is before the actual exchange of rings. So, we changed this, and Alex did his speech after we were officially married and then I had the last word. My poor dad had his speech before the exchange of rings but we didn´t realise this would happen, until the day before. However, he added great humour into it by saying ´please raise your glasses, which you don´t have in your hands´ as Alex and I weren´t even married by this point. I think it was better having our three speeches during the ceremony as it meant that once the food and drink then came out, we were all relaxed and didn´t have to worry about getting up to speak later.
During the signing of the register, I had my brother play an acoustic version of ´Here Comes the Sun´ by The Beatles and it was so lovely to have him as a special part of our ceremony.
What was your most memorable moment?
When Alex surprised me with a 10 minute epic dance mash up with the lads. He even came out dressed as Freddie Mercury in drag - I was completely shocked. I am a performer, actress, singer and dancer and so it was expected that I would do a few performances in the day…but to see my normally quiet, more reserved husband owning that stage, it meant the world as I knew it was a gift to me.
What was the most challenging aspect of planning this wedding?
I would say the lead up. I was so chilled and loving the planning until a month or so before and then it all became very real. There were so many bits to organise. For example, trying to organise my dance routine with the girls when they were in the UK, USA and Singapore respectively, meant only one rehearsal afternoon all together, the day before the wedding day. They were incredible though and did an amazing job.
What was the most important investment for you?
I think we would both say the food and drink. Here in Spain, it is tradition that the guests essentially pay per head to attend the weddings. I found this crazy at first and didn´t want to expect that kind of contribution but we do the same when we go to weddings here. In that sense, it is important that guests are receiving a high quality of food and drink and that we are taking care of them in this way.
It is common here to have an open bar for the duration of the wedding and I am sure that makes most people think of how crazy the cost must be, but it´s not. It´s all part and parcel of the packages and so we had an open bar from 1pm in the afternoon to 3am the following morning - the Spanish know how to party.
The Spanish ´jamon´ is also a very important part of a wedding and Alex and I had many discussions over the varying costs of different qualities of ham. So much so, I mentioned the jamon in my speech as it seemed to be an important element for him… It was probably one of our single biggest investments.
What song did you choose for your first dance, and why?
´Bonfire Heart´ by James Blunt. It has been our song for a few years now because the lyrics mean so much to us and tell our story in some way. I choreographed a short routine to the song for both of us and then for the rest of it we danced with everyone.
Did you have any evening entertainment?
Earlier in the day, we had a swing band on the rooftop terrace after the ceremony and I sang a few songs with a dear guitarist friend of mine. Then in the evening we had a rock band and I sang a number with them that we had been rehearsing. They played rock and indie hits and got everyone on the dance floor. We also had my dance with the girls and then Alex´s surprise dance with the guys. We finished the night off with a DJ leading us into the morning.
If you could go back and change anything, what would it be?
I wouldn´t change a thing. I would only go back to relive it all again. The thought that kept striking me during the day was that never again would all these people be in the same place at the same time. Every moment was so precious.
Did anything go wrong on the day?
Only one small thing- we danced into the reception to ´Welcome to the Jungle´ by Guns N´ Roses. All the groomsmen and bridesmaids were rocking out, doing air guitars etc. Then when Alex and I came in and went to sit down so everyone else could sit down for food…they didn´t stop the music, which was pretty loud. We weren´t sure what to do so kept dancing at our seats and people stood politely and clapped, then Alex decided to use cutlery to play the imaginary drums and it turned into a funny impromptu table dance until the venue finally turned the music off.
Did you have a custom hashtag for social media?
As one of Alex´s surnames is Hevia (the H is silent), we had the hashtag ´Happily Hevia After´. One of our friends kindly made us a large sign of #happilyheviaafter so people could tag their photos with it on social media.
Was there anything you wish you’d known before?
How fast the time would fly. Our wedding was long, 1pm to 3am, but it seemed to go by like lightning. Apart from that, we were very fortunate that everything went smoothly and if it didn´t, then it all added to the fun atmosphere.
Where did you go on honeymoon?
We left the day after the wedding for our honeymoon. We first went to South Africa, Cape Town, Johannesburg and then on safari in Kruger National Park. We then went to a private island of only 10 chalets in the Seychelles. It was the perfect mix of wild adventure and then chilled beach time.
Do you have any advice for couples in the planning stages?
Enjoy it. It´s easy to let stress take the fun away from the process, when in reality you are planning the best day of your lives. Work as a team, compromise as much as possible and make sure you get an essence of both of you in there. Also, don´t worry about what others think. We were worried about offending people by not having children for example, but everyone was of course fine with it. Your day; your way.
Steal Their Style
Venue: Abba Playa Gijón Hotel
Photographer: Omar Pardo Fotógrafo
Videographer: Ilusiones Visuales
Swing Band: Body & Soul Trio
Rock Band: Undercover
Hair: Diot Estilistas
DJ and Photo Booth: Sonifon
Favours: Personalised M&Ms
Tattoo Station: Doris Loves
WATCH: Claire and Alejandro’s wedding video