A traditional but personal wedding in Portugal
06 Nov 2020
Emma Pearson tells us about the challenges of planning her Portuguese wedding to Paul Wood postponed from May 2020 to September
Photography: Ana Parker Photography
What was the theme for the day, and did you have a colour scheme?
Our theme for the day was traditional Portuguese. We didn’t want to go with a décor package and simply pick the colour, so we used a professional wedding decorating company called Unique and Chic and picked out everything individually.
As we got married in Portugal it isn’t as easy as just bringing things we wanted to use to the venue. It did mean that we didn’t have to do anything at the venue ourselves which was so relaxing because the decorators installed everything in the morning and the church and the reception and then picked it all up after. We had been to so many weddings where the bridesmaids or groomsmen had to get up on the wedding day to decorate the venue and we really wanted to avoid that. We used a lot of vintage gold candles and candlesticks and our main décor theme was lights, candles and green and white flowers. We had a sign made and used at the church and the balcony we used for the cocktail hour welcoming everyone to our wedding and they were decorated in fresh flowers. The reception space itself didn’t need much decorating due to the natural beauty of the surroundings but we did have a canopy of lights used and installed fairy lights around each of the trees surrounding the square.
What venue did you choose and why did you choose it?
From the moment we got engaged we knew we wanted to get married in Portugal. I have been visiting Portugal since I was born, and my parents have a place there. Portugal is where we enjoyed our first holiday as a couple and where we have returned many times. I knew I specifically wanted a real town square covered in lights and trees but it was really hard to find initially. It is more difficult to plan a wedding abroad as it’s not easy to just pop round and visit a venue so most of the options are hotel packages. We didn’t want a wedding that looked like everyone else’s so we ended up going to Portugal to look at venues three times until I found the square I wanted on google earth and luckily our wedding planner was more than happy to arrange it for us. I think you really must put your trust in your wedding planner when getting married abroad because you can’t visit suppliers as easy as you could in the UK so you really are relying on them doing it for you and sending you the best options.
Tell us about the dress
I picked a dress by Pronovias and had a royal length train even though my mum said I would be too hot and should go for a standard light, floaty summer wedding dress. I, of course went for the biggest one I could find. When we got closer to the (second) wedding date I actually went and purchased another gown for the evening by Stella York which I changed into after the first dance and one of my friends put my hair up.
Who were the bridesmaids and what did they wear?
I had three bridesmaids, my best friend, Paul’s sister and our daughter Ava who is seven. The bridesmaids wore light blue dresses which we picked for comfort so they could dance the night away.
What did the groom wear?
We hired our suits from Top That Formal Hire as we wanted the groomsmen in full tails. We are really glad we choose to hire them because my brother couldn’t make the wedding in the end as he lives in New Zealand and wouldn’t have been allowed back if he attended due to the Covid border restrictions.
Did you hire a wedding planner?
Our wedding planner was fantastic. We met her a few times prior to the wedding where she took us round venues and to the florist and she was fantastic. We are forever grateful for her support during Covid-19. When we make the decision to postpone the date she immediately moved all our bookings to the new date and confirmed everything with the suppliers so it was a complete weight of our minds.
Tell us about your floral arrangements
We picked green and white flowers which included eucalyptus and white roses which was very in keeping with the surroundings. Our bridesmaids had a bouquet along with mine which was a fantastic drop bouquet. Our groomsmen had simple white roses which also decorated the tables. For our top table we had a long trail of the same flowers and it looked so beautiful. For all the other tables we had a circle of the same flowers surrounding candles and we had an arrangement made for the alter at the church as well.
How did you feel as you walked down the aisle?
Relieved it was all finally happening. Even a week before the wedding I wasn’t sure if it would go ahead and everyone commented on how relieved we looked at the church.
How did you make the ceremony personal to you?
We had a traditional catholic ceremony so prior to the wedding we had to go to our local church in England and have the priest confirm all of our documents and send them over to the priest in Portugal. Traditionally catholic weddings can be quite long but we were able to shorten certain aspects and cut things out because we knew how hot everyone would be in the church. Our daughter was supposed to do a special reading but she got nervous just before and so we had to subtly tell the priest to move on.
What was your most memorable moment?
The moment I realised we were officially married. Because of all the Covid disruption I didn’t even believe it was all happening until that moment.
What was the most challenging aspect of planning this wedding?
Covid-19! We flew out on the Friday (our wedding was the following Tuesday) and until the Thursday night we didn’t know if we would even have any best men. For five months prior to the wedding Portugal didn’t have an airbridge which meant most of our guests, including the best men couldn’t come. We were so relieved when two weeks before they announced Portugal was being added. We were very frustrated it took so long because the Covid numbers in the Algarve were so low. Two weeks before the wedding the news started reporting that Portugal would again be removed from the airbridge list and we didn’t know until the Thursday before that it was thankfully being kept on the list. We lost a lot of guests because of this but on the day it really didn’t matter. We had the best week and the best day with a perfect group of guests.
What was the most important investment for you?
After the venue I really prioritised the music and then the open bar which we had throughout the day and night. We picked quite a famous band from the Algarve who played music at the church, did an acoustic set for the cocktail hour and then we had hours and hours of live music. We had only booked two hours of live music but because it was one of the only weddings the band had done all year they carried on all night. We had our cocktail hour on a balcony overlooking the Monchique mountains with canapes and drinks and then the band singing. It was magical.
Tell us about your wedding cake
Our wedding cake was two tiers (red velvet and Victoria sponge) decorated in gold leaf and flowers with a cake topper I had made at home.
If you could go back and change anything, what would it be?
Nothing I just wish the day was longer. I would recommend to anyone getting married abroad because not only did we get the day with all our friends and family but we got the whole week to spend with them at the beach, the pool and in restaurants. We had some great days and nights and it was brilliant for everyone to forget about Covid for a while.
Was there anything you wish you’d known before?
I wish I know that the Covid rules and restrictions didn’t matter. There was a time when we didn’t think we would be allowed table décor or that all our guests would permanently be in masks but none of that happened and we were so grateful. We also spent a lot of time worrying about who was and wasn’t coming and, in the end, even with a small number it was absolutely perfect.
Do you have any advice for couples in the planning stages?
Don’t stress, even with Covid-19 everything worked out fine for us in the end. Also I would recommend using a videographer so you can really capture the memories of the day.
Steal Their Style
Photography: Ana Parker Photography
Wedding planner: Glamour Weddings
Reception venue and catering: Caldas De Monchique
Wedding dress (day): Pronovias from Bridal Couture by Josephine
Wedding dress (night): Stella York from Puure Bride
Groom and groomsmen suits: Top That Formal Hire
Make-up and Hair: B Glam Beauty
Wedding decorators: Unique & Chic Weddings
Flowers: Arte & Flores
Band: The Switha’s Band
Videographer and drone: Alberto Video