AW Andalucia Weddings & Events (www.andaluciaweddings.com), created by Michael Soffe (originally from the UK, but living in Spain for 23 years) and Laura Dibben (from Canada, who met her Spanish husband in Canada at University and moved to Málaga over 10 years ago), is the foremost wedding planning company in Andalucia.
Our “Happy Couples” come from all points of the globe to marry in Spain. All our weddings are a year or more in the planning and are for between 30 and 100 guests, although some have been larger and others smaller. Here, we spend a wedding day with them at a beautiful inland country hotel in the hills above Málaga which they have taken in exclusivity for a three-day celebration. Yesterday evening, they hosted an informal welcome paella party for 86 guests (28 guests are staying in the hotel’s 14 bedrooms; additional guests are in hotels and villas nearby).
The Wedding Day: Today’s ceremony is a religious ceremony in a nearby Catholic Church (religious and non-religious Humanist blessings can of course also be arranged to take place at the venues themselves); owing to the intense summer heat, it will commence at 6.00pm (the Bride and Groom needed a mound of paperwork to gain all the necessary permissions from the Bishop of Malaga and local Parish, but this moment always makes the effort well worthwhile!). The service will be conducted by a bilingual Priest, and Michael will take care of the civil paperwork at the local Registry the day after the wedding. The service is followed by an hour of cava and canapés, then a sit-down 5-course dinner. After dinner, there is dancing until the early hours. The Bride and Groom today are a British couple, and their guests have flown in from as far as Australia and America.
7.00am: Up early for breakfast and straight to the days list of tasks, although we have already been here for two days so much of the decoration is already in place. Romance is key for these two, and it shows. Fairy lights in the thousands, candles and torches abound. This is already looking dreamy…just wait until sunset.
Stationery, such as menus, orders of service, place names, table names and the table plan have all been designed (to the Bride and Groom’s theme and style).
Laura picked up all the flowers yesterday and made a start on the table centres yesterday evening, working late into the night. Her first task of the day: bouquets for the Bride and Bridesmaids. A few weeks before the wedding she did “trial” bouquets and table centres, sending the Bride photos for her final approval (all done to the Bride’s choice of colours, flowers, etc). Each bouquet can take up to an hour to create depending on structure, size and complexity.
Michael is back up the step ladder again in the stunning patio courtyard which will provide the back-drop for this evening’s more formal Wedding Dinner. With the lighting already in place, he is hanging swags of material to match the “theme” of this wedding.
11.00am: The decoration in the patio courtyard is complete, ready for the tables and chairs to be set up when the waiters come in later on. Michael starts tying 86 bows on chairs.
11.30am: Arrival of the hairdresser and make-up artist. The Bride had a hair and make-up trial two months ago when she and the Groom flew over for their mega menu-tasting to choose their final Wedding Menu. They stayed in the hotel with Michael and Laura (one of the great perks of the job, they say, is getting to try all the fabulous food on offer!). The hairdresser is starting with the “Mums” who are having their hair done too, before starting on the Bridesmaids and then the Bride. The beautician has a list of pedicures and manicures. Laura pops up to the Bridal Suite from time to time to check all is well and to translate if necessary.
1.00pm : Laura is on the last Bridesmaid’s bouquet (she popped up to the Bridal Suite with the Bride’s bouquet earlier, just to make sure all was to the Bride’s satisfaction before binding and cutting the stems – the Bride shed a few tears of joy!!). Michael starts filling confetti cones with rose petals (colour coordinated of course!)
1.30pm: The waiters arrive to start setting up the tables. Michael supervises their positioning in accordance with the table plan created a couple of weeks ago. The waiters have all the details of who is seated where, who has special dietary requirements (there are always guests who do not eat fish, meat or have allergies –never a problem for the fantastic Chef). A mass email to guests three weeks before the wedding has yielded a few vegetarians, a vegan, a nut allergy, a seafood allergy and a coeliac with gluten free requirements. Substitutes have been arranged, so it will be a 5-coures feast for all!
2.30pm: All going to plan – Michael and Laura feel lucky they have time for a quick bite to eat!
3.00pm: Arrival of the official Photographer. Photo coverage starts with the Bridal preparations and continues until after the first dance.
Flowers are finished. Apart from the bouquets, Laura has made 6 buttonholes for the gentlemen and two corsages for the Mums which will be kept cool until they are to be pinned on. Michael and Laura move to the patio to tend to the finer details. Everyone has a small olive oil bottle with their name attached on a tag tied by a ribbon. They look stunning.
4.00pm. Place names, menus and table names are now in place; the seating plan is on the lawn below the patio where the cava and canapés will be served when everyone returns from the Church.
4.30pm: Michael leaves for the church in the nearby town (armed with pew ends, portable sound equipment, orders of service and confetti cones).
The photographer has moved to the best man’s room where the Groom is getting ready, to take more wedding preparation shots.
5.00pm: The bridal car – a gorgeous 1958 Vintage Rolls Royce with chauffeur arrives at the hotel.
Michael arrives at the Church to place pew ends. The Classical Music Trio arrive to set up. They will be playing before and during the service. The Parish Officer arrives with the wedding certificate which will be signed by the Bride, Groom, Priest and two witnesses, and will be presented as a legal document to the local registrar for the wedding to be legally recognised.
The Groom leaves for the Church with his Best Man and 3 ushers (driven by the Best man in his rental car), but not before Laura has pinned on their “buttonholes”.
Guests from nearby villas start to arrive at the wedding hotel to get the coach which Michael and Laura have arranged for them and for those staying in the wedding hotel to take them to the Church and back.
5.15pm: Laura sees everyone onto the coach for departure to the Church.
5.30pm: The mothers and the Groom´s father leave for the Church in a private car.
The Bride’s father sees his daughter for the first time today (tears all round – always a magical moment!!). She looks stunning!!!
5.35pm: Laura leaves for the Church with the Bridesmaids.
5.40: The Bride and her Father leave for the Church in the Rolls Royce. Guests start to arrive at the Church – the Classical Trio play some wonderful music. The Ushers show everyone to their seats and all are given orders of service.
Father Don Juan – our jovial bilingual Priest is now dressed in his wedding attire ready to conduct the service. The expectation and excitement is clear on everyone’s faces.
5.55pm: Everyone in place in the Church, and Laura arrives with the Bridesmaids (but not before checking with Michael on the mobile that there are no loitering guests outside). In Spain, traditionally, the Groom walks up the aisle with his Mother (what Mum would not love to do that?!). So Michael gives the nod to the Classical trio and they play his chosen piece of music for his entrance. His Mum looks so proud as she walks up the aisle on his arm.
The Bride arrives with her father, and Laura gets them in position outside the closed main doors of the Church. Her entrance music starts (she has chosen the very traditional “Ave Maria” and a local soprano to sing it). The Church doors open, and she makes “THE” entrance of a lifetime. Not a dry eye in the house (Michael and Laura included!). A beautiful service follows.
6.30pm: Mr. and Mrs. M leave the Church as husband and wife! Rose petals are thrown, lots of congratulations and hugs and kisses before they depart in the Roller back to the Hotel.
7.00pm: Everyone is now back at the hotel and the drinks flow for an hour accompanied by a selection of delicious canapés. A Classical Flamenco Guitarist plays gently in the background. During this hour, Laura and I make a final check around the patio courtyard, placing the floral arrangements on the tables (and a few toys for the children), do another lighting check (still daylight, but they come into their own as dusk falls during the meal). Whilst at the Church, the band arrived and set up for later in the evening.
8.00pm: Guests move up to the patio to take their seats for dinner – lots of “oohs and ahhs” for our spectacular decoration and table settings.
Speeches and toasts are followed by a fabulous dinner. Tonight’s Menu is as follows:
Starter: Orange and beetroot salad, roasted pistachios and grated goats cheese
Fish Course: Roasted salmon with king prawns, zucchini sauce and crunchy walnuts
Sorbet: Mango sorbet with peppermint
Meat Course: Vacuum cooked roast lamb “au jus” with mint sauce
Dessert: ”Semifrio” of three chocolates with mango ice cream and crunchy banana
Dinner is accompanied by gentle live jazz and bossa by a renowned saxophone player and flautist from Málaga.
11.05pm: Cutting of the Wedding Cake followed by the First Dance, “Lucky (I´m in Love with My Best Friend)” played by a fantastic 5-piece band who break right into the first of their two, 1-hour sets. The Bride and Groom have a 4-hour open bar for their guests. Party time! ADJ takes over in the Band’s breaks and continues after their sessions.
3.00am: The coach arrives to take guests back to the nearby town, and a couple of mini-buses take others back to their villas at 3.30am.
We get to bed at 5.00am after a bit of a clear up. A 22 hour day, but we have loved it! Tomorrow evening we have a farewell pool-side buffet with all the guests, before everyone departs on Monday. The Bride and Groom will start their honeymoon with us arranged through our sister company www.anamazinghotel.com – a 10 day tour of 4 cities in Andalucia.
With many thanks to Emma Munck Photography for the image used at the top of this post.