From Portugal with Love
Having been involved in this glorious wedding business, Save the Date for nearly seven years, I (Lydia) have seen my fair share of weddings. We have featured some beauties on our website and I have attended many weddings of dear friends and family. But until June this year, I'd never been to an abroad wedding. To be totally honest, I was quite sceptical when it came to couples getting married overseas. Obviously, I could see the appeal but I always wondered if it was really worth all that extra stress, flying out to the venue in advance, relying on overseas suppliers to 'get' your vision and being able to ensure all your guests would be able to make the journey. However, when my cousin James and his lovely Sophie decided to get married in Portugal, I was excited at the prospect of getting the opportunity to see what all the fuss was about with an overseas wedding.
Over 20 of us on my side of the family decided to book a week in Vilamoura for the nuptials with the wedding taking place in Quinta Do Lago on the fifth day of our seven. And it was quite honestly an absolute ball. From start to finish, we had such a brilliant time, getting to know all the other guests of the wedding, laughing, drinking, laughing some more, drinking a lot more ... you get the gist. And as for the wedding itself, well WOW, I can safely say I am now firmly 'pro' abroad weddings - not only do the bride and groom get the unique chance to spend a whole week with their nearest and dearest and say 'I do' in the prettiest, sunniest of locations but for the guests, it's an unforgettable experience.
Here's the bride Sophie to tell us all about her beautiful big day ...
Our Dream Venue ...
We got married in Quinta Do Lago, in the Algarve. Portugal was the first place we visited after being together for a few months and we fell in love with the place, so it only seemed right to go back there for our special day. Also you can legally marry in Portugal unlike some other European countries. We chose Hotel Quinta Do Lago which is set in the gorgeous Ria Formosa Nature Park. The hotel is an old style, classy Portuguese golf hotel with a fantastic garden which leads town to the nature park.
When we first visited with our wedding planner and walked down into the garden it just felt right. I could picture what I imagined my day to be like set in the garden, and loved the idea of looking out on to a natural setting during the ceremony and setting up a cocktail bar in the garden with a string quartet playing. The wedding breakfast would be on the terrace by the pool again overlooking the view, the sun would be shining and then setting and they had a terrace area and room indoors for the party, I knew it would be perfect.
Everyone commented on how gorgeous the hotel was throughout the day so we knew we made the right venue choice. Walking around the nature park and grounds as the sun set having photos with James knowing all our guests were up on the terrace here in Portugal for us was such a special moment.
Our videographer had a drone to truly capture the venue and surrounding areas, we cannot wait to get the video back. Hotel Quinta do Lago now holds a special place in our hearts and we hope to visit for future anniversaries.
"I really recommend a planner to find trustworthy suppliers if getting married abroad"
We wanted the overall feel to be a classy, glamorous wedding. We incorporated a bit of a travel theme to it, which started with our save the date cards including a little aeroplane, which then followed this on to the invites, made by Eaton Stationery. They were tied with a ribbon with a small aeroplane on that had S & J engraved. We then asked them to make wooden planes engraved with places we had visited together for our table names to sit in the floral centre pieces, I saw quite a lot of people take photos of them so I think they were a hit! I tried to sit people on tables of places I had been with them if possible, so James’ family were Nice as we had a great weekend there, my brother sat on Valencia as we visited him there when he studied in Spain, my friends Ibiza after many girls holidays, bridesmaids were Marbella after a great hen weekend!
We used a fantastic local florist/stylist who was recommended by our wedding planner, we had two planning weekends in Portugal and met her with all our ideas and images of what we loved and she created them perfectly! We had cream and peach/coral coloured flowers and got married under a gorgeous drape and floral decorated gazebo with a white aisle carpet and petals, with flower balls down the aisle giving a romantic feeling which was exactly what I had imagined.
A very talented family member made all the bouquets and buttons holes from artificial flowers which we took with us, they were so realistic and a lovely keepsake, this was to keep costs down a little as flowers in Portugal are imported and very expensive.
We had a string quartet playing as the guests arrived to the garden to create the classic, romantic feel we desired. They played as the bridesmaids walked down the aisle, then as my dad and I did, and during the cocktail hour giving beautiful background music and atmosphere, I remember looking up at them as my brother and James’ sister came up to sign as witnesses and they were playing a song I requested and I just thought they were very talented and just what I hoped for.
We used a local Portuguese baker for the wedding cake, we visited his show room at a lovely traditional Portuguese farmhouse for cake tasting which was absolutely delicious and left an image of a cake we liked off Pinterest and he created it for us. Quite trusting of us to put it all in their hands and not see it until the big day but we trusted our wedding planner 100% she couldn’t have done more for us, I really recommend a planner to find trustworthy suppliers if getting married abroad.
"I just put my dress on and knew"
I loved my dress and it was exactly what I had imagined. I knew I wanted a fitted, lace, fishtail shape with a low back. I was open to ideas when dress shopping as heard so many people say you like the opposite to what you imagine but this wasn’t the case for me. I tried on around 40 dresses in the end at 3 shops, but in the last shop, DressPlace, I just put one on and I knew. The lady who was helping me in the dress shop said this is the one I know it is and I was smiling in the mirror when she looked up and I walked out to my mum who’s face lit up and she just said yes! I picked a detailed veil which had a beautiful petal trim around the edge to bring out the lace and it felt right with getting married in a garden to have a pretty floral lace dress and veil. I also took this and incorporated it into the wedding ring I had designed by Temprell, who were great and created me a unique piece, I love it and get so many compliments.
I couldn’t decide on bridesmaid dresses for a while. I felt so many where all the same and something everyone had seen at a wedding before, I wanted something different. I trawled the internet until I came across Virgos lounge. I saw a dress and just thought yes that’s it! It was a beautiful embellished coral V neck low cowl back dress. I ordered one and my sister and James’ sister tried it on and it was beautiful and the embellishment caught the light perfectly, I knew it would look great in the Portuguese sunshine and was a style to suit all shapes. They had so many compliments on the dresses, lots of people asking where they were from on social media and they all looked gorgeous in them!
James had a tuxedo from Hugo Boss which was tailored to him perfectly and he looked so handsome in it! I wanted a glamorous feel and it doesn’t get much better than a tuxedo! Our dads both wore one too from M&S. The ushers were in white shirts with black trousers, braces and gold & black bow ties from Mrs Bowtie, they’re a little pricey but great quality and come in a gorgeous box. Their service was fantastic.
"Sit back, soak it up and cherish the happiest day of your life"
For the reception we moved to a terrace and indoor room with DJ and Photo Booth, bar and dance floor where I created a photo wall, with photos of myself and James through all stages of our life. I tried to include as many guests as possible, which was quite a task but a lovely one too sitting going through old photos! James lost his mum 9 years ago and we thought this would be a great way to include her in our day. I also had James some cufflinks made with a photograph on his mother on so she could be with him on his special day, he absolutely loved them and it was a very emotional moment when I gave them to him. The photographer got a great image of our rings and the cufflinks which is a very special photo for James and one he will treasure. Our wedding planner also suggested a balloon release with the closet family members to James in memory of his mother, to take a time to say a few words for her, a good idea to honour someone who is no longer with you.
We just loved the way you feel on the day, feeling so loved and happy and seeing everyone there for you. To walk back down the aisle on such a high and see the guest’s beaming smiles was just fantastic. We kept saying to each other ‘I can’t believe this is our wedding day!’ We loved seeing all our ideas come to life. We did a confetti walk with all the guests, everyone cheering, throwing confetti, the kids loving it and stopping for a kiss at the end, the photos are such natural happy shots. I enjoyed having lots of photographs with everyone too, knowing we can dig them out in years to come and look back on the most perfect day.
I loved the speeches, looking out to everyone laughing, crying and joking together. James’ was hilarious but also very emotional, I can’t describe how proud I am of him, everyone was chanting we want more! You just feel on top of the world it’s the most heart-warming feeling, cliché but it really is the best day of your life! James was smiling like a Cheshire cat all day it was adorable!
Having been to my sister’s wedding 5 years ago in Cyprus I knew I would like an abroad wedding. I then went to 3 others, 2 with James and he agreed they are so great and what he would like to do. You just get so much more time with your guests and a chance to catch up with people you haven’t seen for a while prior to the big day. Plus everyone is in a great uplifted mood, who isn’t happy on holiday?! We stayed at the Tivoli Marina in Vilamoura where our wedding planners had organised a discounted rate for our guests. We spent time with both sides of our families in the run up to the wedding. We had a lovely meal with James side of the family one night, meal with my family another, everyone meeting in particular bars at night. We had a great night out with about 30 of the ‘young ones’ in Albufeira two days before the wedding, you just wouldn’t do that at home. People were really relaxed and getting to know one another better which made for a great vibe on the wedding day, there was no his and hers guests divide. You get a full week of pre wedding fun and it makes it more of an occasion for your guests too, I was sunbathing and on the beach the day before the wedding, I felt totally chilled and relaxed and knew there was nothing more I could do. I think a few quests were sceptical and couldn’t understand how it works having not been to an abroad wedding before but they enjoyed every moment. Also the weather is almost guaranteed, I knew I wanted an outdoor summer, romantic wedding with beautiful scenery, you are very very lucky if you get the weather at home! It was just a great perfect fun filled week, the day after the wedding we went back to the Tivoli and everyone cheered us as we arrived around the pool. People were saying how fantastic it was, we laughed at the photo booth album together, we drank champagne and ate left over wedding cake with my family, then chilled on the beach with our friends, you definitely don’t do that in England!
My advice to future brides would be to trust your instincts, your heart and go for exactly what you want, don’t get carried away in what’s on Pinterest or what is seen as ‘trendy’, do what is right for you. Relax and take your time looking at ideas and working out what you and your husband want, remember it’s about you as a couple and your marriage. Think back to weddings you have been a guest at and thoroughly enjoyed and take aspects from that and put into yours.
Relax on the wedding morning and enjoy your time with your bridesmaids, leave plenty of time so there are no last minute stresses. We went to the venue in our pjs, drank champagne, listened to music and had a lovely breakfast, chatting and getting ready. We gave ourselves lots of time so we weren’t rushing I didn’t want to feel stressed. We kept looking out to the garden watching it all being set up, I felt so excited and giddy, or it could have been the champers! One of my bridesmaids is a hairdresser so it was nice to have a little moment us two creating my hair style. We had some great photos in our pjs with the garden behind us and I even had time to paint my pregnant sisters toenails!
One of my favourite photos is of my bridesmaids when I walked out in my dress, they hadn’t seen it until the day as I kept it a secret, its such a sweet happy photo and I loved seeing their facial expressions, so maybe keep your dress a surprise?
Try and take moments to take it all in. I kept saying to myself in my head this is so amazing soak it all up! Some of the day is still a blur but I think that’s natural. Make time with your husband too, I heard so many brides say I didn’t even speak to my husband, we had such a laugh and nice catch up during sunset photos and made sure we had some dances together during the night and went in the photo booth. Most importantly just enjoy it, don’t stress the little things, we had a hold up with speeches as the champagne wasn’t ready and it felt a life time as they poured and sorted 90 glasses out but looking back it didn’t really matter. Sit back, soak it up and cherish the happiest day of your life.”