The Thing About Spanish Weddings…

I went to my first wedding when I was 20. I had never been asked to be a flower girl, and my older cousins didn’t get married until I was already living in Spain. I drove with a friend out to Waterloo, Iowa, for a study abroad friend’s nuptials. The following year, I was a bridesmaid in a high school friend’s ceremony. I was as wedding tonta as they come.

The Novio invited me to a friend’s wedding on Gran Canaria (!!!!) after we’d been dating for about six months. We took a long weekend and explored the island by car, but I was underdressed, had the wrong length dress on, and mistakenly didn’t eat lunch before we left.

Since then, I’ve tallied more enlaces in Spain than weddings in the US – three of fellow americanas who married Spaniards – and I’ve even photographed one! Just last weekend, I attended a bodorrio in the Novio’s village of San Nicolás del Puerto. He wasn’t there, but I went anyway because, who doesn’t love a good wedding?

Yeah, so the thing about Spanish weddings is…

Location

Weddings are typically held in the bride’s hometown. The Novio knows the father of the bride is the one who pays, so he’s promised we can do one back home, too. In fact, I’ve only been to three weddings in Seville proper! 

Invitations

It’s considered bad taste to send the invitations to your friends and family; instead, the happy couple are expected to hand out the envelopes to guests! There have been several weddings where I’ve not gotten the actual invitation until just days or weeks before the nuptials, and most are sent six weeks before (thanks for sharing this, Lynette!).

Attire

Ladies: if it’s a daytime wedding, stick to a short dress. If it’s at night, go long. Do not mess this up, or have the marujas in attendance forever tsk-ing you. If you’re really pija and daring, you can wear a nice pants suit.

El tocado

Those crazy fascinators are ONLY appropriate for day weddings. I know, just when you want to be bold and Spanish and wear one, you find out that you can’t because the ceremony is at 6pm. Sorry.

The wedding party

It’s not common to have bridesmaids and groomsmen; rather, Spanish weddings have a madrina and a padrino who sign the paperwork that legally makes you man and wife. When the Novio’s brother got married in a civil ceremony, I was his wife’s madrina, which also meant I got to fix her hair right before I took photos of them.

Gifts

There are virtually no gift registries – you hand the happy couple an envelope stuffed with money to start their nest egg (or pay back the lavish meal you just ate).

I was horrified when the Novio slammed 300€ into his friend’s palm at our first wedding together, but money is a lot easier to carry than an olla exprés, I suppose. Brides and grooms sometimes include their bank account number in the invitation, as well, so that you can transfer money in before the ceremony.

Food and Drink

They never seem to stop serving food or drink. Ever.

In Spain, there is usually a coctel where someone will inevitably be cutting a leg of jamón, and you’ll have beer, wine, sherry and soft drinks served, along with finger foods. Once you sit down, there will be more jamón and boiled shrimp before you get two dishes, a dessert and coffee before the champagne toast.

The bride and groom typically come around to your table at this time to give you a small gift, and this is where you hand them the envelope. Every time someone shouts, ‘Vivan los novios!’ you must shout viva.

Then it’s dance and copas time! Most weddings have a DJ or band and they always, ALWAYS play the same songs. I fooled someone into thinking I was Spanish last weekend because I knew every single song they played.

All the normal stuff we do back home?

The bride and groom have their first dance, you throw rice and the bride throws her bouquet, and someone’s drunk uncle hits on you. Like many Spanish celebrations, weddings are over-the-top and full of fun moments (usually brought on by a cocktail or two). And there is always a sevillana or two!

At Jesus and Macarena’s wedding last weekend, the father of the groom asked me how I was enjoying myself. I told him it was the exact wedding I’d envisioned for myself – right down to where the banquet was held (the father of the groom’s restaurant!).

Have you ever attended a Spanish wedding (or had one yourself)? Tell me about it…I am hopeful I’ll get my two parties someday and need some ideas!

Seville Snapshots: The Pabellón de Navigación

Seville’s history is intertwined with the sea, despite being inland. It was here that The Catholic Kings gave Christopher Columbus permission and a couple of big boats to go find the East, and subsequently, all of the riches from the New World came through Seville on the Guadalquivir River.

During the Ibero-American Festival of 1992, the land around the Cartuja monastery was transformed into a futuristic city, where technology merged with tradition. Sadly, the city left this corner of Seville untouched for a few decades, and is now beginning to sell buildings to be recycled and re-used – and hopefully revitalize La Cartuja.

Perched on the banks of the Guadalquivir on the southern end of the complex (just opposite the Schindler elevator erected for the Expo’92), the building resembles a capsized boat, whose hull soars over you. The space hosts rotating exhibitions, as well as a permanent exhibit about Seville’s place in maritime history and what it was like to sail the seven seas. Opened in 2011, it’s a beautiful, open space, and worth a quick visit if you’re in Seville. There are plans in motion to open a small bar and offer boat rides on the river, too.

If you go: the Pabellón de la Navegación can be reached by city buses C1 or C2, or the 6, and is a 15 minute walk from Plaza de Armas. Visiting hours are, Tuesday-Saturday from 10am – 17:30 and Sundays and holidays from 10am – 15:00.

Two Weeks on the Camino de Santiago: 14 Pictures of my Journey (Part 1)

The Camino is full of little moments – a beautiful medieval bridge, a small roadside shrine, a memorable meal shared with other pilgrims. In the 14 days it took us to walk from Avilés to Santiago de Compostela, we saw all of the things I love about Spain. Much as I wanted to capture it all in my journal or with my camera, there was simply no time. For once, I was living in the moment and learning about myself and about life.

But really, I would have ‘sooner broken my neck’ than leave my camera behind.

In all, I took 25MB of photos and videos. I wanted to remember EVERYTHING  – what our meals consisted of, the people we met and their faces, the names of every small hamlet we passed through. We saw breathtaking beaches, the lush rolling landscapes of Northern Spain, hundreds of farm animals and stone crucifixes.

The pictures that follow all have stories, or they were simply a part of pilgrim life – simple living at its best. I could write an entire blog about our daily experiences on the trail, but it would be much of the same: We walked. We stopped for a coffee. We walked more. I got a new blister. We kept walking…

These 14 pictures go beyond the big moments that we experienced – they’re all the little things that went into our shared experience.

Day One // Monday, July 29th, 2013 // Avilés – El Pito // 26.5km

I easily shot the most on this day – everything was so new, every way marker a bit different from the last, the landscapes so dramatic as the cliffs of Asturias dropped into the sea. The weather was perfect and my body felt strong and able. We got lost early on in the day, stopped for beer just because and even splurged on a gorgeous guest house with the most comfortable beds ever.

What has really stuck with me, though, was our afternoon stop in Cudillero, a quaint fishing village built on a hidden inlet. Foolishly thinking there was a beach, Iván and I waded in the shallow bay, letting the cool water ease the pain in our feet. I watched the local kids splash around and look for hermit crabs between the moss-covered rocks.

I remember feeling extremely happy, between the kids and the water and the bottle of cider that followed. The journey had only just begun, and I couldn’t wait to wake up the next day and set out again.

Day Two // Tuesday, July 30th, 2013 // El Pito – Santa Marina // 21.1km

Ouch. We began the day with a tough climb to Soto de Luiña, and I was relieved that we didn’t do those last 10 kilometers the day before. The trail led us back and forth between the beach and the rolling hills straight off of a bottle of Leche Asturiana as we passed through beautiful Soto and hugged the N-634 highway into Santa Marina, where we’d spend the night.

After a painful hike down a steep hill and about 100 stairs, we arrived at a beach that looked straight out of Jurassic Park – rock crags shot up from the water, creating small pools full of water when the tide came in. It was windy, chilly and rocky, but considering I am like a seven-year-old boy when it comes to prehistoric lizards and Asturias was once Dinotown in Spain, I was psyched.

But that hike up the hill again definitely deserved a super enormous dinner, one of the best we had along the trail.

Day Three // Wednesday, July 31st, 2013 // Santa Marina – Luarca //27 km

I had a terrible night’s sleep, but was psyched to get to Luarca, considered one of Spain’s most beautiful villages. It was a day with a lot of highway walking and a constant threat of rain, and we got to Luarca absolutely exhausted and later than normal. I also got my first two blisters long before arriving, though we did get fabada and a kick-ass salad. Not all was lost.

Day Four // Thursday, August 1st, 2013 // Luarca – A Caridá // 31km

This was the longest, absolute longest day ever, and also the ugliest. Every time we’d ask how far off A Caridá was, we’d get the same ‘Just about a kilometer’ answer from nearly everyone, when, in fact, we were much further. We ran into road construction, never-ending hills and detours. I honestly thought my feet were going to fall off by the time we got to Navia for a snack, and there were still 10 kilometers still to go (there was, however, a puppy halfway through).

We got several laughs by the time we’d had a beer midmorning and were so tired that everything was laughable – a deranged old lady who hassled Hayley, a cow who mooed at me while I relieved myself in the middle of a field, two more who got it on as we walked by (that was for real the funniest thing ever). I also sat on an ortiga, causing an itchy rash.

It was also here that we finally stayed in a shiny new albergue, grabbing the last three beds before the place filled up (which would have meant backtracking three kilometers to the old albergue). The hospitalero was amazing – he opened up his restaurant for us, gave us second helpings and bought us a drink later in the evening. When they say that people protect pilgrims and do what they can to make the Camino easier, they’re right.

Day Five // Friday, August 2nd, 2013 //  A Caridá – Ribadeo // 21.5km

After seven days between Oviedo and Figueras, we left Asturias, arriving to Ribadeo early enough to enjoy a long lunch, a long siesta and a visit to Trip Advisor’s top-rated beach, Playa As Catedrais. It was a quick day walking, to be honest, knowing we’d be racing the others to get to a bed in the teeny albergue in Ribadeo. Santiago seemed closer than ever as we crossed into the region of Galicia. All at once, the way markers changed direction and we walked with more purpose.

Ribadeo reminded me a lot of Cádiz or El Ferrol – you could tell that, if taken care of, the city could really shine. It was the perfect introduction to Lugo.

I also remember falling on this day in Porcia as we crossed a medieval bridge. My knee began giving me problems, and I’d eventually cave and go to a pharmacy for a knee brace. The pharmacy was located next to a store called ‘Todo para Abuelos,’ and we had to laugh at the irony.

Day Six // Saturday, August 3rd, 2013 // Ribadeo – Lourenzá // 27.5km

While in Ribadeo, Hayley and I realized we needed a breather from our other peregrino friends – we just wanted a bit of solitude. On the sixth day, we did a long hike through rolling meadows, passing towns with nary a supermarket or bar, just a small collection of houses and an occassional church. Villagers raised their arms to wave and mutter a ‘Buen Camino!’ and everything (including watching a huge caterpillar get pummeled by a car) seemed hilarious.

For the first and only time on the hike, we stopped for lunch before reaching our finishing point. After ordering a large beer, the woman at the bar informed us that she only had potato chips and old pastries to offer us. I was a bit crestfallen, as we hadn’t packed many snacks that day, but the bar next door didn’t disappoint – an enormous fuente of lentejas, a bottle of strong red and the laughter of the other pilgrims who had also stopped for fuel.

We spent the last 10 kilometers belting out John Denver songs. Rocky Mountain high….yes.

There was just one bed at the inn and no shower door in Lourenzá, so we decided to splurge on a private room. Just 10€ for a bedroom, hot shower, laundry facilities and a kitchen where we’d meet Valèrie and Guido, the adorable French couple who moved faster than we did.

Day Seven // Sunday, August 4th, 2013 // Lourenzá – Gontán // 24km

My first step out of bed was fine, but the second caused a weird crack in my knee. It was still dark and I fumbled for the bottle of aspirin I’d left nearby in my plastic bag filled with drugs, earplugs, needles and band aids. It was going to be a long day.

The trail wasn’t so long, but after a quick nine kilometers downhill into Mondoñedo, we had to literally climb a mountain. As we zigzagged into one of Galicia’s ancient kingdoms, I told Hayley that I was considering taking a bus or taxi to Gontán. She nodded her head in agreement, though I knew she wouldn’t be joining me. I even got tendonitis as we neared closer to our breakfast spot, an aptly named Bar Peregrino.

After a strong coffee and an enormous breakfast, my optimism came back, and I was willing to push through the pain. As we left Mondoñedo and its breathtaking valley and continued the climb up, I was happy that I decided to forgo a free ride and stick to my plan to walk the entire way to Santiago.

Halfway up the mountain, which was a climb of eight kilometers, Santine and Claude were stopped, talking to a woman on a rickety chair dressed entirely in black. Two small boys rode bicycles in the small hamlet behind her. She pointed to a cemetery down the rode with a dozen headstones. ‘They’ve all left. I’m all there is,’ she lamented.

Reaching Lousada meant we were nearly to the top of the mountain, and even then there was another hour of walking. We tried to animarnos with a bit of cheese and chocolate, and I’m pretty sure we both cried that day of physical pain and exhaustion. The inn was once again full, meaning walking to the next town, Abadín, and paying for a hotel room.

…to be continued.

Want more? My flickr page has every photo you could ever want to see, and I’m working on my first video! In the meantime, you can watch Hayley’s Camino video and tear up when I do when arriving to the Obradoiro (or laugh at how excited I get about a plate of lentejas)! To learn more about the Camino de Santiago, check out my resources page, or get your FAQs answered by Trevor of A Texan in Spain.

Seville Snapshots: Summer Nights at Plaza del Salvador

There was already a chill in the air this morning. I dragged the blanket from the end of the bed up to my chin, falling comfortably into the dreamy-morning doze again after a packed weekend.

Saturday was another one of those perfect sevillano days – my morning café con leche stretched into a stroll around the shops became a pre-lunch beer followed by tapas and copas and ending the night at Carlos Kiss, 17 hours after I left my house. Unwilling to let go of the summer time and its long, sunny days, it seemed like the entire city took to the streets.

As the song says, el sol duerme in Triana, y nace en Santa Cruz, and the salmon-colored church of San Salvador acts as Seville’s solar clock. According to the time of day, the temple is lit in a different color, but none as lovely as the setting sun over Triana. Since the facade faces west, it catches the last bit of sunshine every day.

On this last warm weekend before Autumn hits, I brought a scarf and cardigan, but didn’t need it midday as we toasted to the end of summer in Salvador and a day with no rain. Soon, the rain will hit, my ganas to be in the street will fade, and we’ll stop making gazpacho every other day. But for one afternoon, the streets were ours.

Capture the Color: My favorite colorful shots of Spain

My mother recently asked me why I no longer had any hobbies. Um, sorry Nance, but doesn’t toting my trusty Canon, Camarón, around everywhere, eating my fill of tapas and following my favorite fútbol team count?

Spain is a country known for its natural beauty, colorful folklore and creative food scene, and it’s easy to feel inspired living here. As my friend Hayley said, ‘I’d sooner break my neck’ than leave my camera at home. What’s more, the colors I most associate with Spain – the pueblos blancos, the red jamón ibérico, the clear blue sky – are featured in seemingly every shot.

Last year I participated in Travel Supermarket’s Capture the Color contest, even going as far as to have an editor at Marie Claire Magazine send me a personal email about how much she liked my selection for my blue photograph. The premise is simple: you choose a personal photo in each of the colors selected, upload them to your personal blog and nominate five other bloggers. Winning is a longshot, but when you have this much fun looking for photos, who cares?

Amarillo // Yellow

Seville is immortalized in the song ‘Sevilla tiene un color especial.’ If Seville had a color, it would be the golden yellowish-orange. The sun sets over Triana to the west, sending a burning goodbye to the world.

Read more: Seville’s Golden Hour.

Rojo // Red

A loud, EeeeeeeeeH! erupts through the silent stadium, a life teeters on the fine line of death. Torera Conchi Ríos aims a curved saber at a one-ton bull, hoping her accuracy will result in a swift death for her opponent. The blood-red cape swishes, the toro lunges forward, and his artery is pierced.

The red in Southern Spain is characteristic of life and passion and death, represented by the capa and the crimson rings around the yellow albero of the plaza de toros.

Read more: Death in the Afternoon.

Verde // Green

The descent into Mondeñedo was difficult – the trail was muddy, causing my bad knee to slip around and cause problems. For the first time in 150 kilometers, I felt like I needed to take the bus to the next albergue. The pain was excruciating, and once we’d entered the small village, famous for its seminary and cathedral, I was showing signs of tendonitis. We walked along the perimeter of the pueblo, next to the rows of corn stalks and I remembered that physical pain was part of the experience and part of my Camino for Kelsey, a deceased friend. After a strong coffee, I walked up mountains, literally.

And the corn stalks reminded me of being back home in Illinois and Iowa.

Read more: Why I Walked the Camino de Santiago.

Blanco // White

Alright, I cheated – this one’s not about Spain or set in Iberia. In fact, this lichen-stained church is in the central plaza of Kotor, Montenegro, a UNESCO World Heritage city framed by bay and mountains. We visited Kotor on a road trip around the bay of the same night, marveling at the natural beauty of Europe’s youngest country and how amazingly friendly the locals are – we drank free beer all the time! One of the most memorable was at a smoky bar in the alleyway behind the church, out from a sudden rain storm and relishing in free wi-fi and strong shots of Rakia.

Read more: Road tripping through the Bay of Kotor.

Azul // Blue 

Walking through small hamlets helped mark our days on the Camino de Santiago, even if they did give us the false hope that we’d find an open bar before sunrise. While the scallop shells that mark the way are further between on the coastal route, townspeople often painted yellow arrows on their homes or taped small images of Saint James on their mailboxes to help us along. On our way to Sobrado dos Monxes, where we’d sleep in a 10th century monastery, this blue-eyed kitten stood atop an unofficial road marker.

Read more: Waymarkers Along the Camino de Santiago

I’d love to see your spin on the rainbow, expat blogging friends!

Kaley of Y Mucho Más

Trevor of A Texan in Spain

Christine of Christine in Spain

Kara of Standby to Somewhere

Alex of Ifs, Ands & Butts

Show me what you’ve got!

Shooting My First Wedding: Andrea y Carlos

I’m a sucker for a good love story. Maybe it’s the midday hours watching Spain’s answer to Lifetime: Television for Women, but having been in a relationship for the last 5.5 years, I find myself seeing myself settle down, and for real this time.

I especially love the stories when people have overcome language barriers, visa issues, and the naysayers. When a fellow blogger married her gatidano boyfriend a few years ago, I loved his English vows, claiming that a bilingual relationship is twice as enriching, twice as fun. I wholeheartedly agree. How great is making Thanksgiving for your extended family or teaching one another idioms and swear words?

I’m just one of many who have fallen in love abroad and who fumbled in Spanish for love, so when my friend Andrea called me and asked if I’d be interested in photographing her wedding to her sevillano, Carlos, I jumped at the opportunity. Being another guiri-sevillano couple it was a pleasure to help them capture their special day that was full of laughs and a ton of love. Like the Novio’s family, Carlos’s relatives have really embraced Andi and their bilingual love.

The couple put together their day in just a few shorts weeks, and Andi was quick to recommend a great place to find wedding supplies at wholesale prices. I spent hours researching shots, looking for interesting places around Triana and Plaza de España to take pictures of the pair, and testing lighting in the venue. When I turned in the pen drive with 5.8GB of photos, video and touched up shots, Andrea and Carlos told me that they would be delighted if I shared them. Shooting a couple that was in love and looking forward to their new life in Maine was such a pleasure, and I was flattered that they asked me and Camarón to join in.

I had loads of fun shooting Andrea and Carlos’s wedding, from Andi’s hair appointment into the wee hours of the morning. If you’re looking for someone to shoot special events, get in contact with me at sunshineandsiestas[at]gmail.com

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