January, 2011

Jan 11

Red tape nightmare

So, venue – check. Date – check. Church – check. And there I was giving myself a big pat on the back for being so organised. Then one question from my friend Suze suddenly had me in a blind panic.

“So, have you sorted out, or looked into sorting out the paperwork yet?” she asked me.

red-tape.jpgEr, not exactly. Not at all, in fact. She only inquired because she was originally planning on getting married in Spain, but after doing some investigation realised it would be a lot easier and cheaper to get hitched in England. She wanted to warn me.

Well a ceremony in the UK is not an option for me, not at this stage in the game. We’re already too far down the planning line now to change countries! So I’m just going to have to dive right in to figuring out what paperwork I need. But really, I have a headache already after just dipping my toe in.

I love living in Spain, I really do. But what I hate is the endless lists of forms and official documents you have to fill out just to have the right to exist. If you’re missing just one then the whole thing comes crashing down around your head like a red tape nightmare.

A quick look at the Madrid British Embassy’s website confirmed my suspicions – this is going to be a total nightmare.

Of the seven documents that I will most probably have to show in order to legally marry my beloved, I have not one. Not even my birth certificate will be good, as I need to get it re issued, “legalised” (basically send off to the legalisation office where it is magically made legal during a mysterious process lasting four to six weeks) and translated.

I also need to swear an oath that I’m single and free to marry, have that made into a certificate, and in order to get that there a further list of about six documents I need to provide.

And of course all this costs money and will probably involve lots of waiting around, if past experiences are anything to go by. I had to wait in a queue for six hours to get my identity card three years ago. Still not quite recovered from that experience.

No one talks about this stuff. They talk about how tricky it is to finalise your guestlist, or the trials and tribulations of finding the perfect dress or venue. But nothing about the paperwork. Maybe it’s because it’s the most boring aspect of getting married. Or maybe it’s because it’s not that complicated if you’re a British person getting hitched in Britain.

One thing’s for sure, I’m going to make sure I do it right. Imagine going through the whole thing then finding your wedding had no legal status. That would be a disaster.

As Suze said, it’s best to get the boring crap out of the way now, then I can get on with the fun stuff.

Jan 11

It’s decided

Sunday was a special day – we visited the place where, we have definitely decided, we will tie the knot.

Stepping through the heavy wooden doors into the gardens to Finca Casa Esquileo felt so familiar – but this time, with J’s parents Linda and Pepe with us, it felt official.

I think we were both a little nervous about what they would think. Would they like it, or would they think it was just too much hard work?

blog-copy.jpgLike old pros – and with the help of the owner Rodrigo of course – we showed them around.

The pretty garden that’ll make a great place to hold the welcome cocktail. The rustic old banquet hall, with the 18th Century graffiti on the walls. And the old preserved house where we can do the family photos.

For the first 20 minutes it was hard to tell what they thought. But when Linda got her phone out and started taking pictures I knew.

“So what do you think?” I asked her, when Rodrigo and Pepe were busy debating which king of Spain was the best in history.

“I love it,” she said “It’ll take a lot of work, but it’ll be really great. The only thing is we’ll have to be careful to make sure it doesn’t look to empty, but we can work around that.”

She’s right. If you put 250 people in the hall it’ll look cosy. But our 100 people might look a bit lonely.

But that’s a small point. The only other thing we really need to decide is when to start proceedings. In Spain weddings kick off late, and go on till late. But the venue – and the cute little church which is just 100 yards away- would really look better in the bright light of day.

Anyway, those are all finer details. The main thing is, we have our venue. And we have our date – September 17. Two very important things. Now everything seems more real than ever.

Because we’re actually going to do it. We’re going to get married, and we’re going to do it there.

And even though we’re in the grip of winter and your breath freezes in front of your face and your toes are icy slivers in your shoes, I can see it as summer with my heart’s wet eyes.

I can see the tables all laid out, with place names for all the people I love most in the world. I can see my Dad stood up at the top table, thanking everyone for coming (and probably saying something horribly embarrassing, all meant in the best possible way). I can see us swaying across the dance floor, taking tentative steps into the next chapter.

I can see it all – now I just have to make it happen.

Jan 11

Think we’ve found The One

I had a good feeling about the venue near Segovia ever since I saw it on the internet. So as we set off for the Casa Esquileo de Cabanillas del Monte I felt pretty excited. And cold – as me and J left Madrid the temperature plunged to -2 degrees.

The previous day we’d got a call from the first venue we went to see telling us they’d spoken to management about our 100 people wedding. And they’d come to the conclusion that finally, they couldn’t offer us a Saturday OR a Friday unless we had at least 200 guests!

blog2.jpgAfter that I was feeling a bit nervous that nowhere would be able to accommodate our “tiny” wedding. What a joke – my two brothers’ weddings put together wouldn’t have equalled 100. Were we really such an oddity?

But I forgot about all of that as soon as the huge wooden doors were pulled open and we stepped into Casa Esquileo. It was just as rustic and charming as it looked on the website, even in the freezing cold of winter. You know the bit where Alice steps into wonderland? That’s exactly how I felt, swear down.

It’s basically an 18th century sheep-shearing house and gardens which have been preserved and is now a historical and cultural monument site. The owner Rodrigo – an elderly gentleman with a fur hat and French wax coat – explained that much to us as he showed us around. The house has been in his family for 700 years, he told us. 

blog1.jpgFlamenco music was blasting out over the speakers in the cobbled main hall (to keep the birds out, apparently) as we strolled in. And as I looked up at the wooden beams in the ceiling it hit me: I really want to get married here. I looked over at J to try and figure out if he was thinking the same, but I couldn’t catch his eye. He was looking at the graffiti on the walls.

“Are you going to paint over that?” he asked Rodrigo, who replied: “No, certainly not – some of that’s over 500 years old!”

Apart from that faux pas, we got on spectacularly well with the owner, who tried out the odd few words in English he knew on me. And isn’t it important you have that “connection” with the people who are going to help you plan your big day?

blog3.jpgIf we hired the venue, we’d have it until 6am on the morning after our wedding. There’d be no extra charge beyond the first four hours, or demanding money on the spot to continue the party. And we could make as much noise as we wanted.

The minus sides would be that we’d have to bring everything – not only the music equipment and the catering, but the tables and chairs. Yowzers! And it’s not exactly a taxi ride from Madrid – meaning people would have to stay close by and we would definitely have to put on a shuttle bus to get people home.

But the place is so lovely, so different from the other production line places we’ve seen. I’ve really fallen in love with it.equiptment.

Luckily J feels the same way. So now we need to talk dates with the general manager Maite, and sit down and figure out if we can actually do this. It’ll be more hassle than your purpose built hotel/restaurant/disco all in one venues, but if we can pull it off, it’ll be so so worth it.

I think really in our hearts we’ve already decided.

Jan 11

I just don’t have 200 people to invite!

Is there anyone who doesn’t like looking at wedding venues? I think it’s just magic. You walk round imagining yourself there with a wine glass in your hand, being congratulated and applauded by everyone.

Twirling around the dance floor gracefully to your first dance. And then maybe later, doing the drunken shuffle in front of the DJ booth. Can you see yourself tying the knot here? Is this The One?

Mind you, maybe I’ll get less enthusiastic as time goes on, it was only the first. Then again, I never got sick of flat hunting in London. (is that the same?) And I moved house at least seven times.

blog.jpgAt the weekend me and J stopped off at a beautiful venue which on the internet looked very promising. It was close to Madrid (which would be great for all the people coming from England). It also had 17 hotel rooms adjoining it, and had a church next door, meaning people could just walk to the wedding breakfast. It also had a nightclub area meaning we could party the night away (at an extra cost after the initial four hours were up)

It was a converted convent too, so it looked amazing – and would do in the wedding photos.

So far so good, but the problems started when we sat down to talk about dates. We had estimated that if we went for a September wedding, we should have more chance of actually getting a date we wanted.

But when we told this to the lady showing us around, she pulled a funny face and told us September was “high season”. If we wanted to get married on a Saturday they would ask us to guarantee having at least 200 guests. Really? But I don’t even know 200 people! Well I do, but we really don’t want our guest list to top 100. We want to celebrate our big day with our close friends. And we want to be able to talk to them all.

I can understand that the venue is really popular, and asking for a certain number of people to maximize profits may be standard practice, but from that point on I started to lose interest.

Booking for a Friday should be OK, she informed us – if we were interested she could talk to her supervisor and see if it would be possible. Even then we wouldn’t be guaranteed to be able to make the booking. Things were busy – she even had a 350 person wedding scheduled for December!

We left thinking maybe this one wasn’t going to work out for us. I really had my heart set on getting married on a Saturday (a Friday wedding will cause problems for the non-Madrid dwellers). When I got home and relayed all this to Linda, she said: “Well, forget it. You want to get married on a Saturday, so don’t take no for an answer. Plenty more places out there.”

She’s right. Plus there’s the fact that two of J’s friends have got married in the same place. Somehow it wouldn’t feel like we were doing our own thing.

So the search goes on, and at least now we have some venue experience to draw on.

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