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Weddings in Portugal

[Editor’s note: in our latest opt-in email newsletter, we asked people to comment on weddings around the world. We received the contribution below from Jayne.]

My initial reaction to (Portuguese) weddings is: “Please, please, don’t invite me, please!” Obviously I don’t actually say that, but it’s what I think when someone tells me they’re getting married.

They cost a fortune here to have and to go to. I must point out at this stage I’m talking about weddings in the north of Portugal. I was interested to find out recently that down south (and around Lisbon) they’re not such a big deal. There is no such thing as a small Portuguese wedding and I don’t think there’s any such thing as a Register Office wedding either. Never heard of one, anyway.

Your typical Portuguese wedding is this. I went to one just like it a couple of weeks ago. It was better than the previous one I went to earlier this year because I didn’t know anyone except the bride and groom. Perfect. So anyway, if you’re a friend of the bride, you go to her house and the same for the groom. You’ll watch her being photographed and generally socialise for about an hour, you might get fed and watered if you’re lucky (traditionally, yes). Sustenance for the church service. Keep one’s strength up. Everyone then drives to the church in convoy.

After the ceremony, you spend another hour, at least, hanging around outside the church (god knows why) and sometimes there’ll be a group photo on the steps. Next step, two options. All drive in convoy again (horns tooting non-stop) to a pretty garden to have millions of photos taken or drive straight to the reception place which will be a very posh manor house or “quinta” in its own grounds, complete with swimming pool, etc. You get out of the car and are greeted with trays of pastry things and drinks.

The bride and groom appear in a horse-drawn carriage and make a grand entrance. Then we all go into the gardens for more food and drinks, tables and tables of the stuff plus waiters come round with plates of hot food too. There’s always a seafood table as well. By this time, you’re getting really full and most definitely sloshed.

Then we have the magical mystery tour of the manor house and finding out which table you’re sitting at (round, of course). The tables have names. Magic River, Moonlit Beach, Sunset Strip, bla, bla, bla. Having found your table – no mean feat among the other couple of hundred guests (minimum) – the food starts to appear. Soup, fish course 1, fish course 2, meat course 1, meat course 2 and a slab of icecream thingy to clean your palate.

Since the soup, the background music will have been getting louder and louder and after you’ve cleaned your palate, you’re expected to dance, after the bride and groom have opened the floor of course. About two hours later comes the good bit, the desserts, cheeses and fruit. Tables and tables of the stuff.

By this time I’m usually so stuffed all I can do is feast my eyes, cursing myself for having eaten too much before. But what can you do? They just keep shoving it at you and you have to do something to while away the time. By this time, it will have been about eight hours since we met up at the bride’s house!

Right, so now you have to dance and do the conga for another couple of hours, conversation being totally impossible because the music’s too loud. The cutting of the cake is done outside in a special little garden with a firework display. Everyone eats their cake and drinks champagne while the staff set up the table outside for a barbecue supper! It just goes on and on. If you manage to hang on until the very end, you’ll be offered Caldo Verde soup (remember the cabbage tree stuff) and hot chocolate, for god’s sake.

The bride and groom don’t have the luxury of disappearing before everyone else like they do in Britain. They’re there for the duration. More fool them for having planned the thing like that in the first place. I don’t know how they manage to cope. They’ll have been up since the crack of dawn, totally stressed and won’t get to bed until probably about 5am the next day. I left after the cake and champagne and it was 2am. 12 hours of excruciating torture! Actually it wasn’t, I enjoyed this last one, met some interesting people.

That, my friends, is your average, common or garden wedding, in Portugal, nothing fancy! The gypsy weddings here go on for a week, literally! Both my kids have strict instructions to find someone with money or get married in England or better still, elope (as long as they tell me where they’re going so I can pitch up at the last minute). Bonnie’s told me she’s no intentions of getting married (she’s my girl!) and Robert really couldn’t care less about fancy stuff so I’m in with a chance. Mind you, I suppose it depends on who they marry too (they might actually have something to say on the matter).

See ya!

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