Like I mentioned in my previous post, we visited Madrid and loved it. The principal reason behind visiting Madrid was to attend a close friend’s wedding. I’ve written before about how marriages in Spain are declining in popularity. You might want to read that to get some background before proceeding.
From the moment we reached Madrid, we spent quite a few hours shopping. This was because the Honey Bee and I were unsure about what to wear, especially given that this was going to be our first Spanish wedding. After chatting with friends, I had pretty much narrowed down what I would wear- basically a nice suit and a tie. However, for women it is a little more complicated. And because of this, I learned a lot about women’s clothing on this trip.
The Honey Bee spoke to her friends and figured out she’d need to wear a nice dress, with matching shoes (heels for the ceremony, flats for the dancing), a number of accessories, and lots of make-up. Apparently, women go all out at Spanish weddings, spending hours on their hair and make-up, often hiring someone to do it for them. Also, women can’t wear white because to do so would overshadow the bride. Another issue is the length of the dress- long vs. short. Apparently the protocol is long dresses for day weddings and short for evening weddings. However, from what I’ve read it depends heavily on each bride and also the part of the country.
So we spent over 4 hours shopping for a wedding dress and shoes. We tried every store we had heard of, and then some that we hadn’t. These included Primark, H&M, Zara, pretty much all the standard stores. We had a number of false positives- my term for when she thought she found a dress she liked, but then didn’t. After hours and hours of queuing up outside trial rooms we found something that might work.
So, the evening of the wedding, we headed all dressed up to the church. A beautiful edifice with stained glass windows and high arched ceilings. After everyone was done with introductions and chit-chatting and had taken a seat, the music started and the bride entered. She was dressed in a gorgeous long white dress. What followed were a number of beautiful short speeches and prayers by members of the family and the priest. Since it was really hot (around 38º Celsius) everyone was trying to cool themselves with hand fans, which was actually a really pretty sight. You don’t often get to see so many well-dressed people using old-school hand fans.
After the couple said their vows, they exchanged rings. I was surprised to see that there was no “you may now kiss the bride” nor any applause after the rings were exchanged. I later found out that was more the case with American weddings, which tend to be a little less formal.
After the ceremony, we all waited for the bride and groom to come down the stairs outside the church. As they did, we showered them with flower petals and cheered. After some small talk, we headed into air-conditioned buses (a welcome respite from the heat) that consequently made their way to the dinner location. It was a beautiful rustic farmhouse with domed brick ceilings and a quaint garden. We hung out in the garden drinking wines, champagnes, ciders, etc. and munching on finger food while the bride and groom mingled with their guests. The wedding also gave me a great opportunity to catch up with some old friends from school and introduce them to the Honey Bee.
Later, we headed in for dinner. The dining room was large and filled with close to 20 circular tables. The bride and groom pre-decide the seating arrangement for all the guests to try and ensure everyone is with their respective group and no one feels left out. We looked up our table number, and took a seat at our table. The bride and groom entered almost dancing to music and took their seats with their families at the presidential table at the head of the room.
What followed was a wonderfully orchestrated symphony of waiters. 20 waiters, all dressed identically, paraded into the room and took a spot behind each table. Then, they all waited until the waiter serving the presidential table signaled and then proceeded to begin serving their respective tables. The women at each table were served first, then the men. Everything was rehearsed and well-coordinated. The same routine was repeated for every course of the meal.
After a wonderful 3 course dinner and lots of drinks the couple went around the room doing a little dance with the bouquet. As most of us know, as per American tradition the bride throws the bouquet into the air to see who catches it. It is believed that the one who catches it will be the next to get married. In Spain, the bride delivers the bouquet, but does so in a roundabout fashion dancing and moving from table to table to keep everyone guessing. Finally, over the next few minutes the couple visited each table to talk and have pictures taken with their guests.
At the end of it, we all filed into a smaller room where an open bar prepared everyone to hit the dance floor to the latest Spanish and English hits. Some couples danced fancy, while others like us simply did the best they could and had a great time. At around 2 am, we were all tired and headed back out into the garden. The weather was considerably cooler so it was nice being outdoors.
At 2 am, the first bus arrived to take us back into the city. The second was scheduled for 5 am. Since we were all very tired, it was critical to ensure we were on that first bus or else we might have to spend the rest of the night there. A short sprint later, we and the rest of our group were snuggly in our seats. I, for one, could barely keep my eyes open and feel asleep no sooner than the bus started. Others talked about the evening. 45 minutes later we bid adieu to our friends as we disembarked and headed to our hotel for a good night’s shuteye.
The next day we would head back home and said good-bye to this marvelous city.
Thank you Madrid for such a great time, and Congratulations to our dear friend!