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DIY Destination Wedding

Updated: Apr 1, 2019

I am prone to jumping in at the middle of the story, and assuming that everyone knows what is going on, so I will do my best to at least give a bit of background for this post. Along with my love of all things gold, silver & sparkly, I also love all things flowers, celebration & party hosting. I'm the kind of person who absolutely hates to be the center of attention, but if I can be the one who organizes and decorates the place to perfection I will come away blissfully happy. As a result, Pinterest regularly assumes that I am a mother with seventeen kids that need birthday cakes, or planning my tenth DIY wedding somewhere in the world...

Over the years, I've gradually (through a lot of trial and error) added cake baking & decorating, flower arranging, gender reveals, wedding decorations, kids party decorating etc. to my humble repertoire, and weddings have become my forte.

And so that is the short story of how I found myself planning a wedding in Portugal last year.

Who doesn't love a destination wedding? This one was particularly fun, because although technically the bride and groom were already living in Portugal, the bride's family were Swiss, with her immediate family living in Ireland, the groom's family were Brazilian, with relatives living in Portugal and France, and they had met in Israel, while at a wedding of very close mutual friends.

I was of course over the moon when the couple asked if I could help them out with organizing their wedding. Being a close friend of the groom's family for years, and of the bride since they had met, I really didn't want to miss their big day, but until that point hadn't been able to budget the tickets and time off work. This wedding was already very close to my heart, as I had made both the engagement and wedding rings for them both. The tickets were given as payment for a job I would have gladly done for free, so you can imagine my excitement!

One reads of extravagance, and watches all kinds of choreographed perfection on screen, but the more I help plan and design weddings, the more I see that in the end, the most important thing is that it is a true celebration of who the couple really are. In this instance, they were a young couple with an adventurous streak, so of course the evening ended with most of those under 30 jumping in the pool.

Budget seems to be the first thing that anyone talks about when planning a wedding - as if it was the single determining factor of each step. I would like to contradict that. I have found, that although the budget is indeed a factor that needs to be considered, a small budget by no means limits the possibilities to frugal minimalism, and likewise a generous budget does not always ensure good taste. In fact, you will find that a tight budget not only brings out the creativity in all of us, it also provides an incredible way for those closest to you to share in bringing about the celebration that marks such a significant event.

For this particular wedding, the couple were working with a fairly small budget, as both were still in university. They decided on renting a villa, that would also serve as hotel for the first night. Choosing a place with an outdoor garden, beautiful lawns and greenery is a great choice for a tight budget, because there is already so much natural 'decoration' that you can work with. Hired wooden chairs with simple white linen caps stood brightly in the sun, leading the way towards the alter, which stood beneath a wooden Huppah (wedding canopy) structure, built by the bride's father that morning. Her mother had made the most incredible macrame backdrop in white wool, and olive sprigs collected a few days earlier adorned the front. This green and white theme followed on around the garden, with white paper fans, pompoms, bunting and banners draped amongst the foliage. Most of these decorations were things she'd been able to pick up over a few months - gathered from various incredible European supermarkets that stock everything for next-to-nothing prices. We set up the lawn chairs for the guests to be able to mingle in cosy circles, and hung some cute wedding signs to point the way around the house.

I wrote the place cards out by hand, and the favours in each guest's place were homemade sugar cookies, accompanied by a tiny origami crane. Napkins were tied with twine, and an olive sprig. Guests were directed by signs hand painted on old plywood, and set up by the groomsmen the day before. Flowers were arranged by the bride's mother, using a combination of silk and genuine. Each Bridesmaid's bouquet became the centerpiece for a table!

The tables were spread with simple white tablecloths, and decorated with a gorgeous mismatch of champagne flutes, small bottles, tumblers and vases, all boasting a blooming array of wildflowers and olive branches, and later illuminated by the small lanterns and candles sticks that completed the ensemble. Old music sheets served instead of a table runner as the final touch. As the evening darkened, fairy lights that had been accumulated over Christmases, celebrations and bargain shopping sprees gave the garden an even more magical appearance.

The bride of course was absolutely stunning. Every bride is beautiful on her wedding day, but I have to admit, I have a circle of extremely good-looking friends. She had chosen Autumn colours for her bridesmaids and bouquets, which were perfectly offset the simple white and green surroundings. The dapper groom was at the time studying photography, and so naturally asked one of his classmates to do the honours. I'm no expert, but for amateur photography, the pictures are absolutely stunning.

To top it all, the bride in this case had the happy coincidence of also being a pastry chef in training. I think before the wedding she thought it rather an unhappy coincidence - the stress of deciding whether to trust the cake of her dreams into the hands of a colleague-in-training or find the time to make it herself was one I think she would have happily foregone, but take a look for yourselves at the stunning result of her choosing the latter. I'll happily take whatever undeserved credit I can for arranging the fruit on top.

Friends and family spent a late night rolling the traditional brigadeiro (Brazilian chocolate truffles) that must accompany the desserts at any self-respecting Brazilian's wedding. Oh, and look at that tablecloth - or should I say IKEA lace curtain. I should rename these curtains Old Faithful by now; they have definitely seen their share of fun - they are part of my essential decorating "kit" wherever I go.

No matter how much you plan, no wedding is without its hiccups. But I have found, that memories are extremely forgiving, and the joy outweighs any of the stress and anxiety uncommonly well.

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