Four (Spanish) weddings… and a funeral


In more than four decades of his relationship with Spain, Paul Whitelock has had the good fortune to have been invited to four weddings on Spanish territory, ranging from the Basque country to the Canary Islands to Andalucía.

The last was in 2011. Here he describes that happy event and the sadness that was to follow and he reminisces about the other three…

Spanish Wedding Number 4

In May 2011 I was invited to a Spanish wedding, bringing my tally of bodas in Spain to four in 40 years. On this latter occasion, friends of ours, an Englishman and a Pole, ‘jumped the broom’ in the pueblo blanco of Montejaque in the Serranía de Ronda, where the couple were residents.

Tony Bishop, a retired lecturer turned walking guide, and Eva Bratek, a photographer and naturalist, met in Andalucía, fell in love and set up home together, first in Benaoján and then in neighbouring Montejaque.

On that May day in 2011 the civil ceremony, performed in the open air against a backdrop of mountain scenery, was led by the retiring mayor of Montejaque, Miguel Alza Hiraldo, with friends from Spain, England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Columbia, Germany and Finland in attendance. 

The reception was held at the delightful Hotel Molino del Santo in nearby Benaoján Estación, where the hotel and dining terrace sits alongside a rushing stream which gushes down the mountain towards the River Guadiaro.

The wedding was non-conformist to say the least, with suits and frocks banned in favour of T-shirts. There were even prizes for the best examples, the winner being a home-made effort urging us to ¡Ahorra agua, no te duches solo!, Save water, do not shower alone!

As for the other weddings, the first two were more conventional. 

Spanish Wedding Number 1

The first wedding was in 1971 in a village church near San Sebastián in the Spanish Basque Country. On that occasion, Santi, a banker friend, married his sweetheart Lourdes

We thought we would miss the ceremony as a horrendous traffic jam caused us to arrive two hours late for the ceremony. But all was well, as we found that the bride and groom and the rest of the guests had had the same problem and had only managed to get there moments before us. 

All went well after that and the last I heard the couple had had two children, now grown up, and are still together living in Oyarzun (Guipúzcoa).

Spanish Wedding Number 2

My second boda was also a Spanish affair and very grand. It took place on Tenerife in the Canary Islands in 1991. We met Candy and Carlos at a picnic site on the island one Sunday in February of that year, hit it off straight away and became good friends. 

We were surprised, but delighted, when we were invited to their wedding a few months later. The ceremony took place in the magnificent cathedral in La Orotava and was very ostentatious, which is often the Spanish way. There were hundreds of guests, all of whom seemed to be at the wedding meal afterwards. We thought we’d be tucked away in a corner somewhere, but no, we were astonished to find ourselves seated at the top table alongside the happy couple!

We stayed in touch for a good while. Whenever we visited Tenerife, which was quite frequently in those days, we spent time with them. They soon had a little daughter, but, unfortunately, the couple split up fairly soon afterwards.

Spanish Wedding Number 3

Wedding number three was in Ronda in 2006. Becky, the Welsh-born daughter of my then girlfriend, married Graham, her Scottish man, in a civil ceremony in the beautiful surroundings of the Palacio de Mondragón

The civil ceremony took place in one of the patios and was performed by a local councillor, Daniel Harillo, to a background of live classical Spanish guitar music courtesy of local player Vicente.

Dressed in his traditional tartan kilt, and with three ushers in similar attire, the men created quite a stir in town that day in May. Some Japanese tourists thought the Scots were locals wearing traditional costume and snapped away contentedly and totally oblivious to their error!

For years afterwards a picture of the bride and groom still graced the photographer’s shop on Carrer Espinel (Calle La Bola) in Ronda. Juan, the owner, told me that he kept it there because it drew inquisitive people into his shop and was good for business.

Becky and Graham now live in the North West of England and had their first child in 2010.

Spanish Funeral Number 1

Returning to wedding number four, Tony suffered a serious fall at home in Montejaque in August 2013 and, despite being rushed to Malaga  by air ambulance and receiving excellent medical care he didn’t survive. 

The funeral of the title of this piece was Tony’s memorial get-together in Montejaque towards the end of 2013. We were all saddened when he suddenly left us in the prime of his life.

© Paul Whitelock

This article is a re-working of a piece originally written for The Olive Press in May 2011.

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