Today is my fourth wedding anniversary. Despite having seen television programmes of brides choosing their dresses, of the ‘stressful’ planning, the wedding days, I had never contemplated getting married. Then, suddenly, I had two-and-a-half months to plan my wedding and I thoroughly enjoyed it all. It took place at Quinta do Paraíso in Carvoeiro, overseen by the fantastic Ricardo Martins.
I am not good at art, but I like having a go. So, I designed and made all the wedding stationary including the invitations, place cards, brochures, gift labels and photographic posters. I played around with table centrepieces and bought decorations.
When Ray and I got together, we adopted the saying “Nothing is Impossible – Everything is Possible” and this appeared throughout our wedding, which was also full of symbolism.
The lucky number seven was featured because it is seen as special in mythology, religion, nature, theology and philosophy.
Our theme was blue butterflies. Did you know that in some cultures, butterflies are a symbol of the soul? In China, they symbolise conjugal bliss, joy and a miracle of transformation and resurrection into the next phase of life.
I had seven blue butterflies sewn on my wedding and evening gowns. We had them on the pillars in the dining room, in the flower arrangements and on our cake and I hole-punched hundreds of blue butterflies for the tables’ confetti.
Hairdresser Kristina Ferreira came to my house and patiently created all my curls while my sister Lara did my makeup. Waiting in the hot September sunshine as I arrived late, guests were kept entertained by our dear friend Duncan Kinnell playing the keyboards.
My bouquet and the flower arrangements had big white, yellow and blue gerbera daisies chosen for their brightness and simplicity but also because they symbolise happiness and gratefulness for life and lessen sorrows and stresses.
As my cousin Richard walked me through the garden to the ‘altar’, Ray played the beautiful Pachelbel’s Canon in D on his guitar, learnt especially for the occasion.
I had written the wedding ceremony extolling the importance of marriage and love and my niece Maxine and our friend Sandie Croft acted as the celebrants to represent family and friends. They were wonderful.
Ray and I liked the idea of symbolically being bound together forever so we incorporated handfasting into the ceremony. Handfasting is an ancient Celtic ritual in which the hands are tied together to symbolise the binding of two lives. Historically, in different cultures, handfasting is one of the oldest matrimonial traditions hence the expressions “tying the knot” and “hand in marriage”.
I made our handfasting cord with seven coloured ribbons, each representing what we wanted from our marriage. For instance, green is for charity, prosperity and health; blue for tranquility, patience, devotion; red is for passion and strength, and so on.
The Chinese infinity shaped mystic knot at the beginning of the cord is believed to bless a marriage with good luck and harmony and to attract a long life full of happiness, love and good fortune. It also offers protection against heartbreak, illness or misfortune. Seven Chinese coins at the end of the cord are to invite wealth and good luck. Interwoven in the cord are small charms and beads to remind us of important things in our relationship and of all those who could not be with us.
As Maxine wrapped the cord around our hands seven times, with each wrap Sandie read out a statement related to hands such as: “These are the hands that will work alongside yours, as together you build your future”; “These are the hands that will love and cherish each other, that will wipe the tears” …
After our ‘kiss’, Sandie and her husband Ray Charsley sang ‘Tonight I’ll celebrate my love for you’ and ‘Bring me sunshine’ as guests blew bubbles instead of throwing confetti.
During our afternoon buffet around the pool, our friend Matt Lester entertained everyone by playing his saxophone whilst we were whisked off for a photo shoot on a nearby beach with our wonderful photographer Dave Sheldrake.
We never had the chance to eat anything! On our return, it was time for the legal ceremony and we were grateful that the registrar came to the venue.
Because Ray proposed to me after I had made him a coffee, we had coffee jars with floating candles acting as outside night lights and used larger jars as wall flower vases. We liked their significance although most people probably never noticed what they were.
Our evening reception was held in the Rabelo circular room. As I do not like flickering candles, we had large moon/mood lights with changing colours in the centre of each table flower arrangement which gave the room a magical effect.
The seven dining tables each had seven people whilst Ray and I had our own little table. Name place cards had a ‘love is’ quote specially chosen for each individual and the tables were named after jazz musicians in honour of my jazz musician husband!
Each guest received my handmade bookmark, ladies also received a jar of honey whilst the gentlemen received a piri-piri bottle. One friend from England thought it was a liqueur and was shocked when he took a big swig!
Both Ray and I made speeches and presented gifts to those who had played a special role in our wedding. There was so much food we could not eat it all as after the five-course dinner, there was a midnight buffet too.
The advantage of having musician friends is that we did not need to hire a band as we had a music jam where everyone who wanted could join in and this was one of my favourite moments as I watched Ray, in his element, playing his guitar surrounded by friends.
After dancing our ‘first dance’ to a music Ray composed for me soon after we got together, we cut our lemon and cream cheesecake and too quickly it was all over.
Since we were caught up following the planned schedule, posing for photos, speaking to everyone, I did not have time to properly take it all in. Looking back at our photographs I wish I could do it all again so that I could appreciate every second.
Therefore, I wrote this article not only to relive all the moments but to thank everyone who made our day so very special. To my husband Ray, Happy 4th Anniversary and thank you for everything.
So now you know!
By Isobel Costa
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Isobel Costa works full time and lives on a farm with a variety of pet animals! In her spare time, she enjoys photography, researching and writing.