The sun rose quickly on the morning of Saturday, July 24th, surely more quickly than it ever had before. There I was with my family and closest friends, dancing in the courtyard of a 700-year-old monastery as the sky seemed to fast forward from onyx black to a glowing navy blue and soon to dawn. Meanwhile the DJ mixed away as though the birds competing for musical attention were nonexistent. Between the alcohol, dancing for hours on end, and being surrounded by people from all chapters of my life, the moment did not seem real. I still ask myself if it really even happened.
The whirlwind really started the week before though when my father arrived, followed by a cousin, and then after that the floodgate of guests opened. In that week leading up to the wedding I played tour guide, perhaps partly out of obligation, but more because I just love Spain so darn much that to not share my bursting enthusiasm with each arriving guest would have left me heartbroken. So that week I packed my schedule with a full list of events and must-see spots: Pedraza, La Granja, Navacerrada, Cuenca, La Ciudad Encantada, Chinchón, a friend’s ranch in Fuentidueña, Patones de Arriba, Buitrago del Lozoya, tours of Madrid, dinner in the caves of El Molar, a tour of Santiago de Bernebéu Soccer Stadium, a rehearsal dinner at Jacobo’s parents house, a bus trip with 30 guests to Segovia, and finally a dinner and wine tasting for all of the Americans. Oh, and then the wedding.
The excessive laundry list of events and excursions during that week surely left me exhausted, but on the other hand, they kept me distracted from the impending wedding – something I was dreading only because I just really dislike being the center of attention (and there’s nothing like being overly dressed in a massive white gown to call attention to oneself). The idea of walking down the aisle with all eyes on me was just mortifying. But soon enough, the time came and I found myself out at a hotel in the city of Guadalajara spending the entire day with seven of my best friends painting nails, getting hair done, flipping through American magazines and developing hotel workout routines using wine bottles and luggage carts. All in all, a very productive day.
Arriving at the monastery, I was in a haze – people buzzing around everywhere, months of my planning coming to life before my very eyes. A part of me desperately wanted to stop and fuss over the flowers, or even jump in to offer a helping hand to make sure that everything was coming along, but these thoughts were quickly derailed as my lace train got caught on age old cobble stones at every turn.
Before I knew it I was being summoned to the church – the time had come and panic was setting in. I knew the whole thing could go south very quickly (translation – me breaking down from nerves and refusing to walk down the aisle) or that I could just suck it up, which was not at all something that I was certain was within my skill set. My music was cued, though, and before I could even decide which path I would take, I felt my parents pulling me from each side into the monastery. I guess there would be no turning back at that point.
I arrived at the altar clutching onto Jacobo’s hand the first moment that I could – palms sweating, I held it in a death grip. Given the perfectionist that I am, one might think that I had hoped this ceremony to go off without a hitch, when in reality I hoped that there would be flaws, humorous flaws, to lighten the mood and distract me from the intense gravity of what was about to happen.
As I analyzed the altar flowers (hmmm, some of them were wilting….ah, they used birds of paradise, never a favorite flower of mine, but they did look lovely in the arrangement) my cousin Nate, an ordained minister in the US, concluded his introduction and warily nodded to the Spanish Justice of the Peace who would manage the official part of the ceremony. This Justice was someone we could not choose, but rather the Justice from the miniature pueblo, Lupiana, below the monastery. He began his introduction by slowly and delicately removing his eyeglasses from their case, then gently pulling each paper from his manila folder and placing them thoughtfully one by one across the table as if they were tarot cards. To me this was beyond hilarious. He began his speech, which included multiple mentions of Jacobo’s and my name – well, something that should have been my name. It was incredible how he enthusiastically struggled with it, each time warping it further, and declaring his mispronunciations as though they were triumphs. “E-line! Bet! Ril! Bley!” This was fantastic.
The poor little Justice was on his own planet though. As we enjoyed his ramblings we realized that his dissertation had carried on far longer than we had anticipated and that he’d just gone and done the whole darn ceremony, meaning that we would need to move things around and do the rest on the fly – no problem. When we “thought” the ceremony had finally ended, the quartette began to play, signaling the end, meanwhile the judge started hollering into the microphone that the ceremony was not over, everyone must sit and that we were doing horribly, really horribly (the word is actually “fatal” in Spanish, which was especially touching) over and over again. I’m not going to lie, I kind of thought this was funny too, but I suppose after he said it a few times it just started to get a little awkward. I think at some point he managed to snap out of his stupor, though, and then declared in a soft, friendly grandpa-tone that if we needed anything from him in the future, he’d be happy to help. And that was that. It’s important to note (for me anyway) that my affection for Spanish grandpas may have diminished somewhat as a result of this experience. I was kind of disappointed too that he didn’t bring his cane and messenger hat. A real pity.
Tons of pictures and a cocktail hour later and it was time to enter the cloister where dinner would be held. The hallways of the three story courtyard were filled with 18 tables adorned with soft orange runners, Spanish cork oak trunk vases, bilingual menus and countless wineglasses. Seated in the corner at table 7, I gazed at the row of tables to each side and the illuminated garden in front of me, which changed each minute as the sun went down and the lights went up casting an ethereal glow on the stony walls. The fountain softly babbled and light music drifted hauntingly into the night air. It was the definition of breathtaking. I tried so hard to take in the moment and bottle it up inside of me somewhere so that I might never forget it.
After three courses, coffee and cigars, it was time for the first dance – the waltz (I should mention that we took classes for this in which I was taught actual “moves” – I quickly vetoed that idea though, and thankfully so considering that I could hardly remember how to do the basic waltz itself after a couple glasses of wine and days worth of built up nerves). So, we headed back out to the courtyard, which overlooked the tiny pueblo below (where the crazy Justice Jeronimo was probably sound asleep). Under the trees and bathed in the romantic monastery lights, we literally danced the night away. Hour after hour disappeared like sand through my fingers. At 3AM platters came out with a whole new assortment of snacks to ensure we remained at top dancing performance for the rest of the evening. When 7AM finally rolled around, there were probably 35 of us (my dad included) still celebrating the magical night and ready for more. Our wedding had pretty much been 12 hours of straight celebration and nothing short of epic.
Now I’m sitting here on a layover in the Bangkok airport before setting off to Vietnam, then Cambodia, Laos and Thailand (again) and still can’t help but wonder if maybe I’m still dreaming. How did I get here? Did I really meet some random Spaniard in a bar in Madrid nearly four years ago and did I just marry him? I suppose the ring on my finger says yes, but I’m still working on convincing myself that sometimes fairytales really do come true.
Photo credits go to Bibiana Fierro, and also my dear friend Holly Khushal who should clearly pursue a career in professional photograpy. A big thanks also to Ashley Smith, Founder of BuzzWorthy Events, who made the long journey to Spain to execute all of our crazy multicultural wedding plans.