My friend Luisa’s daughter Carolina was getting married, and Nuno and I went to Madeira for her wedding to her boyfriend of several years.
Some weddings are an obligation, some are fun, others are so boring you just want them to be over and a few, a rare few are simply magical.
Carolina’s wedding belongs to the last category. And were it not for the fact that the weather was not ideal, it would have been perfect. Still, after some time we forgot the cold and the grey weather, or rather we agreed it gave a special touch of romanticism to the breathtaking scenery – the dark grey clouds reflecting on the silver sea below, and the greyish blue mountains plunging into the sea in the distance…
Over the cliff
The ceremony took place in the hotel gardens, on the edge of the cliff. It had been raining but miraculously as the one hundred guests gathered together waiting for the bride and groom the skies took pity on us and there was no rain. Only cold, and of course us ladies took it the worst with our elegant dresses that were not made to keep us warm. But we valiantly stood our ground.
I was looking around, savouring the beauty that surrounded me, when I felt a sudden movement in the grass at my feet. I was so distracted that I hardly paid any attention, thinking it must be a small lizard, very common in Madeira. Suddenly I felt Nuno touching my shoulder and saying: “Did you see it?”. I faced him in surprise “What?” He laughed and said “I’ve just saved you from a huge rat that was looking at your feet in a very suspicious way”. Now I was never hysterical about mice or any animals (being used to them in Africa) but I must say I was grateful to him for saving me from an unwanted rat bite!
Anyway, Nuno kept his vigilance and I relaxed as the bridegroom made his appearance with his mother. They had their arms about each other and both were smiling broadly, clearly enjoying the moment. I was moved. As a mother of two boys I could not help picturing myself one day in the future, taking them “down the aisle” and handing them over to their future wives. Back to the present, one could feel a huge complicity between mother and son. Suddenly I realized they have exactly the same smile.
Only a few minutes later – as I looked at the menacing skies hoping it would not start raining – we saw the bride coming with her father. At this point I looked at dear Luisa, my lifelong friend, and never have I seen her happier than on that moment. Her husband Álvaro moved forward with their daughter, looking proud but one could see he was feeling a deep emotion. After all he was handing over his little girl… But the good thing is they have known the groom for years and they are very happy for their daughter, believing he is the man for her – something that must be reassuring.
The civil ceremony was very simple but inspiring. The officiant was very empathic and I later learned she was a relative of Luisa’s sister. All in the family, I thought. That’s Madeira!
Luisa’s is a musical family. They play several instruments and sing, as well as Catarina, her son António’s’ girlfriend who has a powerful voice that reminds you of Amy Winehouse, so it was no surprise to hear them both sing “Happy together” (The Turtles) accompanied by a chorus of friends who also played the guitar. It was a romantic moment and the song a very appropriate one! In the end we all sang, the beauty of the sky and the sea around us and the melody invading our hearts. Definitely – love was in the air.
Then the bride and groom were declared man and wife and we all congratulated them, wishing them all the happiness in the world. I hugged Luisa tightly and thought how good it was that we were spending yet another happy moment together.
The bridal cake and Madeira folklore dancing
Then we all threw rose petals on to the bride and groom and proceeded to another beautiful spot of the garden, with a green lawn and the same magnificent view, where we had some drinks – and we badly needed them for we were freezing! The newlyweds cut the cake – something original as this is usually done after the meal is served – and it was a good idea too, as we were hungry and the cake was delicious! It was brown on the inside and tasted of dried fruits and spices. Soon I heard the unmistakeable sounds of the “bailinho“, the Madeira folklore and it was delightful to watch them dance. Again, I thought, this is so Madeira. So lovely to see the dancers perform here in this beautiful scenery. How thoughtful of Carolina – it was a way to share a bit of her beloved Madeira with everyone.
In the end we all danced with them, and got a bit warmer too.
A bright star
Then dinner was served. We had been in the cold for hours but somehow we felt great. On the tables our place was marked with our photograph and a little purse in Madeira typical red fabric with coloured stripes, a very special gesture from the bride and groom towards their guests. Inside the purse we found a card written by their own hands with their special message for each guest. I was very moved when I read mine, where Carolina wrote “Dear Auntie Teresa thank you for being family…” It is a fact, they are my family of the heart, and I know they feel the same, but still I loved to see it written down by the next generation.
During dinner Louisa gave a speech. Looking at her, the mother of the bride, I missed her father, dear Uncle Jorge, so much. And later, when they showed pictures of Carolina’s life, there he was, so handsome with his white hair, the patriarch of this truly wonderful family he created with Auntie Sara, a happy marriage if ever there was one. And by the way, you just had to look at Auntie Sara, now the matriarch, to admire her spirit. At 79 and in great shape, she danced all night! And she was in great company, that of another amazing lady, her 83 year-old cousin Francisca who came from Porto especially for the wedding. They are both a great example of how your attitude determines the way you live through your older years. They have kept their youthful spirits and were really having a lot of fun. It made us happy just to see them that way!
The wedding party went on until the early hours of the morning and we all danced and drank the typical “poncha“. The night was cold but there was warmth in our hearts. I looked at the sky and saw a shining star in the midst of the clouds. Ah, Uncle Jorge, I thought, how happy you must feel from up there, to see us all, your family, so happy, and life going on, your granddaughter getting married, soon another generation on the way. The circle of life continues. I looked at the star and whispered a silent thanks to Uncle Jorge, for he was one of the very best friends I’ve had in this life. And told him I miss him very much, but that of course he has known for a long time.