¡Vivan los Novios!


Paulina Prechtel

The anticipation before international travel is both the best and worst of feelings. The excitement that starts running through your brain about what’s to come is also balanced with the stress of making sure you have everything packed, ensuring that everything is ready before you leave, and that you’re not forgetting any important documents. This anticipation has time to settle and relax throughout the 24+ hour trip ahead of you. 

I’ve been traveling to Spain at least once every year ever since I was six weeks old. The entirety of my mom’s family lives there, which always makes the trip so much more valuable and special. My mom is the youngest of six sisters, making family such an important aspect of my cultural roots in Spain. But this trip was not like the typical trips we usually take to go see our family, it was an even more significant and unique experience. My cousin, who has been engaged for over a year, had been waiting for the perfect day to celebrate her marriage, since Covid had made it so hard for her. Although my sister and I had to be pulled out of school for about a week, there was no way my family would allow us to miss this important day, nor would I want to.

Landing on the land of my second home is such a familiar, yet comforting feeling. Knowing that I would be able to see my family I hadn’t seen in about a year, along with all the friends I had made over the years there, filled my heart with joy and excitement. Jet Lag would soon be forgotten, as the adrenaline fills my veins with emotion. 

The six days leading up to the wedding were full of gathering with family and friends, shopping for last minute wedding attire, fulfilling wedding traditions, and preparing wedding favors. The biggest wedding tradition my family participated in (along with many other families who were attending the wedding) is called “Llevar huevos a las monjitas de Santa Clara.”  This tradition has been carried down by various generations, consisting of a very familiar process. If it’s supposed to rain on your wedding day, as many guests attending your wedding as possible have to bring cartons of eggs to the nuns. Now I know this sounds crazy or random, but here is the background. Nuns create an assortment of delicious treats every year around Easter time to sell in order to raise money for the Church. By donating eggs to the Nuns, especially if you have a wedding, the nuns will pray that it doesn’t rain on your wedding day. Since it was originally supposed to rain on my cousin’s wedding, my entire family broughts dozens and dozens of eggs to the Church, which in the end worked in our favor. The weather on the wedding was the most beautiful day of my entire trip there.

My cousin is the most detailed person I know, so the days leading up to the wedding were full of ensuring every single aspect of the wedding was as perfect as can be. I was very fortunate enough to be able to help fulfill one of these aspects by assisting my cousin in creating the keychain favors that would be on every guest’s plate, complete with their name. This gave me the opportunity to bond with my cousin that I hadn’t been able to see in a year, and catch up with each other’s lives.

The evening before the big day, there was a small reunion made up of the bride and groom’s family and a few of their friends at a local restaurant. Now this isn’t like the typical “wedding rehearsal” that they do here in the states. In Spain, they do these gatherings in an effort for the guests to meet each other, and form some sort of a basis of a relationship, that way the actual wedding day isn’t so awkward. This evening was very special for me and my cousin, the bride. I had spent days carefully crafting a speech in Spanish, commemorating how special my cousin is to me, how significant it is for me to be here to celebrate this important day with her, and how proud I was to be able to say I am related to her. Tears were streaming down many of the guests’ faces, including mine. To be fair, my voice had already cracked after reading the first two sentences.

Saturday, March 26, 2022 at 7:30 a.m. my mom and I were already on our toes eager to get ready, and in disbelief the big day had already come. Our hair appointments were at 8 a.m., so as soon as we woke up, we got dressed and headed to the salon. Coming back to the house, we were finishing all the final touches, in a chaotic yet exciting manner. At 11:30 sharp we hopped into a taxi and headed to the Church, where the ceremony would be held. My cousin is a very devoted teacher at a Catholic school, so she decided it would mean a lot for her to get married in the Church at her school. Fortunately, she lived right around the corner from her school, so she decided to walk out of her house arm-in-arm with her father to the entrance of the Church. As soon as she stepped out of her front door, every single person around, including me, could not believe our eyes. Looking as stunning as she could possibly be, flashing the happiest of smiles, and strutting down the street with confidence shining off herself, more tears streamed down the faces of our family. Even complete strangers had gathered on the sidewalk across the street to admire the beautiful bride, and yell compliments.

Walking into the Church, on each side of me, a row of policemen in their uniforms holding their swords in a diagonal line across from each other formed a bridge. We found our seats quickly, and soon enough three precious little girls in the cutest outfits walked down the aisle with lavender in their hands. This church did not allow dispersing of flowers onto the ground, thus why they were carrying the lavender instead. A live band and singer were performing from the top floor, voices echoing the most beautiful melodies ever sung before. The bride and groom shared their vows, and commitment to each other, and of course their first kiss as a married couple. 

Right before the mass ended, my sister and I were instructed to go to the entrance of the church, to pass out cones of rice to the guests as they left. In Spain, it’s a tradition to throw rice at the newly wed couple to wish them luck in their future. Right as they walked out, everyone started counting down from five, and then everyone started throwing their rice and cheering. 

The wedding reception was held in the oldest winery in the city of Jerez, built in 1730. The beautiful historical architecture and techniques of the land added to the unique and comforting atmosphere of the wedding. Tapas (Spanish appetizers) took place outside in the courtyard. There was an assortment of jamón (Spanish ham), sushi, foie gras, numerous other delicious foods, and of course the open bar. The couple showed up about an hour after all the guests arrived, pulling up in a bright red antique mini cooper. They shared their first copa (glass of wine) as a couple, and joined the guests in celebration.

Shortly after, everyone was brought into one of the numerous indoor patios of the winery for a late lunch, or early dinner. The room was beautifully decorated in a rustic theme, gorgeous fresh flowers decking every inch. My cousin’s brother (also my cousin) had married into a generationally famous flower shop, working in favor of the bride. The impeccable decoration was his gift. An appetizer of mango sorbet, entree of Iberian sirloin, raisin rice, and roasted potatoes, and an amazing ending of a dessert of caramel filled vanilla mousse satisfied the tummies of every guest. 

Not long after, the dance floor was slowly beginning to fill up with dancing energy everyone had been keeping in the entire day. A typical flamenco performer started off the night right, getting the bride in a Sevillana (typical Spanish cultural dance) mood. The night’s DJ then took the stage after the flamenco singer’s performance, and started playing all kinds of fun upbeat music ranging from numerous genres. Everyone was dancing. I mean every single guest was on the dance floor, celebrating with the bride and groom, dancing their hearts out till midnight. This was a night I will never forget.

The plane ride back is always the hardest part of my annual trips to Spain. I start thinking about how weird it’s going to be from seeing my family everyday to having to wait another year, how much I’m going to miss the delicious food and amazing culture, and of course how much the jet lag is going to affect my return to my daily routine at school. But knowing I was able to be a part of such a memory filled night, made me forget about all the negative aspects. I realized that I was going to forget about the jet lag and long trip home in as little as a week, but would remember the impact this trip had on me for the rest of my life. Vivan los novios!