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(January 2007)

Maria Fernanda still hadn´t forgiven me for getting horrendously drunk and suffering 95% memory loss on my stag night so it was just as well there wasn´t room for her in the mini-van I used to drive my family and friends to the beach.

In hindsight it probably hadn´t been a great idea to have the stag at the same time as a barbecue where my parents would meet my in-laws for the first time. And it hadn´t been a good idea to start drinking shots hours before they even arrived (delayed on a flight from Miami).

So it was a bit of a struggle the following afternoon when I had to drive to Manglaralto. After contending with a torrential downpour, falling asleep at the wheel, conducting a U-turn across a wide dual-carriageway (welcome to Ecuador) and the horrendous pot holes on the Ruta del Sol, we arrived safely. Everyone went off to relax and Maria Fernanda and I endured a tense drive to the reception venue to check everything was in order.

Why weren´t we staying at the reception venue? After all, Alándaluz is a hotel. Well six months previously and some time after accepting our deposit, they revealed that we had been double-booked with another couple from the USA who had block-booked almost all the accommodation for the whole weekend. They´d left us a few morsels. As Maria Fernanda had her heart set on Alándaluz, people had already paid for flights and after receiving a few sweeteners like the option to provide our own alcohol, we agreed to keep the reservation. We were on for the Saturday and the other couple (who we never met) for Sunday.







So back to the night before, we managed to sort everything out with harming each other and even had a couple of beers in Montañita before retiring. The next day I got up early and drove to the church with my brothers-in-law to fix all the plants and flowers. It was a beautiful, sunny morning and I felt quite relaxed, laid out in the back of the pick up drinking from a coconut. Returning to the hotel we found most people drifting around sleepily. The kitchen fixed a lunch for everyone and then it was time to leave.

The church, known as the Santuario de Olón, was constructed on the top of a receding cliff, high above the village. We hovered around the lower part enjoying the incredible view down the coastline, waiting for the priest and the Ecuadorian guests to arrive. It was always a bit of a risk to presume people would get to the church on time from Guayaquil. Some didn´t even bother trying; we just found them waiting around later when we got to Alándaluz.

Finally we ascended to the front of the church. Maria Fernanda arrived below with a cavalcade from the transit police, improvised on route. The service passed quickly, but memorably. The priest was gentle and friendly. I was really glad I had translated his service for the English guests beforehand as I didn´t have to think too much to understand. Unlike my wife I had remembered my Spanish vows. We had two women singing and a guy from the village playing guitar. That´s what I remember most. Afterwards it was just a blur of hugs, photos and then a convoy to the reception.

A normal Ecuadorian wedding takes place at 9pm. Afterwards people go to the reception where they start with a toast and then dance for hours, take a short break to eat at about 2am and then more dancing. If you ever get invited don´t go on an empty stomach. We had to fuse the traditions, so we started with a toast by the swimming pool from Maria Fernanda´s father, then had a long lunch where my dad and best man gave speeches to the slightly bemused Ecuadorians (that doesn´t happen here). Then we went onto the beach for the sunset and after that started dancing.

I´d planned several playlists to have different types of music but in the end everyone was so happy dancing to the salsa and meringue which the DJ was playing that we left him to do his own thing all night. I don´t think we even stopped to cut the cake, at some point it just came round in pieces. There was a break when I had to slide garters off my wife´s leg and onto the legs of all the single women (the idea is to get as high up as possible while they hold two glasses of wine). That´s a good Ecuadorian tradition.

By the end most people seemed pretty drunk and happy and when the music stopped they staggered off to their rooms or hotels clutching bottles of whisky.






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