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  • Olivia De Santos

5 Portuguese Wedding Traditions You Need to Know

Helloooooooo! So in my deep dive exploration of the Portuguese wedding market, I’ve come across some things that are noticeably different to weddings in the UK which is where I started my now five year career. These Portuguese traditions are not restrictive as if you are willing to ask for what you want, you can mostly get it, but I think that these 5 traditions are key to know before you embark on planning a wedding in Portugal.

Spoiler alert: Alot of it is to do with food!

Photo by Olivia De Santos

Two mains

So, in the UK, America and Canada, I know it is customary to have a three course plated meal traditionally; starter, main and dessert. Perhaps guests have the choice of main that they choose. In Portugal things are done a little differently. Here it is customary to have 4 or 5 courses:

Starter (traditionally a soup) Fish course Palate cleanser (e.g grilled pineapple) Meat course Dessert Of course there are exceptions for vegans, vegetarians etc but this is traditional order of things. More modern venues have a modernised outlook on their menus and often only offer one main dish per person but for that super old school Quintas, this is what you can expect.

Photo by Olivia Santos

Huge canape buffets

Continuing on the lines of wedding food, the canape offering at Portuguese venues (particularly in the North) is HUGE! These venues can bring out so much food for the drinks reception with a seafood table, BBQ showcooking, cold canapes, cheese tables and cured meat tables. It’s alot and that is just during your drinks reception. You have your entire sit down meal to look forward to as well. If you know that your family may struggle with the amount of food on offer, you can always negotiate a slightly smaller package but if you are a huge foodie, then a wedding in Portugal is probably perfect for you!

Photo by Olivia Santos

Venues do everything but it's very samey

Here in Portugal, a huge amount of emphasis is put on “The Quinta”. It’s more than just a wedding venue. It’s an entire wedding organisation outfit that can build your wedding from the ground up. They can commission all of your suppliers (accredited ones on their lists), do your decoration, use their own DJ and entertainment, hire children’s entertainers, create a fireworks display. And bla bla bla bla

Some even have a package that will do all this for a single fee per person. Nice and easy right? Why would you even need a planner?

Well. The problem is that the way venues organise weddings is very cookie cutter and quite understandably. If you run a venue that has over 60 weddings a year, then of course you can only spend so much time on each couple and a wedding formula would be the most time-saving and cost effective thing for you. If the venue is bang on the type of style you want and their standard styling and package works, then a venue coordinator works perfectly well for you. If you want more personalisation, a negotiated deal and to have a bit more one-to-one service, then a planner is the way to go. Both are great choices - it just depends on what you need!

Venues can be resistant to change so it can help to have a destination wedding planner on board to bat your corner for you.

Photo by Rita Rocha Photography

The cake cutting has its own ceremony

In the UK, the cake cut is a very short process (if at all! Lots of couples are forgoing this entirely more recently). It’s scheduled five minutes before the first dance and the cake is usually cut to open the dancefloor. It takes no time at all and is mostly a photo opportunity. In Portugal, the cake cut is like an entire ceremony! It happens at around midnight and has a designated special place in the venue. This could be on a lake, in the middle of a garden, on top of a rushing river etc. It usually also involves a ton of fireworks in the form of sparklers, catherine wheels and firework walls. It’s a wholeee thing! Of course this is entirely up to you whether you want to have a designed cake cut like this or a more low key one. Be prepared to potentially fight with the venue if you want to have a cake cut that is in a different place or at a different time to when they usually do it. As I said, venues can be close-minded sometimes, so definitely speak up for what you want!

Photo by Olivia Santos

Weddings go on allllllll night

This is hugely welcomed by the destination clients I work with! A late license is much more prevalent in the Northern areas where “sem hora limite” (no time limit) is bandied about proudly as parties can go on until 6 or 7am depending on whether the venue has other events the next day. Around Lisbon and Sintra, weddings tend to be shorter with 1 or 2am last orders. This depends on your personal tastes and the stamina of your wedding party of course! If you have a ceremony at 5 or 6pm then of course you have a longer day ahead of you than if you started at 2pm. If you’re planning to party all night, be sure to liaise with a venue for a sensible timetable for each element of your day so that you don’t end up hiring a DJ until 5am but everyone is already tired at 1am. Know your party and know your schedule ;) I hope you found this little article helpful. I think this is probably a Part 1 piece as there is alot to cover on the topic of traditions in the Portuguese wedding industry and the way it’s going. Até já!