Getting Married In Gibraltar
Hello There, VivBounty here to share with you how getting married in Gibraltar really was an adventure for us. Once we decided that we were to be wed, the planning went really quickly. As we were essentially eloping so we really didn't think there was much to it. The actual booking took 2 minutes in a phone call from Alicante, Spain to the office of the Registrar in Gibraltar to check available dates, documents required and how the procedure works.
The Rock Of Gibraltar At Night
Living in Spain at the time, with all the red tape, neither of us being Spanish and my husband being English, we were advised to get married in Gibraltar, which is British territory. Knowing our neighbours in Spain for barely 4 months, in a sort of time-share condo, sort of way we thought we'd just pop round and tell them we're off to get married and be on our way in about half an hour. Well, that didn't happen! They were shocked and needed time to get used to the idea. One had to sit down and have a brandy, another said her husband was out and would be so disappointed that he missed us coming round, and on it went for almost 2 hours until we were finally we were on our way.
Essential Posing Car
For this special occasion, being the poser that he is, my hubby hired a Peugot cabriolet (convertible car in English) so that we could have the top down like the James Bond movies as we're winding through the mountains. I imagined I had to pack a scarf to blow around my neck in the wind, you know like the "Bond girls". Let me tell you that the mountains are cold in November even in the day time, so instead of the scarf I was totally wrapped in a blanket.
Hotel Adra, Costa Almeria, Spain
Overnight in Adra, Costa Almeria, Spain
A little more than half way down the coast, we stopped to overnight at the hotel Adra on the coast. A beautiful hotel with a really nice lounge, bar area. The dining room served excellent food with impeccable service. We basked in the whole package enjoying the beautiful weather and resting peacefully on the way to a really momentous event. I did not miss any of the stress that I had planning my previous wedding with all the pomp and pageantry, spending too much money, worrying about details not having anything to do with the two most important people this day should be about; the bride and the groom. This was so much better. So wonderful, that we decided to stay 2 nights.
Nerja, Costa del Sol, Spain
Brief rest stops in Nerja and Almunecar
Between Adra and Tarifa, Spain we stopped to eat on the way down in Almunecar and on the way back in Nerja, basking in the sun dining out on the patio. The freedom to just go where the road takes you and stop whenever and wherever you like with someone with whom you are so in tune, completely without stress was a first for me and one I was enjoying immensely. Everything about us felt right.
Tarifa, the tip of Spain and around to Barbate
Tarifa, just 20 miles from Gibraltar
We opted to stay in Tarifa, Spain instead of right on "The Rock" as Gibraltar is called, a mere 20 miles drive from the Registrar's office. Arriving two nights before the anticipated date, we checked in to the family-run Hotel Cordoniz, the Spanish word for quail.
After a good night's rest we did a dry run to check in to the registrar's office in Gibraltar, you'll see a picture of it on the Web site above. Gibraltar was a British naval base used to guard the entrance to the Mediterranean. The walls protecting this fort, are so thick, they are now house government and other offices. As we went past the caution sign through the door approaching a glass window with a cut out through which documents can be passed back and forth to the clerk who sits behind it. As we did this, she verified ours and found we didn't have our birth certificates. Imagine our surprise when we were told that we could not be married without them! Having made the booking over the phone, given a verbal list of requirements with which we had complied, we were floored as no mention was made of birth certificates.
To our further surprise, she pulled out a huge leather-bound ledger with hand-written entries, telling us that she personally made our booking and would have definitely mentioned the original birth certificates as they are the most important document. We didn't see the big deal as our passports contained pertinent birth information. Honestly I expected her to pull out a plume and an ink pot to make her next entry. There wasn't even a typewriter in sight, much less a computer in 2004!
Not wanting an argument, and clearly seeing our dismay, she asked how soon we could return. After much frustration and some deep breaths, we re-booked for the next available date, six days later. Our rings were engraved and a friend had etched glasses with the original date on them so much teasing ensued about us starting a trend later followed by Prince Charles and Camila having the wrong date on their wedding mementos.
Annoyed at the miscommunication, we checked out of the hotel and drove straight back to Alicante all 631kms stopping only once for a potty break, slept at home, picked up the birth certificates, woke up early and headed right back down the coast.
Again we stopped overnight in Adra, and now knowing what we were up against or so we thought, we confidently and calmly proceeded back to Tarifa. The hotel staff were most sympathetic and welcoming as were the hotel cats who adopted us during our stay.
The Day Of The Wedding in Gibraltar
I had picked beautiful flowers from the bushes outside our room to put in my hair , putting them in a sandwich bag in the fridge overnight hoping to keep them from wilting. Sadly, they wilted anyway so our first stop was a florist. It was too early in the morning for their daily delivery and with no pink flowers in stock, I was directed to another florist, who was not even open yet. The proprietor of the neighbouring restaurant was standing outside so I asked him if there were any more florists on the island. He didn't think any were open yet.
We headed back towards the registrar's office to flag some witnesses down on the advice of someone who had done this recently. She advised us to just go down there and flag 2 passers by to be our witnesses. This was the fun of it, she said and most tourists would love to do this for us. Not so!
We took turns asking tourists as they approached looking for the ones with friendly faces. The first couple we asked looked at us like we were Martian. The second couple we found reading a map, agreed to witness our nuptials, and went with my hubby for a coffee. As we were looking bewildered on the street, the restaurateur found me still wearing my blue canvas walking shoes with my pink dress saying he thought of another place I could get a flower for my hair and I should go with him. I must've walked the island's entire 6.5 sq kms.
As we walked past the coffee shop, my fiancée was sitting there alone wearing a suit, white runners with our dress shoes in a tote bag as we knew we had some walking to do this day on cobblestone streets. There were 3 cups of coffee on the table and no witnesses looking like no one wanted to come to his party. When I inquired about the witnesses, he said they'd gone to buy some souvenirs and would be right back. My escort did indeed find me a flower, being very late by this time, the florist said to pay her after the ceremony and waved me off saying via con Dios, meaninggo with God or Godspeed. I headed to the salon to have it pinned in my hair where my fiancée found me to report that the witnesses had done a runner. He now had his dress shoes on, handed me mine and the stylist who didn't charge me waved us off with luck as we left with 10 minutes to find witnesses.
Standing outside the Registrar's office we told the guard of our dilemma. He said "No problem, you have plenty of time!" Speaking to a French man having a cigarette outside, we finally got him to agree. He went inside to check with the woman he was travelling with and said he would do it. She came out 5 minutes before our appointment under the impression we only needed him and not her. We enlightened her, dressed in casual trousers and a crumpled shirt with a huge canvas satchel full of papers slung across her chest she agreed to witness our nuptials. She joked during the ceremony about not having notice to put a pretty frock on.We later learned that her mother had marched her down to this office years ago at age 18 because she was pregnant insisting she marry the boy. For the past 6 years she had been trying to get divorced so that she could move on but the Registrar's office would have none of it. At a pause in the ceremony, as we all giggled along with her she asked him his name and if he was the one whose signature had roped her to this unwanted marriage, while rummaging through her satchel for her marriage certificate to compare the signature with his. He replied saying "That's not very charitable of you to bring this up now. This nice couple is trying to get married here". Thankfully, he was not the same Registrar.
After the ceremony my husband and I had tea and pastries with Carole and Jean Phillipe from Andora having a good chuckle about the absurdity of the whole situation. We then went to pay the florist the 1 Euro we owed her for the flower, drove back across the causeway for the 8th time to the hotel for a celebratory brunch and a well-deserved stress relieving nap. Finally I able to reply all the texts on the mobile phone saying "Yes, we are finally Mr. and Mrs."
Needless to say, I would not advise anyone to rely on flagging down tourists to witness their marriage in Gibraltar. As it turned out, our original date was a rainy day unlike the actual wedding day which was sunny and warm just as God intended it to be.
NOTE: Marriage certificates issued in Gibraltar are valid in all countries except Spain. In order to validate them for the Spanish government, you need an apostille seal, similar to certification or notorization for an additional UK £30 which we had to come back a 9th time to pick up on the day after our wedding.
A few months after our return, the law was changed in Spain making it possible for foreigners to be married within the country, and given the choice, we would make this fantastic trip again in a heartbeat.
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