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“At first Miguel wanted to meet people to improve his English and he liked the fact that I was an English teacher!” laughs Emma. The attraction turned out to be much more than that though and after a year of dating, they moved with Miguel’s work to Switzerland where they now live.
Miguel proposed on their second anniversary as a couple, in a hotel in Lucerne overlooking the snow-topped Swiss Alps. "He made me a book of our time together, full of photos and keepsakes. He even went back online to print off our profile pictures from OkCupid, re-activating his account which attracted some new messages!
"The book was written in both Spanish and English, in the hope that my Spanish would improve one day! This then became the theme for our wedding; bilingual and multicultural," explains Emma. The proposal was a complete surprise and the first person they told was the waitress as they celebrated over a romantic meal.
The date was set for 9th August, 2019 and choosing where to wed was easy. "We knew we wanted to get married in Suffolk as I grew up there," says Emma. "I had a lovely childhood surrounded by family and friends. Many of my friends have moved to London or surrounding cities, Miguel's are scattered all over the world and with his family being in Venezuela, Suffolk was the perfect location for our English country wedding."
After looking around a number of different venues with her parents, they fell in love with the character and charm of Woodhall Manor. Emma says, "It's a beautiful historical building, much like my old boarding school at Brandeston Hall. With large grounds for outside games, plenty of photo opportunities, including a rose garden, long fountain and pond, and accommodation for family, it was ideal. Miguel was excited to get married there as he wanted to introduce his family to the British culture, which is so different to Venezuela's." .
Emma had her heart set on a pre-loved dress for her big day. "Weddings in Switzerland are very different from England so I spent time searching online as there aren't too many bridal shops where we live," she explains. "I love the French designer Rime Aradaky and I found one of her beautiful two-piece designs in Bristol. I quickly contacted the bride and flew from Zurich to try it on. It was all very last minute, and my friend Anna met me on the way. We snapped it up and she took it back to her house to look after it as I couldn't fly it back to Switzerland in my hand luggage! My parents picked it up a few months later. I owe so much to Anna!"
"I bought my dress in 2018 and knew right away that it was the one! I felt very special wearing it on my wedding day and received many compliments and I'm now passing it on to the next bride."
Miguel and both dads wore deep blue suits with waistcoats and Venezuelan orchid buttonholes and the bridesmaids chose their own dresses to suit their individual body shape and style. "My brother's boys wore grey and beige page boy outfits with braces and had to scatter flowers as they walked down the aisle. They were very cute," says Emma.
Their celebration was a fusion of their favourite traditions from both cultures, including a homemade piñata full of sweets for the children, Venezuelan rum bar and arepas, a traditional kind of flatbread which they had the following morning for breakfast." At a Venezuelan wedding it's typical to have a hora loca 'crazyhour' during the evening reception.
We hid fancy dress costumes all around and the DJ played an hour of Latin and English music. It was amazing fun!" recalls Emma. "Our first dance was also a salsa, much to the disgust of my two left feet."
"We both had the best day of our lives, we smiled so much and didn't want it to end! We were surrounded by friends and family and it went by too quickly."
In a nod to popular British customs they had a lemonade stand, Pimms drinks reception and canapés, garden games on the lawn, as well as a delicious English wedding breakfast.
"Miguel's parents don't speak any English so Miguel's bestfriend Mireno translated the whole wedding so that everyone understood every word. When it came to the part when he announced us as man and wife, he totally choked up. Mireno and Miguel have gone through so much together, growing up in challenging times in Venezuela, they really are like brothers. It was so special that he was able to do this for us," adds Emma.
Her parents also played a big part in helping to make the day special, including making the wedding cake, confetti and piñata.
"We hand-wrote place names on locally sourced stones, made signs to show guests the way, decorated jam jars for flowers and candles, made maps of the estate so guests didn't get lost. The list goes on and on, it was a total team effort! The whole day was bilingual too, down to the wedding website and orders of service."
"The children had so much fun trying to break the piñata – they took it in turns but eventually Miguel stepped up to smash it open, and the children ran in to collect their prizes."