A lot of time goes on choosing the dress, the flowers and the food, but remember your wedding is about your ceremony. The Ceremony is your opportunity to say 'I do' to the person you want to spend the rest of your lives with.
So lets look at the choices you have with your Ceremony.
This is the only option to make the marriage legal in Madeira. You will need to submit all your paperwork within 6 months of the wedding date to book the Officiant, but you dont need to be a resident. It would be wise to also check whether the Officiant will conduct the ceremony in English or if you will need a translator. Portuguese ceremonies are not as romantic as other European countries and don't allow you to write personal Vows, so this option is really just best for those who definitely want the legal side covered on the day in Madeira.
An Independent Celebrant
For couples travelling from abroad who are happy to organise the legal side of the marriage separately, this is the most popular option. A Celebrant has no restriction on words and so can design a ceremony just for you. It can follow all the traditions that you are used to, such as the Giving Away, the Vows, the Exchange of Rings and ending with 'You can now kiss the Bride', or it can be totally unique and incorporate any elements you want. The other great thing about using a Celebrant is that you can build Unity Elements into the service, such as Sand Ceremonies, Wine and Love Letter Ceremonies or The Warming of the Rings. If there are any special traditions from you home country you want included, just ask your Celebrant.
There is an English Church in Madeira who are more than happy to conduct a Wedding Ceremony for you, either in the Church or at a venue of your choice. You can work with them to design the Order of Service, choosing the music and prayers and readings that you would like included. In Madeira a religious ceremony is not recognised by Law and so you will need to organise the legal side separately, either with a Portuguese Officiant or back home with a Registrar.
There are a few things to remember when planning your Ceremony. Firstly the music. Music sets the scene and reflects your personalities. Generally slower music is used for the Bride to first walk down the aisle but at the end of the Ceremony, pick something lively and up beat. Its time to celebrate! During the Ceremony you can play something during the signing of the register or any Unity element. There are lots of choices in Madeira for your music, from hiring speakers to play an IPod, having a classical string quartet, to a live singer.
Another thing to think about is a microphone. Some hotels will provide one for you but if you are having a villa wedding, maybe ask the musicians or DJ that you have booked for the party if they will provide one. Microphones are useful for weddings of larger than 20 guests, especially if there are guests doing Readings or speeches within the Ceremony.
Think about timings. Ask the person who is conducting your Ceremony how long they expect it will take. This will help you set the times for the rest of the day. One good way of planning the timings of the whole day is to work backwards. Think about when you want to start the party and the prior to this slot in your meal. Give yourselves time to enjoy all the good food you have ordered. Prior to the meal you need time for photos. This always takes longer than people expect.... rounding up family members for the group shot can be a challenge. Before the photos you want time to say hi to everyone and relax after the Ceremony. And so now you can set the time for the Ceremony and the start of the celebrations.
Remember that is gets hot in Madeira and Brides are traditionally late to the Ceremony, so while the guests are waiting, have someone hand out bottles of water to keep everyone refreshed. After the Ceremony the Bride and Groom are usually the first to be handed a glass of Champagne, but have waiters at the ready to serve drinks to your guests. They all want to toast your marriage.
Last Bits to Remember
You have taken time to create a wonderful Ceremony so make sure you remember everything you need to take so that the Bride isn't carrying the last bits down the aisle. People doing Readings need them ready and if you are having any Unity Elements, the Celebrant will need to have these before hand, such as vases for the Sand Ceremonies or a bottle of wine and glasses for a Wine Ceremony. For legal Ceremonies, you will probably be asked to show your passports, so again ask a reliable family member to hold on to these for you.... Mums are a good choice.
And lastly, dont forget the rings! We promise you.... it has happened.