Exotic weddings abroad may be a growing trend, but short-haul stalwart Gibraltar is just as ready and waiting with the confetti
John Lennon and Yoko Ono took the plunge here in 1969. Sean Connery liked it so much he did it twice, once in 1962 and then in 1975. And today, hundreds of mere mortals like you or I are doing it increasing numbers. Heading to Gibraltar to tie the knot is now more popular than ever. Not bad for a country just 8km square. With its old school English charm and ‘50s nostalgia, combined with a balmy Mediterranean climate, this is ideal wedding territory. And of course there’s no language or currency issue.
It’s just a two-and-a-half-hour flight with easyJet, making it a breeze for family and friends to hop over for a glamorous weekend wedding in the sun, combined with a spot of tax-free shopping and sightseeing, not to mention sailing, diving, dolphin-spotting or bird-watching.
The increase in weddings coincides with a resurgence in Gibraltar itself, apparent in the £1 billion east side development named ‘Sovereign Bay’, with architects like Sir Norman Foster on board. It promises to be a spectacular mix of super-yacht marina, designer shops, luxury apartments and hotels, fully complete by 2016.
Yet the nostalgia for a bygone era is still alive and well. Many visitors comment on how Gibraltar has a feel of the 1950s, a era that is celebrating something of a comeback, with celebrities like Scarlett Johansson having a penchant for all things 50s.
Weddings are also on the rise due to a change in local law. It’s no longer necessary to marry in a registry office. There are now a host of licensed venues including the island’s top hotels and tourist attractions. More than anything, the red tape is at a minimum compared to many other overseas wedding destinations. There are no residential requirements and a Gibraltar marriage is recognised worldwide. To wed at the registry office, couples need to present themselves 24 hours before they wish to marry. To wed outside the registry office, the Marriage Registrar generally needs at least three months' notice.
The new licensed venues include the ever fabulous and historic Rock Hotel
, something of an icon, with its colonial feel combined with a touch of Spain and Morocco. It still attracts a host of celebrities from the Prince of Wales to Michael Palin, who started his Sahara
series from one of the two penthouse suites, often favoured by newlyweds for their views across two continents: Europe and Africa.
The Caleta Hotel
is another popular choice, with its spectacular views over the Straits to Spain and North Africa. The only hotel with direct access to the beach, i'ts just 10 minutes from the airport (so very easy for guests) and romantic arrival or departures by water can be arranged. The Caleta Hotel
can cater for just the bride and groom or a wedding up to 350 guests, and has two rosettes for its cuisine. Its garden, which has won many awards for the best in Gibraltar, is licensed for civil ceremonies.
The O’Callaghan Eliott Hotel
hosts weddings on its 8th
floor with 360° views over the Rock, Straits of Gibraltar, Africa and Spain and receptions for up to 200 guests. Smaller weddings are held in the Victoria Terrace or Palm Court restaurants.
For more of a budget option, the Queen’s Hotel
located just outside the old city walls with great views over the Rock itself, is also licensed for weddings.
Many couples head to the Alameda Botanical Gardens for their ceremony and especially for photographs, even if they wed elsewhere. The gardens were founded in 1816 and are linked with Kew Gardens in London. The Italianate-style garden known as ‘The Dell’ is available for vows (between 1 June and 30 September) with up to 30 guests. Adding a touch of wow factor, receptions can be held in the Alameda Open Air Theatre.
If military history rings your wedding bell, The Mount is another spectacular venue. Built in 1797, it was formerly the official residence of the senior officer of the Royal Navy in Gibraltar and has fascinating gardens superb for wedding photography.
For church weddings, brides and grooms-to-be have a wide choice, including the Cathedral of St Mary the Crowned, Bethel Christian Fellowship, St Andrew’s Church of Scotland, Wesley Methodist Church and many more. Other religions are well catered for with the Shaar Hashamayim Synagogue and The Hindu Temple.
Couples who want something memorable for their reception, and a little leftfield, can shepherd their wedding party to a champagne toast at the Cable Car Top Station, the International Casino or even St Michael’s Cave, with its stunning stalagmites and stalactites. For something more laidback, there is always the Waterfront Restaurant in the west-facing Queensway Quay, overlooking the super-yachts, or even a rustic celebration at La Mamela, a vibrant fish restaurant on the east side of the Rock at Catalan Bay.
Couples looking for a little more help in putting together their wedding can turn to a wedding planner such as Mediterranean Weddings, which offers everything from your wedding planner meeting you off the plane at the airport to arranging manicures and champagne receptions.
Civil Status and Registration Office
Bride and grooms to be will need to show:
• Birth certificates
• A certificate of civil status or non-impediment
• Decree absolute or death and former marriage certificates (if married before)
Civil wedding venues
The Rock Hotel
The Caleta Hotel
The O’Callaghan Eliott Hotel
Alameda Botanical Gardens
Religious wedding venues
Cathedral of St Mary the Crowned
Bethel Christian Fellowship
St Andrew’s Church of Scotland
Wesley Methodist Church
Shaar Hashamayim Synagogue
The Hindu Temple
Wow factor wedding receptions
Cable Car Top Station
International Casino Gibraltar
St Michael’s Cave
Wedding movers and shakers
E J Santos
Luis Photo Studio
Wedding Bells Shop
The Balloon & Party Place