Heartfelt Destination Wedding in Sintra Portugal

Photographing a destination wedding in Europe was something I never thought I would do, but I am so fortunate to have adventurous friends who took the risk and decided to exchange their personal vows in a surreal setting that can only be described as a beautiful oasis. We arrived a couple days earlier and stayed a couple nights in Lisbon. During the day we enjoyed touring taking a trolly around town and in the evening we would enjoy the outdoor restaurants and busy street nightlife. But more about our personal travels on another blog in the future with iphone photos (Because I didn’t want to carry around my heavy cameras). These wedding images below are a mix of film and digital work. I was so worried about bringing my film and putting them through the x-ray machines because you read that the machines could damage the film, but traveling there and back the film rolls turned out just fine with our carry on bags.

Sintra is a romantic Portuguese town that has an abundance of wonderful tourist attractions. Ancient castles and monumental palaces. The town is famed for its Romanticism style of architecture and there are numerous fine examples of this elaborate and decorative construction type found throughout the forested hills of the Serra da Sintra national park. When you are in the town you look up the forested mountains where old castles are hidden sometimes by the clouds. There are beautiful bright coloured hotels, homes and government buildings with narrow streets leading to them. Beautiful parks where residents can go and watch an outdoor summer evening movie right on the grass while beside them is the magnificent Palace of Monserrate. The most beautiful place and the food was the best I have ever tasted while traveling. The seafood was incredible! The hotel where we stayed with the bride and groom was wonderful! The Chalet Saudade has the charm of Portugal taste with decorative tiles and a mix of art nouveau style. There is soooo much to see and do and definitely a town you will want to visit over and over again. The perfect place to host a destination wedding.


Why did you decide to have a destination wedding and why Portugal?

Canadian travel bugs and we knew we didn’t want the typical big wedding. We wanted a wedding that was intimate and about our love more than everything else. Tony’s mother was born in Peniche, Portugal and we travelled to Portugal two times prior together and loved it. With Tony being a teacher it always made more sense to travel to Europe rather than a typical all-inclusive hot-spot. We chose the area of Sintra because we went on a day trip there once and it is known for its beauty, romance, picturesque castles and landscape, we knew the picture opportunities would be endless and it would be a great place for guests to site see.

Where did you exchange your vows and hold your reception?

First Look was held at our Hotel called Chalet Saudade in Sintra. We exchanged our vows in the Chapel Ruins at Park and Palace of Monserrate where we also held a cocktail hour in front of the Palace. We then held another cocktail hour and reception at Central Palace Hotel in the main town of Sintra.

How did you plan your wedding from Canada?

I planned everything from searching online myself, sending emails, looking on Instagram for specific hashtags to find other Portuguese wedding vendors, and using Skype to call my vendors. My mother in law also went to Sintra a year before the wedding and got a few contact cards for some restaurants we thought we could hold the reception at. I hired a wedding planner I found online but I only asked her to book the venue at Monserrate Palace, coordinate the Celebrant to marry us and person to play music during the ceremony as well as the cocktail hour at Monserrate Palace everything else I found/did on my own.

What were some of the greatest challenges in planning a destination wedding?

Making sure the vendors are legit and will actually show up and provide the services you requested and the way you expect is definitely the most challenging and scariest part of planning a destination wedding.

What’s your best advice for someone planning a destination wedding?

  1. My advice is to double check all your vendors, for me it was great to wire transfer deposits to vendors because the banks really have a good process to catch fraud and although there was a lot of info to provide for
    every vendor I sent money to, I knew that it was in my best interest.
  2. Once you book your venues ask the contact person who they used in the past for flowers, DJs (this is how I found my DJ), décor, etc. also check social media accounts to see other people that used their services that way you know they really do exist and provided a good service.
  3. Pay the extra cost to have your wedding planner at your venue the day of the wedding so if anything goes wrong you can send them to deal with it while you can enjoy your day.
  4. Don’t be too picky because you can’t! Enjoy the day and don’t stress the little things.
  5. Make your day about the Bride and Groom but remember people came a long way to be with you
  6. Double check where you can and can’t take photos! Many of the palaces charge an extra fee for brides and grooms to take photos inside and other do not allow it at all. If this is important to you make sure you get it put into your wedding contract and you bring it with you the day of your event.

How did your decision to have a destination wedding impact your dress and suit/tux choices?

We both knew we would need lightweight fabrics so we weren’t too hot as well I knew I didn’t want to carry around a very heavy dress on the airplane. For the suit we knew we wanted a Bespoke hand-made and tailored to him suit, you only get married once and you want to look good! We looked in Toronto at a few bespoke tailors and in the end it was a recommendation from a friend that recently purchased a bespoke suit at Spiros with a reasonable price that made the decision easier. For the dress, oh the dresses! Hardest decision of my life and my poor bridesmaids and mothers had to sit through about 60 dresses before I found the one! Even I was tired and I still second guessed myself after the purchase which is why I had two! A month before the wedding I purchased an attachable skirt that I could put over top of my 1st dress but I could also wear as a
separate with a shirt I bought. So yes I had 3 looks but they were all worth it! I loved my Morilee 2876 lightgold with the detailed back but it was very form fitting so I was very happy to be more comfortable in my skirt and shirt option during the dinner and reception.

Vendors list at the bottom of this post. Make sure to check them out!

Bed and Breakfast Vintage Guest House – Chalet Saudade

Make Up and Hair – Jenny Make Up Land

Flowers and Decoration – Happy Day floral and event design

Ceremony – The Monserrate Palace

Reception – Central Palace Hotel

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(905) 424-1223 | info@haleyphotography.ca

Located in Whitby ON, CAN.

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