Upon day 3 of our Palmarian scouting mission I woke up with a growing sense of panic. I spent much of the previous evening trying to convince my stressed-out bride-to-be that we could magically transform our big blue restaurant into a beautiful, colourful and exciting reception venue. I even found myself becoming uncharacteristically enthusiastic about the whole thing! Today, however, I have to start to find a way to take these vague notions and find the actual tangible objects to make it happen…in La Palma, an Island of whose shops I have little knowledge other than where to find a wee dram and a decent ice-cream. Oh, and I have to do it all in Spanish, a language that I haven’t used properly since my GCSE’s, and even then I could mainly only ask what time the bank opens, a phrase that is used surprisingly little in everyday conversation. And we go home on Friday… the clock was ticking!
However, I had a brainwave! The previous day we had discussed having lots of candles, mini lanterns, coloured vases, bits of cloth and anything that would spruce up the venue a little, and in my current predicament there was only one course of action that could possibly be taken. I must follow the trail of Swedish meatballs, fight through the forest of identical sofas (that are just such good value everyone must have one) and climb the mountain of humongous blue bags. There upon the summit must I pray to the almighty god Ikea, for surely only in his infinite wisdom and wonderment could I find both very nice hotdogs and fen shui based inner peace. I might even get the chance to meet the archangel Sven!
Yes, that’s right, La Palma, the tiny spanish Island in the Canaries, has an Ikea. Matt had seen an advertisement the day before and, whilst I really wanted to bring some authentic local products in, Ikea did seem like a good place to get us started on the more basic stuff. Matt knew that they sold a few of the things we were looking for, and so off we set.
The superstore is based upon the other side of the Island and isn’t the easiest of drives up the winding mountain paths but with so many things under one enormous roof it was going to be worth it. As we pulled around a corner we saw in front of us the familiar large letters on the side of a building that appeared, on the outside, frankly tiny.
Upon seeing what appeared to be a tiny warehouse I prepared for my mind to be completely blown as I stepped inside to discover an extraordinary Tardis, impossibly bigger on the inside than it appeared from the outside. Sadly it wasn’t. It really was tiny; Approximately the size of an actual telephone box, albeit a very well decorated one. But all was not lost, in front of me was one of the very lanterns that I had come in to buy.
“Where can I find more of these? I’m after about six”.
“No no I mean I need six…Quiero seis.”
“You want six si muy bien… There is only one.”
This became a recurring theme. The world’s smallest Ikea stocked virtually nothing and what it did sell seemed far more expensive than I remembered. This was not going to work. Could we buy everything back in England and bring it over? With a 20kg per bag weight limit… the guests won’t need to bring clothes…right?
At this point my mum reappeared having slipped out for some air. “Just come out here a second you two, don’t buy anything yet”.
Reluctantly we put down our huge and still very empty blue bags and followed her out. We continued to follow as she stepped into what appeared to an enormous Spanish equivalent of…the pound shop!
“There’s some great stuff in here and it’s miles cheaper”.
As we turned to face each other Matt and I’s eyes rolled in perfect unison. Matt may be enjoying the sound of things being cheaper, but even he wasn’t about to decorate our wedding with tat from some pound shop! Nonetheless we decided to humour her.
She took us over to the glass area where we found some coloured vases and containers that were surprisingly good quality… in fact they were better quality than Ikea at about half the price! As we looked at all the items on display they had all kinds of beautiful multi-coloured items from funky vases to plates and glasses. The selection was so good that we started to think that in an ideal world we would buy all the wineglasses and crockery from here to really establish our multi-colour theme but, though they were cheap, our budget just couldn’t stretch to that! The answer in establishing our theme was simpler: As Matt was unable to bring any lighting equipment with him and the lighting in the venue was really bright at night we wanted everything to be candlelit. We would use actual candle holders as well as coloured glasses and vases and anything else we could find as candleholders. This would both serve a practical purpose in holding the hundreds of candles we planned on using whilst also giving a splash of colour to each of the tables. The tables themselves were to be long rectangular tables each seating eight (purely because this is what the venue could provide) so we wanted to have both a centrepiece and a couple of vases further down each table with a few flowers to liven them up. We found some amazing bottles in a range of colours that would serve to hold the flowers, and then as we wandered further through the store we found the perfect centre-piece to hold the main table bouquets.
“A watering can? What the hell do you mean you want to put a watering can in the middle of the table?” I asked. “I know they’re tropical but surely we don’t need to water the flowers in the middle of dinner???” Dom raised her eyebrows in a fashion I have learnt to associate with impending doom. She dragged me round to the gardening section and showed me the most brightly coloured watering cans I had ever seen. And let me tell you I’ve seen a lot of watering cans…ok almost none, but they definitely seemed brighter than your average invariably rusting and neglected can sitting behind the disregarded wheelbarrow… I still didn’t get it.
“Look,” she said in her most patronising yet strangely familiar tone. She grabbed some fake flowers from a nearby shelf and placed them in the can. I’m no expert but it looked miles more interesting than a vase and as she had already turned down my idea of roulette wheels in the centre this seemed the next best thing. Ok maybe not the next best thing but it was a thing that could go in the centre, kept the colour theme going, made her happy and was cheap…I absolutely loved it!
I’ve seen watering cans used as flower pots on various vintage weddings and thought they looked really pretty, but vintage was definitely not how I wanted to go with this wedding! However with the bright colours and tropical flowers they had a completely different feel and I thought it would be a nice way to give a touch of that English charm to the decoration whilst keeping it fun, brightening it up and providing a bit of a talking point for the tables.
Incredibly this “Aladdin’s Cave” as we have come to know it had virtually everything we were looking for from coloured string and garden pegs to candles, vases and photo holders. It was a brilliant find and proof that as long as you think creatively you can achieve the desired effect cheaply and on a tight budget. Although having said we were on a tight budget, as I left Matt at the till with several baskets of wedding decoration that covered the entire colour spectrum I realised that we may, possibly have gotten a little carried away, particularly as I saw him slowly pick up the bill.
“Quanto?? QUANTO???” That really wasn’t a pound shop, was it!