Chelsea Hughes and Alex Arnell had little in common when they met — including language. A Denver-native studying abroad in Belgium, Chelsea bumped into the handsome Spaniard at a music festival in Mechelen. "He didn't speak much English and I didn't speak any Spanish," Chelsea says. But thanks to translating apps, they two hit it off right the way. Chelsea and Alex's romance continued to grow throughout the remainder of her study abroad experience, and when Chelsea packed her bags to return to Denver and Alex prepared to go home to Barcelona, the pair realized they had a decision to make. "We had two options," Chelsea says. "We could either give up and say the typical, it-was-nice-while-it-lasted cliché, or we could try to make it work." It wasn't easy to make the decision to split their time between their home countries, says Chelsea, but it was the choice that made them most happy — and led to Alex popping the question.
Two years after their chance encounter in Mechelen, the couple returned to the small town to visit friends. "One day during our stay, Alex was very persistent about taking me to the top of St. Rumbold's Cathedral, one of the most iconic buildings of the city," says Chelsea, who went against her better judgment and braved the rain so they could see the church and climb its clock tower. There, Alex proposed. "I was so thrilled," Chelsea says. "What better place to get engaged than the fairytale city where it all began?"
And the fairytale continued straight through to the couple's May 10, 2015, nuptials. Alex and Chelsea planned a destination wedding in Tarragona, Spain, and asked Fotografia Sitges to capture every breathtaking moment.
When it came time to select a location for their big day, it was Alex who knew just where the couple should wed. "He immediately suggested a Spanish castle overlooking the Mediterranean, and as soon as I stepped inside, it was a no brainer that there was no need to look elsewhere," Chelsea says. The Castell de Tamarit offered the couple a dramatic backdrop to illustrate their international romance. And, as most of the couple's 80 guests hailed from Europe, few had to travel far to be part of their special day. "It was a very international wedding to say the least," Chelsea says. "We had guests from Sweden, Switzerland, Slovenia, Finland, Norway, Belgium, Italy, and Spain, of course."
By keeping their color palette in white, ivory, and cream, the couple allowed the venue's architecture, landscaping, and vibrant history to stand out. And like their décor, the Chelsea and Alex had a simple mission as they planned: "This was our moment to showcase our love story to all of the friends and family who witnessed our relationship grow."
The bride selected a silk and lace wedding dress with a skirt made of sheer ruffled layers. "It was the first one I tried on, and I instantly knew," says Chelsea, who equates her first-time dress to her relationship with Alex. "Throughout our journey, there were a lot of firsts: Alex was the first man I met in Belgium. The first wedding venue we contemplated ended up being the final. So it only made sense for the first dress I tried on to be the one and only as well."
Chelsea carried a round bouquet of white roses, peonies, and hydrangeas paired with eucalyptus and brunia.
The bride added a crystal beaded sash to her gown and accessorized with satin rhinestone Badgley Mischka pumps. "Those were truly a work of art," she says of the glitzy heels.
Bridesmaids donned champagne-colored chiffon gowns, each wearing a style they chose themselves. "I wanted them to feel comfortable in what they were wearing," Chelsea says. As gifts, the bride gave each gal a rose gold necklace to wear on the big day. Bouquets of peach peonies, succulents, and eucalyptus finished off their looks.
Alex and his groomsman, Chelsea's brother, kept their style classic in black and white suits and boutonnieres of white roses with eucalyptus and brunia.
The couple's ceremony was held on a pier that overlooked the sea. Since they didn't want to detract from the site's natural beauty, they kept their ceremony décor simple. "We enhanced the area with white flower arrangements, as well as white rose petals that lined the walkway," Chelsea says." We even had three beautiful flower arrangements that were floating in the pool next to where the ceremony was held."
Because of their international guest list, Chelsea and Alex's officiant translated the ceremony between English and Spanish. After the pair exchanged heartfelt vows they penned themselves, the happy couple recessed beneath a shower of rose petals to live music played by a Spanish guitarist.
Guests found their seating assignments inside vintage frames that were affixed to a weathered screen. After finding their tables, guests were prompted to sign the couple's non-traditional guestbook. "Instead of an actual book, we created a map for all of our guests to sign next to their country of origin," Chelsea says.
The reception was held in the venue's dining hall, which offered guests scenic views thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows. "All of the guests made their way to the reception right after watching the sun set over the sea," Chelsea says.
Much like their ceremony décor, the couple's tables and centerpieces were kept simple and white, so as to not distract from the space itself. "The tables were set with all-white linens and place settings, alongside the menu card I had designed that included a sketch of the castle," the bride explains. The menu included scallops, lamb shoulder and potatoes gratin, and a lime champagne sorbet.
Chelsea and Alex sliced into a three-tier cake frosted with vanilla buttercream and decorated with lace and flower details. In true Spanish tradition, they cut into the cake with a sword!
The couple's first dance was to "Waltz of the Flowers." After their reception, they honeymooned in Santorini, Greece. "It was so beautiful and romantic," says Chelsea, who also has advice to share with brides-to-be. "Just try to enjoy every moment because it flies by so quickly."
Venue: Castell de Tamarit || Wedding Planner & Catering: AG Planning || Bride's Wedding Dress: Hayley Paige || Veil: Sara Gabriel || Jewelry: Donna Beth Creations || Shoes: Badgley Mischka || Hair & Makeup: Michael Mawson || Bridesmaids' Dresses: Watters || Groom's Attire: Joseph Abboud || Wedding Bands: Font Belau || Florist: Art Floral Vallribera || Invitations: Paper Source || Cake: Lolita Bakery || Rentals: Smoking Barcelona || Accommodations: Gran Claustre || Videographer: Alice Brazzit || Photography: Fotografia Sitges
Looking for more destination wedding inspiration? Then watch another couple say I do abroad in the video below.