It seems an age away now but back in mid-February, the Distinctive gang met up in Palma to catch up over a coffee and tapas to talk about the season ahead. Finding a time to get together during the winter can be a challenge. Ulf has his fabulous shop, Palma Dog which keeps him busy providing Palma’s pampered pooches (and superior dogs further afield too) with classy designer accessories. Paul had been busy working on Spanish translations (and his cat, Nancy Blackett rarely lets him out of her sight), and Jonas is busy working on his plays while house-sitting for friends all over the island.
So it was a great moment when we all converged together at one of one of our favourite Palma cafes to catch up on life, ceremonies, weddings and the world in general. Little did we know that things were about to change due to the coronavirus just three weeks later. At the time, we were pleased to have a chance to catch up on plans for the season.
Things got off to a light-hearted start. We had just had a request for an eagle ring-bearer for one of our summer weddings. This is always very exciting. The first time we did this was for a wedding at Mallorca’s prestigious Castell Son Claret. The ceremony was to take place in the gardens around the hotel. Miquel, our eagle trainer arranged to meet the couple for an introduction session and a fly-through. This eagle is a busy bird- she’s employed at Palma airport keeping the skies free of smaller birds so that there’s no damage to planes or wildlife as the succession of planes take off and land every few minutes. Luckily, she has an understudy too, for when she can’t get away. It was Arantxa who arrived with bird-handler Miquel to put the groom though his paces. Giles, it must be said, was nervous. And it can be a bit scary when an eagle swoops towards you with a whoosh of wings, a glimpse of a sharp beak and a beady eye. But Arantxa is a pro and even Giles soon got the hang of staying put and holding out his arm with a large leather glove with a hidden titbit. For the celebrant, there are a few challenges. The assembled guests are completely unaware of what it is about to happen and the celebrant needs to signal to the eagle handler when the right moment arrives. It’s dramatic and strangely moving when the eagle flies down the aisle with the rings, white silk ribbons fluttering, to present the groom with the rings.
Paul had already proved himself to be adept at releasing white doves as part of the ceremony. It has to be said that it’s easy working with such consummate professionals. The two doves know their stuff and settle quite happily into their wicker basket for the journey to the venue. They sit quietly through the ceremony. Now it’s their turn- the basket lid is lifted and there is a moment’s pause. This is a time for a celebrant to hold his or her nerve. The guests wonder what is about to happen. And then, the two white doves keep their audience waiting no longer but take flight in the warm summer air. They circle elegantly once above the couple and then they are off, flying together on their journey homeward together. The celebrant allows himself a small inward breath of relief.
Back in 2018, Paul had had narrowly avoided a close encounter with a goat. One couple, with their ceremony at Son Marroig, had asked for the inclusion of the goat, which needed to be white. As the couple had met while sailing and lived most of their working lives at sea, the significance of the goat was never completely clear. The couple always collapsed in fits of giggles when they tried to explain. Now Mallorca has no shortage of goats. In some areas, cheeky wild ones are a positive menace. But a well-trained white goat, carefully schooled in the duties of ring-bearing, was a tough challenge. In the end, to Paul’s great relief, they decided to do without and it was left to the best man to regale the guests with the story about the couple’s lifelong love of goats.
Jonas was less convinced about working with animals. He admitted to a lifelong affection for owls (the emblem of J Walter Thompson where he worked for several years) and we offered to introduce him to some owlish friends of the eagles. He does have an affinity for whales (having been brought up on tales of Jonah and the whale) but we decided that this might be impractical to integrate into a ceremony so he was off the hook for now but was inspired to check out some new readings with an animal theme.
For Ulf, there was no question that his excellent family of dogs would be more than competent ring-bearers. And there was no doubt that they would be the best dressed ring-bearers in town (not that there would be a whole lot of competition). We had already had two doggy ring-bearers for a wedding in 2018. In this case, bride and groom each had a dog to escort them to the altar carrying the rings. His, a large black labrador, had a go-pro camera and a buttonhole attached to his harness. Hers, a tiny chihuahua, had a blush floral corsage. Despite the potential for the cast to go off-piste, everything went smoothly. We all agreed that for Ulf’s chic canine team, training would be no problem and his well-behaved doggy companions would perform flawlessly.