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DR - Carol Ventriglia PhotoFashion Moments

Say YES to Cascais

Five love stories that will make you put a ring on it. Yes, getting married in Cascais can be a truly unforgettable experience.

Written by
Editores da Time Out Lisboa

Getting married is increasingly an experience designed to last several days. And that’s what many couples, especially foreigners, seek (and find!) in Cascais. The options are limitless, but there is a clear favourite: Forte da Cruz. Nowadays the budgets must accommodate so many dreams.

Say YES to Cascais

The teacher that turned wedding planner

“Everyone is moving away from the events industry, no one is coming back.” That’s what Maria João Baptista and her husband heard from all their friends when, at the height of the pandemic, they decided to start organising weddings. Especially because neither of them had any experience in the field. Maria João was a Portuguese and French teacher for 23 years, but her postgraduate degree in event management gave her the certainty that it was time to take a risk. Her husband managed a family-owned food company that was subsequently sold, creating all the conditions for the birth of Vanilla Balcony. As clients started to appear (they don’t organise any more than ten weddings per year so as to maintain quality and provide personalised attention), they discovered a phenomenon that is sweeping Portugal: destination weddings. “Couples prefer to choose a small group, gather their families, go on holiday and get married,” says Maria João. So the couples are almost always foreigners.

“Italy sells weddings for exorbitant prices in villages in the middle of nowhere. We have palaces, landscapes and many things to explore.” Demand takes off when a location starts being talked up and photos of it shared on social media. This is what happened with Forte da Cruz in Estoril. 

The Cascais area is highly sought after by those coming from abroad, mainly because it is relatively close to the airport. The rest depends greatly on the preferences of each couple, but getting married at Forte da Cruz, for example, requires a wait of at least a year.

The most recent event organised by Vanilla Balcony took place at the chapel of the Condes de Castro Guimarães Museum, but there have also been weddings at the former Coconuts (next to the Farol Hotel) and at Arriba on the road to Guincho. Nothing is impossible from the outset. The company takes care of everything (venue visits, menus, contract signatures, suppliers, makeup and hair, accommodation and transportation and wedding day coordination, etc.). The wedding planning service costs €4,000. The rest is paid separately and varies according to the couple’s wishes and their budget.

“People have increasingly realised that ‘we don't know what tomorrow will bring’. It happened with Covid-19, but it could have been anything else. They don’t want to plan weddings two years in advance, and the venues themselves also reinvented their working methods during the pandemic.” So, getting married is increasingly becoming an experience. Couples seek a package that they can enjoy and which goes far beyond the church ceremony followed by the reception. (+351) 965 406 659

It's more enjoyable organising a wedding than a Fashion Week 

Maria Júdice moved to London to pursue her dream of working in fashion as soon as she finished college. She landed an internship at Mulberry and ended up staying. After four intense years organising events like Paris Fashion Week, she began to feel the need to have her own project. “In 2020, my mother asked me if I wanted to return to Portugal and take over Vows, the company she had created in 2002. She was 65 years old and had 20 years of wedding planning experience. It was time for her to take it easy,” Maria Júdice tells us.

The challenge could not have come at a better time. Since then, Maria Júdice has dedicated herself to preparing what is no longer considered to be the most special single day in someone’s life. “Many people don’t want just an eight-hour service. They are seeking experiences that last two or three days, with dinners and outings and more.”

Forte da Cruz in Estoril is already a classic, one of the most requested venues – many foreign couples contact Cascais Tourism seeking assistance in organising their event in the area. But Vows also often organises weddings at the Fortaleza do Guincho and Camélia Gardens. The Penha Longa resort is a guaranteed success.

In 2022, everything was ready for a meticulously planned wedding at Casa dos Penedos, a former manor house in Sintra. However, before 7am Maria Júdice was stopped by the police. “It was during one of the hottest heatwaves in late August. The police closed the road and told me I could only pass with a special government authorisation because the estate was in a high-risk area. The wedding planned for that day was not going to happen.”

Maria Júdice called Penha Longa hoping for a miracle – and she got one. There was no event scheduled at the venue that day. “The bride burst into tears when I told her that we would have to change everything in just two hours. Even I wasn’t sure it would go well.”

Flowers, drinks, music: everything was in place within the hour, as if that had always been the planned location. “At 4am the bride was in tears again. But this time it was tears of joy because the day turned out even better than she had imagined.” (+351) 917 503 161


Cars hanging from the ceiling? Absolutely

The Preto e Prata Hall at the Estoril Casino hosts numerous events, but it had never been the venue for a wedding before 2022. The idea came from Roberto Fontenelle, one of the partners at Fontenelle Decorações, and was presented to a bride who was once Miss Portugal and is involved in the same field and who had spent a lot of time in the casino.

“She did not like the suggestion at all, because she had spent the whole year in that room. However, we then created a 3D project and her opinion changed completely,” he says.

With a background as a set designer, Roberto Fontenelle enjoys creating idyllic weddings on a grand scale. “We brought aerial decorations and mirrored dance floors to Portugal.” Fontenelle has been organising weddings in Brazil for decades, and with the increasing demand from Europe and particularly Portugal, they decided to open a branch in Cascais in 2014. Since then, they have been in demand from Portuguese, Indian and North American couples. Everyone wants the “wow effect”, with fairly substantial budgets.

“Pinterest and Instagram currently help people see what is happening worldwide and to get ideas. Then it all comes together based on the client’s dream. People don’t want a luxury wedding. They want the luxury of having a personalised wedding.”

The company has organised weddings for public figures and fulfilled unconventional dreams, such as having a Cadillac hanging from the ceiling. At the event that took place in the Estoril Casino, trapeze artists were suspended in the air while holding bottles of Moët & Chandon. Whenever someone wanted more champagne, they just had to walk underneath and raise their glass.

Forte da Cruz remains the most requested venue, and preferences are divided between the beach and the mountains. Roberto Fontenelle takes pride in being able to deliver even more to his clients than they ask for. “When people visualise the ambiance, they can understand that it is possible and that it fulfils their dream.” (+351) 936 373 026

From the printing business to wedding planning

Joana Frade worked in the printing industry but had a long-standing dream tucked away. When she was preparing for her own wedding, she realised she could make it happen because there was much room for growth in the market. Fashion Moments was born 13 years ago, initially catering to requests from Portuguese couples and later expanding to the international market. “We also had many Portuguese emigrants living in Switzerland or France who wanted to get married in Portugal. They brought along friends and foreign colleagues who, after falling in love with what they found here, also wanted to have their weddings in Portugal,” says Joana.

The destination is appealing due to the weather, food, wines and, above all, the quality-to-price ratio. The three-day packages offered by the company are among the most sought after. “They include a reception dinner, the wedding day and a brunch the following day.” The service prices start at €3,000 or €4,000 depending on the venues and wishes of the couples.

Casa do Marquês, Forte da Cruz and the Farol Hotel are the favourite locations, but Fashion Moments also has an exclusive estate that can host weddings, offering local accommodation at Quinta de São Thiago in Sintra.

All projects are tailored to the requests, whether it-s a three-day celebration or a week-long holiday. “We organise tours and museum visits. Tourism has grown, and weddings are following that trend. It's great to be able to showcase the incredible things we have in Portugal.” (+351) 916 490 175


The bride who encouraged the business

Paula Grade was working at an accommodation agency in the Algarve when an Irish bride arrived at the reception one day. She was looking for places to stay and venues for her wedding. It was February, and there wasn’t much else happening. Paula took the couple in her car and went on a tour with them in search of options. “A week later, she called me to ask me to organise her wedding,” she recalls now, 17 years later. 

An immediate bond formed between them, a factor that Paula Grade still recognises as being essential to the work she currently does at White Impact. The company was born there and then, although its founder didn’t realise it at the time. “I invited a colleague, Karina [Sousa], to join me on this adventure. The initial idea was to organise weddings part-time that first year.”

But the idea didn’t stop there. They organised 37 weddings during their debut year. “That bride saw the potential in the market and encouraged me. She wrote me an email that I still have to this day.”

They went to Ireland to promote the project and returned with three signed contracts from the five couples they met. Since then, the business has expanded (with prices starting at €5,000), and now caters to couples from all over the world, including India. These celebrations are so different that White Impact has a partner, Seema Radia, who specialises exclusively in that market. “They are always multi-day events, with several ceremonies and can have up to 400 guests.”

The more modest weddings - if we can call them that - may include a beach party the night before, a ceremony on the water and a barbecue with show cooking the next day, for example. Three days is the ideal time for most clients. That was the case for the American couple who recently chose the Farol Hotel in Cascais in which to get married and enjoy three days of celebration with 80 guests. “We try our best to promote Portugal and show them what they would miss if they came by themselves. For example, the food is very important.”

Indeed, catering is one of the main factors, says Paula, which is why there is such high demand for the Forte da Cruz. “Besides the beautiful view, the catering is provided by Penha Longa, which is one of the best in the area.” (+351) 965 623 091


Flowers with a queen's name

The last queen of Portugal gave her name to this space dedicated to flowers within a military fortress. While it is also possible to shop online, visiting the D. Amélia Flower Bar is a much more special experience. In store you can buy flowers, of course, creating combinations with the available offerings and personalising vases. The studio also offers workshops and here weddings are dreamed up, with fresh or dried flowers – it all depends on each couples’ vision. In addition to bouquets, there are flower crowns that are ideal for the cutest flower girls.

Av. Marechal. Carmona 160 A, Cascais. (+351) 919 265 376

A dress or the complete service

Classic lace or flowing dresses. You can come with a precise vision of what you want or without any idea at all. Either way, Joana Montez has the answer. In her eponymous studio, she creates pieces that will never have an equal. This is because even the collection designs are tailored to the shape and taste of each bride. And, of course, there’s always the option of designing a dress from scratch. For those who want to take care of the complete image in one place, this they can also do. The Joana Montez studio offers a styling service, which includes shoes, accessories, makeup and hair. 

Rua Cesaltina Fialho Gouveia, 713-G, Alcabideche. +351 910 718 482.



Creating unique wedding rings

Wedding rings are a symbol of unity, an adornment meant to stay forever on the fingers of the couple. If that is special in itself, then making their own jewellery adds even more significance. And that’s precisely what happens in the Ana de Lima workshops, where the couple is primarily responsible for creating their rings. The gold can be brought from home or provided on the site. Then, supervised by a goldsmith, the couple will spend about four hours transforming the material, from casting to the final step of engraving names, dates and special messages. There are different shapes and thicknesses to choose from. To make the moment even more special, each partner writes what they wish to be eternal in their relationship on a piece of paper. That paper is then burned along with the gold that is melted to create the jewellery. The whole process is filmed. Workshops can be booked via the website.

Hotel Miragem. Avenida Marginal 8554, Cascais. (+351)915 621 003.

Memories that last forever

The big day passes by too quickly. After months (sometimes years!) organising everything, it’s essencial to record the wedding for later memories. It’s All About is passionate about photography and cinema with a soul and promises sincere and inspiring records.

The majesty of The Atlantic - the most romantic venues on the Guincho road

O Forte

It's one of the regions best-kept secret: the Crismina Fort, a Portuguese architectural heritage site on the Guincho-Cascais coastline, is south of Guincho Beach and next to Água Doce Beach. Managed by Taste - Catering & Events, it's the perfect setting to celebrate the "I do's".


Neighbouring the Crismina Fort, Arriba is a privileged location for any event. With a total area of 4,000m2, on the first and middle floors there are rooms with terraces and panoramic views that will dazzle anyone. Overlooking the sea, this venue managed by Casa do Marquês has been chosen for many weddings and celebrations.


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