Among the people I have been lucky to meet in Lisbon is Agnès Ferràndiz who is not only a lovely friend but also one of Portugal’s most sought after wedding planners. She specializes in planning destination weddings in Portugal for people from all over the world. If you are looking for a dream wedding in Lisbon, the Algarve, or the Alentejo; she is the one person you need to speak with. We met a few days ago to chat about her move to Portugal, her business, and her life going forward. At the end of this interview, if you have questions, just leave a comment for us.
Interview with Agnès Ferràndiz, Portugal Wedding Planner
Before we get started, I’ll tell you how I met Agnès. Besides running her business, Agnès brought entrepreneurs together to tell their stories of failures to budding and future entrepreneurs at Lisboa *F-up nights. I’ve messed up tons during my time doing business, so if you’re curious about mine, you can watch the video above. Back to the matter at hand. Agnès is not Portuguese born, she is from Barcelona in Spain…and it took her some time to finally make it here. Today we’re going to get to know her, find out why she decided to move to Portugal, and we’re going to chat about planning weddings in Portugal. Without further ado, Here’s Agnès.
BLANCA VALBUENA: Hola Agnès. Tell me a little about your journey from Spain to Portugal…which are not so far apart from each other…but for you, they kinda were.
AGNèS FERRàNDIZ: I’m originally from Barcelona, I was living nearby and after I finished my degree in business administration, I was working as a product manager, but then I had the opportunity to move to Dubai and have an international experience. I figured why not. The plan was for two years, but life happens and I ended up staying for eight years.
BLANCA VALBUENA: When you arrived in Dubai, what were you doing?
AGNèS FERRàNDIZ: I was working at the Spanish Business Council, where I started to learn about running events. It was something I immediately liked. I was running events for the Spanish community, for companies…nothing to do with destination wedding planning, but that was really the start of my journey.
BLANCA VALBUENA: So what happened next?
AGNèS FERRàNDIZ: As I said before, life happens, so with my now-husband (he was my boyfriend at the time), who is Canadian and was living in Oman we decided to move to Europe and to start a new life together in a brand new atmosphere to start fresh and new and somehow Lisbon came up…and I said – Why not?
BLANCA VALBUENA: How long have you been in Lisbon for now?
AGNèS FERRàNDIZ: We are loving it. We’ve been here almost three years.
BLANCA VALBUENA: I’m an American who moved to Portugal, the process must have been different for you since you’re from Spain and have EU Citizenship. What was the process for you for moving from Spain to Portugal like?
AGNèS FERRàNDIZ: For me, it was very easy. For me, with the Spanish passport, I just went to the Freguesia to get my documents and with a simple paper, I got my NIF.
BLANCA VALBUENA: Estoy tan celoso. The process of moving to Portugal as an American is doable but complicated. And for your husband?
AGNèS FERRàNDIZ: That’s more complicated. That was a long story.
BLANCA VALBUENA: Let us get back to how you help people from all over the world to get married in Portugal. How did you decide to plan destination weddings in Portugal?
AGNèS FERRàNDIZ: We decided on Portugal because my at-the-time boyfriend (now husband) is in a very specialized industry since he found a job here in Lisbon when we arrived, I needed to start from scratch. I was looking for a job, I was thinking of events, pero honestamente, I was a little bit lost. I was trying to put my life together when he proposed. We started to plan our wedding and at that point, we didn’t have anyone. We didn’t have friends, we didn’t have contacts (now we do). We decided to get married near Barcelona – and since we were in Lisbon, that was a destination wedding, while planning that, I loved it. That’s where I realized that there were a lot of destination weddings and as I planned my wedding, I started to build my business.
BLANCA VALBUENA: What was the process like?
AGNèS FERRàNDIZ: I did everything myself, I made the website…which is good…I think, and right after the wedding, I launched the business.
BLANCA VALBUENA: How was the process of setting up a business in Portugal?
AGNèS FERRàNDIZ: I had never started a business in Spain, so I can’t tell you about the differences between starting a business in Portugal vs. starting a business in Spain. It was not difficult, just some paperwork. It’s harder to run it than it was to set up a business in Portugal…and I started from zero.
BLANCA VALBUENA: What was the hardest part of getting the business started?
AGNèS FERRàNDIZ: It was getting to know the vendors, networking, and then going after the clients. I was very lucky, I met amazing people in amazing companies. Some of the companies helped me a lot the first year, and actually, one of the companies, like Casa do Marques were really amazing. This is my second year planning weddings in Portugal and I am already booked for next year.
BLANCA VALBUENA: What is your focus for weddings?
AGNèS FERRàNDIZ: My focus is destination weddings. My clients are foreign couples who want to get married in Portugal. They don’t live here, they usually don’t have any idea of what they are looking for. Often times they just visited Portugal and loved it and decided to get married in Portugal. I know what they need because I have been in their situation and just how important it is to plan out every step of their wedding.
BLANCA VALBUENA: What are the most popular wedding destinations in Portugal?
AGNèS FERRàNDIZ: I do a lot of weddings in Lisbon which is amazing. The Algarve has become a bit too common as a wedding destination. Lisbon is a little bit more unknown for weddings. My clients usually ask for Lisbon, Cascais, quizás 1.5 hours around Lisbon since there are such amazing Quintas (not a farm, not an estate, but somewhere beautifully in between). They usually have farmhouses, vineyards, and some incredible ocean views. There are really some amazing locations around here.
BLANCA VALBUENA: I can also say that Lisbon is a very convenient location for a wedding. People can just fly to Lisbon Portela and not have to catch a connecting flight or train to another destination in Lisbon. It’s a nice way to make a destination wedding easier on friends and family since it becomes not only about your wedding, but they can have a vacation in a major city that has plenty to do, they can go to Sintra…they can do so much.
AGNèS FERRàNDIZ: One of the things I organize for my couples is events around the wedding, such as dinner the night before, welcome drinks, an activity…and even the day after as well…a wine tasting, surfing lessons. It really depends on the guests and the vibe, but it is not only about the wedding day. For me, it is not about a destination wedding, but a holiday wedding.
BLANCA VALBUENA: Have you had any difficulties business-wise since you started or has it been pretty smooth running?
AGNèS FERRàNDIZ: I have been very lucky. My clients are amazing, I think at the end after a year of planning, you really get to know them and they become friends over all the emails, skype calls, and site visits. Once we’re at the wedding and we spend 15+hours together and there are all these emotions, how can you not make friends.
BLANCA VALBUENA: What do you think has helped you most with your success?
AGNèS FERRàNDIZ: I am very selective of my vendors. Before suggesting a vendor, I need to know their work ethic, their mission and I only pick the ones who pass my filter, who I can trust for my clients, and who know how to collaborate.
BLANCA VALBUENA: Now that you have been in Lisbon for three years, I want you to tell me about the things you love…and the things that drive you batty about living in Lisbon.
AGNèS FERRàNDIZ: I really love the weather, it’s pretty amazing. This Summer hasn’t been really hot, it is more like Spring. I like the Portuguese people very much, they are very friendly. I haven’t had a bad experience as of yet. I was really surprised with Portuguese food. I wasn’t expecting the food to be so good. I have been to so many places over the last three years, and there is only one place I would not return to. Other than that it has been great.
For the bad, there’s nothing really horribly bad…but there is one thing, aunque. I find it difficult to make Portuguese friends. They are very nice, I love working with them, but they are a bit closed off and it takes a while for you to earn their trust. On that note, every day there are more expats, so Lisbon is building this international community, so I have plenty of very good friends who are not Portuguese too.
Tips for Planning a Wedding in Portugal
I asked Agnes to share a few tips for planning a wedding in Portugal since she is one of the best destination wedding planners in the country. Here are her insights:
- Start planning with time. Especially if you want to get married on a weekend from May to September. Portugal is getting very popular for destination weddings and you don’t wanna face that thing where you fall in love with a venue, but it is totally booked!
- Embrace the Portuguese food culture. En general, portions in Portuguese restaurants are big… So imagine what they do in weddings! First, you have some canapés for an hour and a half, then a 3 or 4-course meal, then the cake and, after that, buffets are open. That means, at least amazing Portuguese cheeses and desserts placed in a wonderful way are ready for your guests. Sometimes you can also add cold cuts and shellfish buffets… And that’s not all! If you think your friends might still be hungry after that, you always have the option to add a late snack! Bon appetit!
- Even if you think you know what you want, go check venues with an open mind because Portugal has really beautiful spaces that will surprise you for sure and they might even change your first ideas for your incredible wedding.
- You’ll need some patience. I love Portuguese people and their relaxed way to do stuff. But when it comes to work they are also like that and they do not always reply as soon as we would like to. So, patience is key. (One more reason for point number 1).
- And last but not least, I really recommend you hire a wedding planner. Planning a wedding is always tricky, and if you add the fact that you don’t live in the country where you are getting married, that makes the task really difficult and can be very stressful… So let a wedding planner guide you and be by your side during the process and the day-of.