My big fat Greek wedding… behind the scenes

Almost a year ago, the gorgeous Stella and Tom asked me to help them to create a hybrid wedding that would incorporate both their English and Greek traditions, with an underlying “travel” theme (as these guys LOVE to travel). It was a fantastic challenge, with so much potential! Stella had loads of brilliant ideas that we worked on together, and the resulting wedding was a perfect combination of cultures. I thought it was high time for a post-wedding interview – to inspire other Brides-to-be…

So how did Tom propose?

“We were on holiday on the Seychelles, 15 months after we first met. Tom booked dinner in a tiny restaurant on the beach and insisted that we both especially dress up that evening. We were the only people there and the beach was lined with tea lights and lanterns…it felt like something from the movies! Within minutes of arriving he was down on one knee in the sand… it was perfect!”

How romantic! Did you have any expectations of what your wedding would be like?

“I‘ve never been the kind of girl who has always dreamed about my perfect fairy tale wedding… I’d literally never given it any thought until I was engaged. My only criteria was that I didn’t want to get married somewhere that felt like a jazzed up conference room, with board room chairs that were attempting to look pretty with huge clumpy chair covers and ribbons on top. I ended up getting married in a beautiful barn with pretty chivari chairs, so my one box was ticked!”

Talk us through the Greek and English influences at your wedding…

“I come from a Greek Cypriot family, with all the traditions that go alongside that expected of my wedding! Tom is 100% English – so we really wanted to find a way to embrace, acknowledge, be respectful and completely enjoy both sets of cultures and traditions.”

How did you do that? Did you find a balance?

“We got married in a Greek Orthodox Church, which the Greek side of the family were thrilled with and the English family also loved as it was so different and they loved experiencing new traditions. The Greek Orthodox church sermon was translated – as far as possible – into English and we also had booklets printed explaining the traditions to the guests.”

“When it came to the reception, we had booked a gorgeous, typically English venue (Micklefield Hall), which had a beautiful outdoor space including a secret rose garden, boating lake, and stunning views. We went with a very rustic but chic theme. We sandwiched the gorgeous food provided by Kalm Kitchen with Greek meze style starters of pita bread, crudités, hummus and tzatziki; followed by traditional Greek evening finger food which was VERY popular (we were hoping to have some bits left over to take home but every last bite was devoured).”

“Finally, we had a mix of English and Greek music, which was much more weighted towards English as that is what is most familiar to both of us. However, we did do some of the traditional Greek dances – the koumbara’s dance and the koumera’s dance, as well as the ‘money dance’. The money dance was a substitute for wedding gifts for the Greek guests, and any other guests who wanted to get involved – this was all explained on our invitations (we tried to explain what was going on every step of the way so no one felt left out!). Overall, we both felt that the balance between English and Greek traditions was perfect and we had a wonderful day (as did our families!)”

What prompted you to hire a wedding planner?

After getting engaged we started wedding planning immediately – big fat Greek weddings with 200 guests take a lot of time to organise! However, I am a teacher and really REALLY hated having to do such a huge amount of planning for my personal life once I got home from work. Trying to organise all of the big things – such as the venue, caterer, church and band – was pretty stressful. Trying to find a barn that fit 200 people, that didn’t have too many music restrictions, that was a reasonable distance from us was so much harder than I anticipated – I created so many spreadsheets to try and keep track of all of our different options, but I still somehow wasted masses of time going round and round in circles. I was so fed up after organising these few things that I refused to think about the wedding for a whole year after that (we had a 2+ year engagement)…I would feel really irritated when people asked me how planning was going (which happened all the time as – let’s face it – when you are engaged nobody talks to you about anything other than your wedding ever again!) I know some brides find it exciting planning their wedding and thinking about all the tiny details, but I just found it stressful being reminded of all the things I had yet to think about that I was avoiding…. flowers, colour schemes, table plans, table decorations, guest books, presents for the bridal party…the list just goes on and on. I was essentially more of a grinch than a bridezilla, and really just wanted to wave a magic wand and for it all to be done. That’s where Hayley came in! We talked through what I had done already, and she created a long, meticulous list of what was left (including a lot of jobs that I didn’t even realise needed to be done!) Hayley is SO incredibly thorough, efficient, organised and creative that I instantly felt more relaxed. We worked so, so well together that I actually started to get excited about my wedding again and not snap at people when they asked me how things were going! Generally, Hayley would remind me of the next task that needed to be addressed; I would explain what I had in mind and Hayley would go away and do all of the research…she would then come back to me (somehow usually within a few hours…goodness knows how with two very energetic little kiddies!) with plenty of creative suggestions that built upon my basic idea, along with the best prices she could find. All I then had to do was choose one of her amazing options – it was an absolute dream! Hayley also came with me to visit all of my suppliers, asking them very important questions that I definitely wouldn’t have had the sense to ask myself (I would just sit here looking at her thinking “oh phew, I’m so glad you checked about that!”), and taking SO many notes in her beautiful little notebook that she had personalised for my wedding (that in itself was a work of art!).

Hayley popped in to see me on the morning of my wedding and then visited the venue super early to ensure that everything was perfect. I am often such a worrier, but I was SO relaxed on my wedding morning – my hair and make up artist actually said I was the most relaxed bride she had ever met! Of course that was partly because I knew my best friend would be there waiting for me at the altar, but it was also partly because – with Hayley’s help – I was 100% confident that everything would go according to plan. Most brides say that small things always go wrong on the day but they really don’t matter in the scheme of things and nobody even notices as people are having so much fun… I wouldn’t know if that’s true or not as absolutely nothing went wrong whatsoever due to Hayley’s meticulous planning!

I had the fairytale wedding that I didn’t have the imagination, creativity or energy to dream up myself, filled with quirky elements that my guests were in awe of. My only regret is that I didn’t work with Hayley from day one, as then my whole wedding planning experience would have been as positive as the final few months were!

Finally – what’s your last word of advice for brides to be?

If you have always dreamed of your specific fairytale wedding and know exactly what you want and where to get it from, then have an amazing time planning!

BUT if you are somebody who becomes overwhelmed with choice and doesn’t love making decisions; who doesn’t know what wedding related things generally cost, or where to get them from… then I would suggest getting the help of a wedding planner sooner rather than later! They will save you so, so much time, money and stress (and perhaps even a few arguments with your wonderful fiancé… Bride: “Why do I have this enormous task of wedding planning all by myself…why can’t you do something!?” … Groom: {insert ridiculous suggestion}… Bride continues planning alone!)