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!)

A sneak peek from the other side

My latest clients got married on 23rd July this year, with a beautifully relaxed beer festival-styled reception at the “Willow Tree” in Bourn, Cambridgeshire.  It was an absolute pleasure working with them mainly due to their creativity, honesty and easy-going nature – which I thought would make them fabulous examples for future Bride & Grooms.  So I pleaded with the lovely Clare to share her story and impart some freshly felt wisdom to future Brides.

Read below to discover Clare and Keith’s romantic story and very honest foray into wedding planning

How did you and Keith meet and how did he propose?

“We met through work.  His Dad was the Chief Executive at that time and Keith would come into the office occasionally.  However, before I could use our relationship as a bid for promotion, Keith’s dad announced he was leaving!   I was in charge of arranging his farewell party and Keith came up from London to attend… One thing led to another and here we are!

Keith proposed on 6th November 2015 – his birthday.  He used the birthday as a decoy and planned a romantic weekend away in Europe.  Two days prior to our departure I lost my passport… no joke! I hunted high and low for it, through the bins, under the bed, in the same places I had already checked –  I even looked in the oven, but it was gone.  I was devastated.  Keith took out his credit card and made a swift plan B.  We went to The Hoste in Burnham Market instead, which wasn’t much of a hardship.  That evening he proposed and I was presented with the most beautiful ring, designed by him and made by one of his friends who owns a jewellery shop in Mayfair… of course I said yes!”

Swoon!  Did you immediately know the sort of wedding you wanted? 

“Well every bride has an idea of what they want from their wedding. But we both knew from the offset that we wanted to throw a big party for all our friends and family.  We wanted to create a relaxed atmosphere, complete with deck chairs, great live music and DIY décor…  And that’s exactly what we got!

We really wanted to showcase our personalities and choose the things that represented us as a couple; to some extent we really did push the boundaries of tradition. But it’s nice to be different!”

It sounds like you had some definite ideas about what you wanted…  What prompted you to hire a wedding planner?

“Because our wedding was ‘alternative’ and we didn’t hire a typical wedding venue, we didn’t have the pleasure of a wedding co-ordinator as part of the package.  The responsibility of planning our wedding fell on our shoulders and became a very daunting task.  It takes a lot of dedication and time to plan a DIY wedding which is a tall order when you’re both working full time.

Also I hate making decisions.  So weddings, with their millions of decisions you have to make (what colour flowers for the table, seriously?) was pure torture for me.  Not everyone has this problem, and many brides (and grooms)-to-be jump into wedding planning like they’ve been doing it forever, but those millions of decisions really wore me down.

I knew from the get go that there was no way I could plan this alone.”

Did you enjoy planning your wedding? What was the best bit?

“We loved the freedom of making it so personal to us as a couple and sharing that uniqueness with our guests.  We made everything ourselves; we designed our own invitations and table plan; we hand wrote all of the place settings and handmade all of the vases.  We started planning early, but everything always took a lot longer than we thought. Doing a lot yourself is great, very rewarding, and will save you loads of money, but it takes its toll on your stress levels and not to mention time! I can’t imagine doing it without a wedding planner – that took such  huge amount of stress off my plate!”

Can you describe how you felt on your big day?  Was it everything they say it will be?!

“We truly enjoyed every minute of our wedding, from the moment we woke up until we closed our eyes.  I was never very interested in weddings or getting married – I always saw it more as a formality.  I couldn’t have been more wrong, it was an overwhelming day in the best possible way.   I never thought I could relax and truly enjoy my wedding day, but with the help of our Wedding Planner I did… every single second of it.  I never wanted it to end!”


If you could give some advice to brides-to-be in planning their big day, what would it be?

Don’t get stressed and focus on the minutiae of the day – let your day flow naturally.  Every bride and groom want their wedding day to go to plan – you spend months planning every detail.  When the day arrives the main focus should be for you to enjoy your day. If you need to hire in some help in order to help with that, then DO IT!  Especially if you’re going for a DIY Wedding – it was totally worth it.

Don’t choose your dress too early, like I did!  I bought a dress 10 months before our wedding day then changed my mind last minute… so ended up with two!

Dance like a maniac all night!!  It’s the best party you’ll ever attend and it’s all for you!

There may be things that don’t go exactly how you wanted, or things you think you could have done differently, but at the end of the day the wedding day itself is really only a drop in the ocean – your lives together before and after that day will make any dress disasters or table setting blunders pale into insignificance.

Beautiful 🙂  Finally, what did you do for your honeymoon? 

We had an incredible honeymoon in Kenya and Zanzibar, which combined a wonderful safari in the Masai Mara with a cultural experience in Stone Town and a luxurious stay on the beautiful beaches of Zanzibar.  It really was the perfect honeymoon.  I would thoroughly recommend a safari, which was the highlight of our honeymoon, to anyone who has enough left in the budget – it was a once in a lifetime experience.

Ohhhh can we see??


Thanks for sharing Clare & Keith!

Wedding photographer: John Woodward Photography