Destination Weddings/Real Weddings

My Grandmother’s Island: A South African Couple’s Meaningful Wedding In Greece

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If we had a grandmother born and raised in Greece, you’d better believe we’d be dragging our friends and family for a dreamy seaside wedding. But it’s not so easy when you reside on another continent, three flights and one ferry ride away…

Antonia and Jonathan knew how meaningful (and obviously beautiful) a wedding on Antonia’s grandmother’s home island of Ithaca could be. Scrapping the South African wedding plans, they decided to take the plunge into destination wedding planning.

So, how do you pull off a destination wedding on another continent so flawlessly? We believe, and it seems our bride & groom do as well, that it’s all in finding the right planner. Nervous about the idea of organizing such a faraway affair, Antonia was released from the stress after finding the perfect planner, Cleopatra.

It’s possibly the most traditional elements of the day that have us falling head over heels. The Greek Orthodox ceremony, with classic stefanas (Greek wedding crowns) honored Antonia’s heritage and the island so fittingly. Not wanting to detract from the already gorgeous Greek Orthodox chapel, the couple & styling team decorated with Greek olive branches & natural complements.

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Our Love Story

Jonathan and I met at a trendy café called Tasha’s in Johannesburg, South Africa. Jonathan saw me arrive with my brother for lunch, and without trying to sound cliché, he thought to himself “that is the type of girl I would like to marry”. He came over and introduced himself, asking when he could take me out on a date. I replied that I had a boyfriend and that I was not interested.

Because Jonathan and I both love to eat out, we encountered each other quite often at Tasha’s. One Saturday lunchtime Jonathan was sitting with a group of friends having lunch, and I too arrived for lunch. He sent over a huge bouquet of flowers to my table, where I was having lunch with whom he thought at the time was my mum. All of his friends were watching, but I did not turn around to say thank you. What he did not know at the time was that I was actually sitting with my boyfriend’s mum, who exclaimed, “Does he not know that I am your future mother-in-law?”. Jonathan happily recounts that she clearly was not my future mother-in-law!

Our paths crossed against at a mutual friend’s wedding. After a lot of tequila and even more dancing, we kissed – and the rest is history.

Jonathan proposed on a hilltop in Botswana, overlooking the plains. Against a backdrop of the most magnificent sunset and our families watching on – I said yes.

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The Planning

My grandmother, to whom I am extremely close, was born and raised on the tiny island of Ithaca, Greece. Once engaged, Jonathan and I began to discuss where to have the wedding. The obvious choice seemed to be Franschhoek in the Western Cape, South Africa, which boasts the country’s most beautiful wine lands. Jonathan, however, was absolutely adamant that he wanted to get married on Ithaca (without ever having actually been to this little emerald of the Ionian Sea).

Ithaca is three flights and a ferry away from South Africa. I started to panic as to how I would be able to plan an entire wedding from a different continent. That was when I came across Cleopatra’s website. I watched her “meet Cleopatra” video and instantly knew I had found just the person to plan our dream day and a friend for life. Together with my mum, I skyped with Cleopatra and gave her an indication of what Jonathan and I wanted for our wedding. Within days, Cleopatra had sent a quote – and we were on our way.

Cleopatra completely understood what we wanted, and we communicated through Whatsapp and email, sending pictures back and forth of what we envisioned.

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The Florals & Style

Because Ithaca is an unspoiled Greek island, we did not want anything too glamorous that would detract from its natural beauty and the unbelievable setting.

Accordingly, we chose an olive green, cream and white palette to compliment the island’s authentic beauty. Our flowers consisted of olive leaves and various white flowers to highlight the church details and lift the tables which overlooked a spectacular view of Kefalonia and back to Vathy, the main village in Ithaca.

The colour palette continued through to the wedding day outfits, and the bridesmaids wore olive wreaths in their hair.

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Favorite Moments

Cleopatra organized that a gorgeous fishing boat, decorated with a heart of shells and white ribbons, transported guests to Lazaretto. My dad and I were the last to arrive, and took the last boat to Lazaretto. We had musicians playing Greek love serenades to us whilst we made our way to the church. The captain was hooting the horn (so much so that Cleopatra joked that it would break), letting the whole island know we were arriving at the church, whilst the church bells tolled back. It was the most incredible moment with my dad.

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The Ceremony

We had a 45-minute traditional Greek-Orthodox wedding, which is very symbolic, our wedding crowns (stefana) signifying that we are the king and queen of our marriage. The ceremony was conducted on a small island called Lazaretto in the middle of the bay of Vathy by Papa Theodosios and his dear assistant Louiza.

After our ceremony and photographs, Jonathan, our retinue and myself boarded the fishing boat and circled Lazaretto Island, on our way back to the mainland of Vathy. As we did so, vendors from their shops (who knew that Loula’s granddaughter was returning to Ithaca to get married) came out from their shops, together with passers-by, and waved at us – shouting and cheering. It was truly a royal wedding moment.

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The Photography & Videography

Because Jonathan and I had chosen our colour palette of olive green, cream and white, we wanted a photographer to capture the softness and authenticity of our day. Maxeen’s photographs are real, yet soft and almost pastel in theme, which we thought would be perfect to capture the day and afternoon light. Maxeen made us feel so at ease and chatted away as if we had known her for years. She captured intricate details and the most magical moments, which are now frozen in time for Jonathan and myself to treasure.

Shoot Play Love (Nefe Lee and Elia Papadatou) were incredible, capturing the special moments that one may forget in the excitement of the day. Nefe had amazing ideas and incorporated our chosen music into our wedding video. We were absolutely blown away by the wedding teaser and video, and have watched it countless times with our friends and family who were unable to attend.

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Advice to Other Couples

When having your dress fittings, sit down in your wedding dress to make sure that it is not too tight. I felt so comfortable in my dress and shoes the entire day and night, and the only time I cried on my wedding day was taking off my dress when we got back to the hotel.

Do not sweat the small stuff. It was quite windy during our wedding ceremony and my veil actually blew off. But I did not let it take away from the special moments, and I had a fabulous maid of honour who subtly caught my veil anyway.

Take moments, just between you and your husband, to look around at the setting and the people who have come to celebrate you. There is so much to absorb but Jonathan and I definitely took moments to observe what was happening around us, smile at each other and let the magic of our day sink in.

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