Some time in early 2016, shortly after their New Orleans engagement, my best friend called me up and contemplated the potential pros and cons of having an exotic, international, destination wedding. I calmly explained to her that the opportunity to get married in Greece presents itself to very few people in this world, and so she should most certainly take advantage of that opportunity. After vowing to make her special day more incredible than she could imagine, she and I partnered in the adventure of planning an elegant extravaganza of all things Greek, Faith, and Jared.
Jared and Faith met in college at ASU and both were a part of the Barrett Honors College. Jared was studying to become an engineer and Faith was working towards her clinical counseling degree. They had been dating for several months before I got the opportunity to meet Jared. As I spent more time with them as a couple over the years, I watched as their love grew and blossomed into something truly magical. I had known Faith since we were 14, and my heart swelled to see her with someone that made her so happy. To know that I would get to plan her wedding with her was an absolute dream.
The year and a half that followed our initial wedding planning conversation was full of late nights staring at invitation fonts, countless FaceTime dates (the bride lived in Michigan while I lived in Arizona), tearful phone calls from Manhattan bridal salons, and a floral-filled garden shower. Being my best friend, Faith's level of obsessive attention to detail and crazy, Type-A organization perfectly matched my own style of planning and we became an unstoppable force as we inched our way closer to 8-17-17. Obvious road blocks presented themselves when planning an international destination wedding. I did not speak Greek and so I could not directly communicate with vendors. I had never been to Greece and, therefore, could not see any of the venue spaces in person. All wedding items either had to be shipped, carried on the plane, or created in Greece (which became an interesting struggle when it came to ornate picture frames). Nevertheless, the plans began to fall into place with each video chat meeting.
Wedding week came faster than expected, as it usually does. We had managed to coordinate packing all necessary items to safely get everything to Athens, Greece. Did I mention I was also a member of the wedding party? With my husband, bridesmaid dress, a bridal robe, several picture frames, and a few anchor tattoos in tow, we were ready for the week of a lifetime.
Wedding week was filled with touristy, glamorous, and well-planned events each day. From our home base of The Golden Sun Hotel in the charming town of Glyfada in Athens, chartered buses took guests to see the Acropolis, to relax on beautiful pebble beaches, to yachts that sailed the Aegean Sea, and to a breathtaking rehearsal dinner complete with plated meals and sweeping views of the Parthenon. The day before the wedding I enjoyed having private time with the bride-to-be to finish all final preparations including folding ceremony programs, sending final emails to vendors, and practicing the bride's dress bustle. The week truly embodied Faith's (and soon to be Jared's) Greek heritage and was filled with so much support for their future life together.
When the big day finally arrived, guests enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and some lounge time by the pool while the wedding party primped and prepared. The local hair salon was a short walk from the hotel, but it required a good amount of hairspray to maintain our do's on the windy walk back to our charter buses. Arriving at the Island Art and Taste, the reception venue, we took in the sweeping views of the Aegean Sea before enjoying mimosas and photo shoots in the bridal suite. Tears were shed as Faith read aloud the handwritten letter from her groom that was delivered on a golden platter whilst he was doing the same at his groom's suite on the other side of the property. The men enjoyed getting ready in their villa and enjoying drinks and photo-taking before adorning their Indochino tuxedos. I enjoyed my role as both a bridesmaid and a wedding planner, often running out to arrange the gift table and move the seating chart in between posing for pictures in our floor-length blue chiffon dresses from The Dessy Group. The bride made a surprise reveal in her stunning Berta wedding gown with illusion sleeves and neckline complete with lace detailing, a gorgeous train, and a cathedral veil. I held the bride's hand on the shuttle to Agios Nektarios Cathedral in her final moments before she walked down the aisle.
The ceremony space was as ornate as it was awe-inspiring. The old cathedral had a grand staircase leading to its entrance and its interior had been hand-painted with various scenes from the Greek Orthodox faith. White and ivory flowers adorned the aisle and altar to complement the bride and bridal party's floral arrangements. Silence was the only thing heard as the wedding party made their way in trains down the aisle between friends and family. As the priest began to chant in beautiful melodic syllables, the bride held her mother's arm as she floated down the aisle towards her future husband's beaming smile. The ceremony was religiously traditional in its length and content, with gold-fonted programs and a live translator explaining the English translation of each Greek component. The bride and groom drank wine and exchanged their personally designed rings before walking in circles around the altar. As the ceremony came to a close, the bride swooned from the heat but was quickly revived just in time for Jared to "kiss the bide."
The reception was a clean and classy soiree with an entrance glowing in the candlelight and an unbeatable seaside view. Guests enjoyed an open bar, hand-passed hors d'oeuvres, and mellow music as they awaited the wedding party's grand entrance. They had the opportunity to sign the happy couple's photo-filled guest book, learn about the koufeta (Greek almond favors), and observe the bride and groom's stefana (golden crown's worn during the ceremony). The bride and groom's first dance to the song "Beyond the Sea" was choreographed to perfection and to the delight of all of their guests. Dinner was abounding with truly insurmountable food selections as everyone filled their plates with the flavors Greece had to offer and sat in designer chairs at white linen tables with low ivory and white centerpiece arrangements. The Maid of Honor and Best Men offered heartwarming and anecdotal speeches. Events of the evening flowed seamlessly as the staff at Island Art and Taste and I transitioned guests from the cutting of the blue and gold fondant cake to a special live traditional Greek dance performance. The fun and feasting continued with a grand dessert buffet and ultimately hand-passed "late night bites" of common American comfort foods. The newlyweds and the last few guests remained on the dance floor until the wee hours of the morning, as is custom in Greek weddings, before all departed with white and gold Greek koufeta favors in hand.
Before departing the beautiful country of Greece, Faith presented me with a simply beautiful necklace resembling my business logo as a sign of her immense gratitude. We shared an emotional moment as we understood that our wedding planning journey had come to an end and we had pulled off a magnificent event.
Venue: Island Art & Taste, Athens, Greece
Ceremony: Agios Nektarios Cathedral
Bridal Dress: Berta
Groom's Attire: Indochino
Bridesmaid Dresses: The Dessy Group
Photographer: Akzot Photography
DJ: Long Play
Paper: The Wedding Therapist
Makeup: Marianna Skarlatou
Hair: Gino Hair and More
Catering: Aria Fine Catering