How to Plan a Destination Wedding in the Cyclades? A 10-Step Guide
Getting married in the Cyclades islands with your toes in the sand, facing a turquoise perfect Aegean sea, with a traditional colorful small fishing boat and a few octopus drying in the background…
Well it makes any couple dream, right ? But it requires a lot of planning, especially if you don’t live on-site or if you don’t know the country that well.
Alice Dentan, founder and owner of the French wedding planning agency ‘Call Me Madame’ based on the island of Paros, reveals her 10 best tips for a simple and stress-free wedding planning in the Cyclades islands of Greece.
1. Start your planning early
As any wedding planned abroad, you want to inform your guests as early as possible. The sooner you’ll send your wedding invitations, the better chances you’ll get to gather all of your guests in one tiny island of the Mediterranean Sea.
Ideally, pick a date within the school holidays : your guests with kids will be able to join your wedding day with all of their little ones. It would also be easier for your kid-free friends to take a few days off.
Keep in mind that people won’t be able to come only for 1 day : so you need to make things as easy as possible for them.
The downside? The cost, prices are indeed much more interesting during the low or middle season. If you need to plan your wedding during the summer holidays, opt for early July and end of august.
2. Week day weddings
You need to know that if you plan a wedding during summer, on a Saturday, in the Cyclades, you will not be the only ones. Vendors and venues are getting extremely busy during the high-season.
Well, yes of course, you can bring in your hair and make-up artist from Athens, but your budget will necessarily be impacted as you’ll need to pay for their travel expenses.
So, in order to ensure that all your favorite vendors are available for your wedding day, a great solution is actually to choose a week-day wedding. Most of your guests will likely have to take some time-off from work to come to your destination wedding, as reaching the Cyclades is not easy nor fast. So if they come for 4-5 days, so they wouldn’t mind a wedding on a Thursday for example.
Our advice: book a date during the week. Venues will be available, prices will be negotiable and vendors happy to book a less requested date.
3. Give your guests all the information early on
Yes, for you, having a wedding abroad is pretty obvious and natural. But keep in mind that it won’t necessarily be the case for all your guests. Some people might get a little anxious about travelling, some guests maybe using an airplane for the first time, and others might be entering Europe for the first time.
It is therefore important to reassure them and help them as much as you can. A custom website is definitely an amazing tool, here you can include all the practical information, how to get to the Cyclades, is it easier by plane, by boat, what type of visas is required, accommodation options and time lines for the day.
You can also suggest a few hotels or villas to accommodate your guests. It will be easier to have everyone in the same location, and they’ll probably like having an easy suggestion (to avoid the hustle to look by themselves).
Some wedding websites can also make your life so much easier, you can include an RSVP section, your guests can choose their menu choices, you can give them information about the baby-sitters or the shuttles if needed, this is helpful and convenient for all your guests.
4. The weather
The nice weather usually starts from Easter in the Cyclades, until the end of October. We need to however draw your attention to two things: it can be hot (very hot) and it can be windy. So we would suggest providing hats, cute white paper parasols and fresh welcome drinks to your guests during the ceremony, as well as comfy plaids for anyone who’s feeling chilly as night.
Make sure to also give an idea to your guests about what type of weather to expect on your wedding invitation or wedding website, so they can dress accordingly.
5. Plan activities and experiences for your guests
As we’ve seen it, your guests can be a bit lost if they’re not frequent traveler’s. They would therefore definitely appreciate some advice, tips or even activities to do during their stay in the Cyclades. This could be wine tasting, a fun boat-cruise, a chill out afternoon in a beach club, or perhaps a visit to a temple.
Experiences are all part of the wedding celebration and doing things together can be so much fun for all.
6. The Ceremony
The religious ceremonies are all part of the orthodox religion; as for the legal ceremonies, they do require a bit of paperwork. Why not plan a small, intimate civil ceremony in your own country, before flying to Greece? Yes it’s an extra cost but you can keep it simple. And it’s definitely a great idea to have more than a 1 day celebration, so make sure you enjoy every single minute of it.
You would then opt for a symbolic ceremony with a professional celebrant, for your wedding in the Cyclades. And if your budget is a bit tight, you can always ask one of your guests to assist you on this.
7. Group rates can save you money
According to the date of your wedding and the number of guests, you might be able to benefit from a group discount for your guests accommodation, the events around your wedding (welcome dinner, brunch, beach party) or even your plane tickets.
Yes, some airline companies including AirFrance or Delta offer reduced prices for group of 10 persons or more, so contact them to get a quote.
8. Be aware of Passport and Visa requirements
Most of your guests will be aware that they need a valid passport to enter the country, but do they know all the details? For example, when entering in Greece, your passport must be issued less than 10 years before the date you enter the country AND valid for at least 3 months after the day you plan to leave.
So make sure to give all this information to your guests, to avoid having anyone stuck at customs (and yes, it does happen more than you know).
9. Finding your wedding suppliers
Choosing the right florist, the talented hair-dresser or the best caterer, can definitely be a challenge when planning a wedding from abroad. Luckily, Instagram is here and will most likely become your BBF. Most suppliers in Greece are using this social media to share their work and communicate (FYI, Facebook is still very much used in Greece too) you can therefore get a really good sense of what service they offer, what their work looks like, etc.
Don’t forget to also ask your venue or planner for recommendations, most places have a list of preferred partners that they like to work with (as they know they’ll take good care of their property, respect the local rules).
If you have the opportunity to plan a trip to the island a few months before the wedding, do it! Organise a tasting with your caterer, meet your vendors, do a trial for your hair and make-up, try a sample of your wedding cake.
And of course, if your budget allows it, hire a wedding planner based in Greece. They will be your eyes and ears on-site, they’ll know all the professional vendors of the island and give you all their tips to ensure a smooth wedding day.
Last but not least, if having a wedding in your own country can be challenging, planning a destination wedding can so easily be overwhelming. One week before your wedding, make sure to delegate everything: ask your bridal party to help your guests, your family to handle the last minute request from vendors and just relax.
Book yourself a couples massage to enjoy a very needed break away from everyone. Make sure to seize every single second of your wedding days and don’t get drowned into logistical details.
Suppliers featured in the photos of this article – Wedding planner: @callmemadame | Photographer: Saya Photography | Florist: @chaniotis.the_flower_workshop | Wedding cake: @tserkiparos | Tableware: @white_lilac_rentals | Rentals: Tore Rentals | HMU: @floraperraki_makeuphair_paros | Wedding dress: @ruedeseinebridal | Hair accessories: @mignonnehandmade | Groom’s suit : @samsonsurmesure