If you are thinking about having an intimate destination wedding or elopement, you will most likely fall in love with the idea of saying your vows on the gorgeous island Santorini in Greece - it's truly one of THE most beautiful destinations in the world.
My partner Kobus and I eloped at Dana Villas, Santorini during October 2014. The unobstructed views of the ocean and the classic, yet modern looking features of the rooftop terrace made it an easy wedding venue choice for me! My first reaction to photos of the venue was WOW!!
I often get asked the questions in purple below...
What should I know about eloping in Santorini, Greece? OR What are your top tips for eloping in Santorini, Greece?
Please note: Eloping means something different for everyone - we didn't elope by ourselves, we were joined only by my mother, my stepdad and my bridesmaid. The recommendations below are based on my own, personal experience of getting married in Santorini, Greece with 5 attendees in total (including us) and is only a guide to help you with making choices for your own elopement.
1. Book a Santorini wedding planner
A photo of our magical wedding day at the rooftop terrace of Dana Villas in Santorini, Greece. Photo by Nathan Wyatt.
When I first contacted the wedding venue I had my heart set on - Dana Villas, they weren't accepting direct requests at the time due to an increase in their work load. A wedding there could only be booked through a wedding planner. My initial thoughts were that there's no way I could afford a wedding planner but I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that many affordable Santorini wedding packages include wedding planners.
Is using a wedding planner necessary?
I highly recommend getting a wedding planner for the following reasons:
They have trusting relationships with the best wedding suppliers Their business is their livelihood - they will want to work with the best suppliers and have the most experience in finding suppliers that won't let them or their brides down.
Booking a wedding planner means you don't have to search the web to find a good supplier at the best prices for every aspect of your dream wedding. This can be a daunting task! Leaving it to an expert wedding planner means you have access to the best makeup artists, hair stylists, florists and more at the best prices (such valuable insights from locals that live in the wedding destination of your choice are priceless).
It's one thing to take a chance on trying out a supplier you haven't worked with on a project - but do you really want to take a chance on anything going wrong on your wedding day? Finding genuine reviews on wedding suppliers is often not easy - I personally questioned whether some of the websites I was looking at for wedding services was even legit - imagine paying deposits to secure suppliers for your wedding date, only to find out when you arrive at the destination that those suppliers don't even exist.
My wedding planner, Maria Sila from TieTheKnotInSantorini.com has very high standards and great taste - I really felt that she couldn't have suggested and organised better suppliers for my wedding. Not only were they very professional, they were amazing people - kind and thoughtful. You really want people with good energy to be around you on your wedding day as it can be an emotional roller coaster!
Do you have suggestions for bridal hair and make-up services in Santorini?
Wedding planners sort out any hassles for you My first choice for our wedding videographer was Videonymous.com but my wedding planner informed me that he became very ill days before our wedding. Thankfully, she had already sourced and found another supplier with a similar style of videography for me when I received the bad news! I had so much to think about at the time, the thought of having to try and find a good replacement videographer so close to the wedding (when most would be fully booked) would have caused me a lot of anxiety. I was so glad that the disappointment and stress of having lost the chance to be filmed by my choice of videographer was short lived and I could get back to being focused on other things that needed my attention at the time.
A good wedding planner goes the extra mile for you Our wedding planner Maria went above and beyond to ensure we had the wedding day of our dreams, her amazing efforts included setting up last minute decor, giving the groom 'n lift to the first look location and more.
Throughout our wedding day, Maria was always a step ahead of us - following up on suppliers to check that they had arrived, were set up and that everything was ready - we could just focus on enjoying our day.
A wedding planner local to the destination you are getting married in will be able to guide you according to local customs and also handle cultural differences in any requests you might have professionally instead of getting offended
In Greek culture, the bride and groom normally stands behind the altar at Dana Villas, I thought it would be really awkward to ask Maria if we could stand in front of the altar which is a tradition where I'm from but she handled my requests with a breeze and never made me feel bad for asking what may have come across as culturally insensitive to others.
She managed to organise it with the celebrant Giannis Kavallaris, the photographer and videographer so that they knew where to stand or could plan what the best angle would be for the ceremony photos.
You won't have to deal with language barriers in finding and organising suppliers Our amazing wedding harpist was the best, but she didn't speak English so it really helped that the wedding planner could organise her for us.
Looking at some of the Santorini wedding supplier websites - I have to say - the information on there was all Greek to me! I couldn't be happier that my wedding planner dealt with it all - many of the suppliers don't speak English fluently which can make explaining your vision of your wedding day quite challenging.
Access to personalised, local expertise for island orientation and information As we had a sunset wedding, we chose to have a first look earlier in the day so we'd have more time for wedding photos. Having a wedding planner was real handy in this case as she took the time to listen to what was important to us for a first look location and worked with the photographer to find a beautiful spot for us to set eyes on each other for the first time on our wedding day.
Also, if the wedding venue you have your heart set on isn't available on the date you want to get married - the wedding planner will be able to recommend a similar wedding venue for you that could potentially be even better than the one you had in mind to start with!
Expert guidance on the legal aspects of getting married in Greece
What are the legal aspects about getting married abroad?
Our wedding planner Maria guided us on what we needed to do to ensure our wedding in Greece was a legal wedding. This might be different for everyone (depending on where you are from) but being that we are South African expats living in Australia, we had to obtain a Certificate of No Impediment (CNI) from South Africa - this certificate is proof to foreign authorities that there are no impediments for you to enter into a marriage.
We then had our birth certificates and CNI translated by an official Greek translator in Australia and stamped with an Apostille by a solicitor.
We scanned and sent these documents to our wedding planner who had them checked by the wedding registrar in Greece for confirmation that they were in order for us to proceed with a civil wedding.
It can take time to get these documents and in our case the CNI had an expiry date of 3 months so be sure to plan it accordingly.
We took our original documents with us to Greece too.
After your wedding you will need to go to the City Hall in Santorini to obtain your wedding certificate. Our wedding planner took us there and organised for the celebrant to meet us there a bit earlier so that we wouldn't miss our flight later that morning. I can't imagine having done all of this in such a rush in a country I've never been to without the help of our wedding planner.
2. Start by choosing a wedding package to suit your budget. A basic elopement in Santorini, Greece can be surprisingly affordable.
What really helped me was looking at different Santorini wedding packages online, then choosing one as a starting point to chop and change according to my budget. By doing this, you can have peace of mind that you have listed the essentials and if you still have money left in your wedding budget, you can swap things out or add more to it to build towards your dream wedding.
What is the best price for a wedding planner that you have found?
As I was really pressed for time and was told Dana Villas was pretty much fully booked for October when I wanted to get married there, I didn't spend time comparing costs between wedding planners.
I found a Santorini wedding package example with fair pricing online, looked at a list of recommended wedding planners that Dana Villas emailed me and contacted a few whose portfolios appealed to me the most. I asked if they could secure my dream wedding venue on my desired date and organise a wedding package for me similar to the one I found online.
Maria Sila was the first wedding planner to get back to me and we clicked right away - so well in fact that I found her almost too good to be true. You don't have to go on my recommendation for a wedding planner alone though, there are other couples in the group of Romantic Explorers that also got married in Santorini. Click here to join the group of romantic travellers for recommendations from other couples that got married there.
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3. Book your Santorini elopement or wedding date with the venue of your choice as soon as possible
Being that Santorini is such a popular wedding location, the best venues such as Dana Villas get booked up quickly so get in fast! I found my wedding planner in February 2014 and was just lucky that there was still availability at Dana Villas for our elopement to take place on 1 October 2014. By that time, there weren't many dates or times to choose from.
4. Wedding hair tips for getting married in Santorini
It can be very windy in Santorini - if you decide to get married on a rooftop, keep in mind that your veil and hair could blow around like crazy! I saw a wedding photo of another Santorini bride whose veil blew up in the air and looked like a parachute above her in one of her photos. Standing on the side of the altar where the wind would blow towards my face and having most of my hair tied up helped me to avoid awkward or embarrassing moments such as having hair in my mouth while saying my vows :D
5. Wedding shoes recommendations for getting married in Santorini
You will be climbing a lot of steps if you decide to get married in Dana Villas and have a photo shoot in Oia which is where the most amazing cliff and mountain view photos are taken. Be sure to choose shoes that will be comfortable for a long time or have an extra pair on hand like I did. Here's a link to a great video that showed the amount of steps leading to Dana Villas wedding venue! Remember to let your guests know as well :)
6. Santorini wedding photography and videography tips
Having sparklers at your Santorini elopement is much cheaper than fireworks!
It takes a lot of time practising with sparklers to get the result you want, just know that it can eat up quite a bit of your photo time. Our guests really enjoyed the activity though!
If you have your heart set on a certain photo/composition/location, try to ask the photographer to see the photo on camera before you move on to the next location. I wish I took the time to look at the photo of the location I was most looking forward to getting a photo of, as the photo ended up having a nasty roof in it. We were literally only a few steps away from having a better composition! Keep in mind, Oia, although an absolutely stunning location for wedding photos is also extremely crowded. Allow plenty of time for photos to give your photographer time to wait for crowds behind you to move away from the location so you can have a better photo.
Practice posing, otherwise you might feel awkward with some of the suggestions your photographer will make and end up looking the way you felt in your photo. Not all of your photos will be candid (unless you specify that is what you want).
If your hair is to the side, you might want to make sure that your best side is always facing the camera.
Do you think I will regret it if I don't have a videographer?
Having a videographer for your wedding is a luxury if you are on a budget, but I can't recommend it enough! Nothing beats seeing the highlights from your wedding day in motion anytime you feel like it. To save costs, consider only having the most significant parts of our wedding filmed such as the ceremony - ours was surprisingly short and lucky for us, our videographer was flexible to split the hours between our first look which was earlier in the day and the ceremony which was at sunset. I do wish I could have had more footage of our wedding day!
I also recommend not chewing gum on your wedding day - I didn't realise our videographer had started filming and I was chewing like a camel :P
I also get asked:
7. Santorini outdoor wedding decoration tips
As I mentioned before, Santorini can be quite windy - you certainly want to take that into consideration when planning your wedding and reception venue decor. There's a good chance that anything light will blow over or away if placed on tables or the altar in the open air. You definitely don't want tall, light candle holders blowing over that could cause a fire. Luckily having a wedding planner means you will have these recommendations pointed out to you if you have something in mind that might cause issues plus she will be keeping an eye on things for you too.
8. Plan enough free time or days before and after your Santorini wedding to finalise wedding details
Extreme weather conditions can cause delays in getting transported from one island to another so be sure to plan a few extra days around your wedding so that unexpected delays don't cause you to skip pre-wedding appointments.
You will need an extra day or two before your wedding day to meet your wedding planner, inspect the venue and to speak to the photographer and videographer to discuss your wishes one final time at least.
We booked a ferry from Mykonos to get to Santorini which was the cheapest way to travel between the islands but the weather was so bad on the day we were due to go that we found ourselves stuck on Mykonos for 4 hours before a large shipping container could transport us. The delays meant I didn't have time to meet with my photographer and videographer before my wedding - it wasn't a train smash but I would have liked to adhere to these appointments.
After your wedding day, you will also need to sign the registry book to get your Marriage Certificate (as per the instructions from your wedding planner). Our wedding planner Maria, worked her magic in organising this in the shortest amount of time as we had a flight booked already to leave the island the day after our wedding. It worked out well for us, but I wouldn't recommend doing it so rushed!
If you are wondering...
What time should I expect to start my hair and makeup when having a sunset ceremony?
Your wedding planner will put a wedding day schedule together for you based on your own wedding plans. Our run sheet below worked really well for our sunset wedding in October and should give you some idea of how much time to allow for each aspect of your wedding day:
11.30-12.00: Hair styling 1st guest (Bridesmaid) 12.00-12.30: Makeup 1st guest (Bridesmaid) 12.00-12.30: Hair styling 2nd guest (Mother of the bride) 12.30-13.00: Makeup 2nd guest (Mother of the bride) 13.00-14.00: Bridal hairstyling 14.00-15.00: Bridal make-up 14.15-15.15: 1 hour shoot consisting of bride preparation, portrait and being happy about the day 15.15- 15.35: Transportation to Oia for bride in the fancy car. My partner caught a ride to our first look location 5 minutes before with our wedding planner. 15.35- 16.00: First look photos & video 16.00-17.45: Photos in Oia 17.45 – 18.10: Transportation of the bride and groom from Oia to Dana Villas 17.45: Mini bus picks up the guests from El Greco (the hotel we stayed in) 18:15 -18.30: Ceremony 18.30 - 19:15: Family photos and couple photos around Dana Villas 19.15- 20.15: Reception - first dance and cutting the cake 20.15: Photographer & videographer leaves, guests enjoy dinner
9. Accept that you will run into other brides on your wedding day - Santorini is a popular wedding location! Santorini is a very popular wedding location, be prepared to run into many other brides on your wedding day while taking photos at the best locations! Instead of feeling uncomfortable about it, I recommend rather accepting it and having some fun with it. I had a great laugh with all the brides passing us by, telling them that they picked a great wedding date :P
10. Posting large packages to Santorini can result in having to pay high toll expenses!
It can be a pain to carry a lot of wedding items and a large wedding dress in your luggage when travelling to Greece and getting married there. We posted my wedding gown, the grooms suit and other bits to the wedding planner through TNT.com - however, it ended up being quite a large package and we were surprised that we had to pay a small fortune to have it delivered to the wedding planner.
I definitely recommend looking for a cheaper way to do this. When you start fitting on dreamy bridal dresses, keep in mind that you will need to transport it. I'm glad I chose a slim dress, it took up less space in my luggage (I travelled home with it in my suitcase), it was comfortable to climb lots of stairs in as it wasn't very heavy and it stayed put in the wind.
11. You will need to have your wedding certificate translated
Your official marriage certificate will be in Greek when you get married in Greece and it will only be sent to you a few weeks after your wedding day.
When you are finally a Mrs. and want to start applying your name changes to your passports and drivers licenses you will need to have your wedding certificate translated to English or other language of the country you are from.
This is a service that Maria, our wedding planner provided for us. We are from Australia however where we were required to have it translated by an official translator in Australia. Just check what the rules are in your own country.
12. Where to stay in Santorini
The beautiful entrance of El Greco Hotel in Santorini made for a beautiful backdrop for our wedding photos.
I recommend choosing to stay in an accommodation that is also a wedding venue as they tend to have wonderful facilities that are especially beneficial to wedding couples such as beautiful backdrops to wedding photos, stunning dressing rooms and garden walkways.
The beautiful details in the rooms of El Greco Hotel makes it a wonderful hotel for brides to get ready while photos are taken.
We loved our stay in El Greco Hotel for all of these reasons plus it was a good priced hotel in comparison to others and close to our wedding venue which you definitely don't want to spend a lot of time just driving around on your wedding day.
What was your favorite part of the experience of your international wedding?
For me it was that moment my dreams came true as I stepped right into my picture perfect wedding ceremony venue, about to experience what I've been planning and dreaming about for months and hearing the love of my life saying his vows to me in one of the most beautiful places in the world. It was truly even better than I imagined.