If I mention the Greek island of Zante I’m pretty sure I’ve got a good idea of what springs into your mind. I was the same before I started researching venues for our wedding. Zante is famous for being a party island; a place where school leavers go to get pissed and do whatever school leavers do (I wouldn’t know as I never went on one of those raucous holidays)! Zante tends to make the headlines for all the wrong reasons, drunk Brit-kids spilling out of bars, quadbike accidents and General bad behaviour. However, this beautiful Ionian island deserves a lot more recognition than it gets credit for. The partying is pretty much exclusively contained within the town of Laganas in the south of the island, and the rest of Zante is largely unspoilt mountains, rural areas and stunning hidden beaches. There are a few main towns where you will find the regular tourist traps, but if you step outside the hotel-land and explore the island, trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

Last time we were in Zante it was for our wedding (!) so when we returned this year we made it our mission to see more of this beautiful island and find out all of it’s secrets. Here are my top picks for a different kind of holiday on this paradise island.

Rent a motorboat and find your own turtles in Keri

Zante is all about the turtles. It’s famous for it and the popular beaches and harbours are packed full of ‘guaranteed turtle spotting trips’. You probably will see a turtle on one of these excursions however, they are generally large boats full of tourists so you are unlikely to get anywhere near the turtle, let alone get a photo of it. It’s much better, and not much more expensive, to take a short drive to the quiet southern harbour of Keri where you can rent a small motorboat of about 100 euroes. No experience needed, not even a driving licence! Apart from being an amazing experience and great fun, your chances of seeing a turtle are pretty high at the right time of year.  Once the boat is hired you can take it for a spin to the beautiful Keri caves and across to the famous ‘turtle island’ where the turtles lay their eggs (these are all roped off to make sure they are kept safe). For the best chance of seeing these amazing creatures we recommend heading to the opposite side of the bay to the caves, close to the Harmony Hotel and sticking close to the coastline (it’s deep so no worries about the boat!) just cruising up and down on the lookout! We saw about 5 turtles in this area and there was literally no one else there! We jumped in and snorkelled with the turtles without worrying about crowding or upsetting them with too many people. It was a truly magical experience.

 

Dine with the most stunning view in Kampi

The town of Kampi is set in the West of the island and is somewhat off the beaten track, but it’s famous for having several clifftop restaurants with the most incredible views! They get booked up in advance for evenings as the sunset there is apparently gorgeous, however we stopped there for lunch – kind of by accident during a drive! We ate at one of the clifftop venues and even in the daytime the view of the rugged coastline and the crystal clear blue water was absolutely incredible. The restaurants all serve traditional Greek dishes and are set up with stunning shaded outdoor areas to enjoy the view whilst tucking in!

 

See the famous ‘Shipwreck beach’ before the crowds

The incredible image of the rusty shell of a shipwreck washed up on the white sand is probably familiar one. In fact, Navagio or shipwreck beach is repeatedly included in roundups of the most picturesque beaches in the world! It’s definitely worth seeing, but going on a tour boat can lead to disappointment when you can’t get a picture without thousands of people crawling all over the place! I’m not exaggerating when I say that hundreds, if not thousands, of tourists pour on and off this beach all day. As it’s only accessible by boat, the first large tour comes in at about 9.30am – so to get the place to yourself you need to beat it! We were up at 7.30am and drove north for an hour to a small harbour called Porto Vromi where we hired a private boat to take us to the beach before everyone else! It does cost a bit more but as there was four of us the cost of 4 tickets on a tour boat would have been nearly as much as the fee for the private boat. It was so much fun because the boat went super fast and to get there when there was only a handful of people on the beach was simply amazing! The boat hire is also for 3 hours so after an hour of so at the beach our driver took us to some other beautiful swimming and to some of Zante’s famous ‘blue caves’. For a slightly higher cost it was more than worth it.

Eat traditional at hidden restaurants

One of the best things about holidaying in Greece is the delicious food! The authentic local meat, fish and vegetable dishes are simple and yummy, the more home cooked the better. Like anywhere, eating on the main tourist drags will likely result in disappointing meals which are neither authentic nor fresh. My main advice would be to check TripAdvisor and do not be afraid to stray a long way off the beaten track for an incredible meal! There are a lot of tavernas in Greece which are literally almost set up in someones back garden! A few evenings we ended up driving along rickety roads, following dubious directions to find a tiny authentic taverna! Eating at these types of restaurants not only guarantees awesome food, but are also much more reasonable too. I can particularly recommend Votsalo in Keri and Peppermint in Argassi.

Watch the sunset from a beach bed at Porto Roxa

Being perfectly situated on the West Coast means that Porto Roxa sees the most beautiful sunset, it’s famous for it. We new this tiny beach had a nice beach bar and a lovely setting to watch the sunset so we set off there (about an hours drive from Keri) in the mid afternoon. We were delighted and pleasantly surprised to find a gorgeous hippy beach bar serving yummy cocktails and allowing guests to relax on swinging mattresses rather than sunbeds! It may sound odd, but kicking back on a double bed with a mojito to watch the sun go down was incredibly relaxing. There are the traditional sunbeds too for those who want them, but the hanging beds were something different that I’ve never come across before! And the sunset was just….wow. Worth a visit.

Zakynthos will always hold a special place in my heart, but I truly believe it is an amazing holiday destination for couples, families, and has something for everyone! I hope if you decide to make the trip to this idyllic Ionion island that you find these top picks helpful! Have fun in paradise!

 

 

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We all know that on the day, bridesmaids are expected to support the bride as much as possible getting her into her gown, calming her nerves and cold feet, and generally being on hand for any duties that crop up. However, when you are a bridesmaid, you may also be asked to help out with some things that you don’t expect, both on and before the day. Keep reading to discover what they might be.

Bachelorette Party

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Being a modern bridesmaid kind of means you need to be ready for anything, including organizing a killer bachelorette party. OK, some brides want to arrange these themselves, but for many, it can be a pleasure to let someone else step into the driving seat for a bit and just sit back and relax while the fun happens.


So if you do find yourself in this position as a bridesmaid, then make sure you get as organized as possible. It’s vital to give everyone attending enough time to save for the event because as discussed at http://www.cosmopolitan.com/lifestyle/a45507/, the cost can be a major issue. Also,  it can help to let the other attendees have a vote in what you do. As not everyone will want to do every activity, and that’s fine. Just make sure there is a good variety to keep everyone as pleased as possible. As this will help you live up to your role as a successful bridesmaid. I also think it’s possible to ‘overthink’ the hen party, and often something simple that appeals to everyone is the way to go, and this can avoid it being too pricy for everyone involved too.

Wedding Ring Advice


Another unexpected role that you may find yourself fulfilling when you are involved in the bridal party is offering honest advice to the bride. Remember there are so many choices the bride and groom have to make when they get married, it can really be overwhelming, leaving both parties doubting their own opinions. Particularly, on the important long-term things like picking the right wedding rings.

However, that is just where the help of a good bridesmaid can be useful. As an honest, objective, and informed opinion can make the choices that they happy couple do have to make that bit easier.

To get a jump on this why not use sites like http://yourdiamondguru.com/reviews/kay-jewelers-review/ to get some advice on where to buy the rings. Then you can be the voice of reason in the mire of indecision.

Although of course, it does always help to wait until you are asked, or until things really get to a  crisis point before offering some advice in a gentle manner like the ways suggested at https://zenhabits.net/how-to-give-kind-criticism-and-avoid-being-critical/. As no bride wants to feel bossed around concerning anything to do with her special day!

Running Guest Interference

Lastly, you may not expect it, but it’s quite likely that you will be asked to run some guest interference on the day as a bridesmaid. This includes keeping an eye on some of the more frail attendees like the ones described at https://www.caring.com/questions/alzheimers-and-wedding, and even the more rowdy ones!

After all, no one wants Uncle Bob breakdancing on the floor because he has one too many whiskeys! So it’s up to you to ensure that he paces himself and has the occasional soft drink in between shots!

My girls were such a special part of my wedding day. Above all; support the bride and be a great friend! She will be so grateful.

**Please note this post is a brand collaboration**

Weddings are such an exciting event! As a previous bride I absolutely adore other people's weddings. It’s one big celebration of love and devotion and if you’re an invited guest and get to be a part of that, well, you better get your hankies ready for the sobfest that awaits. Attending a wedding as a guest is a privilege and you get the chance to spoil the lucky couple with a gift of your choice. Most couples say that they don’t need a gift on their wedding day, as your presence is enough, but everyone knows that turning up to a celebration empty handed is a big no-no.

The thing is, this is the modern world! Roll the times back fifty years or so and a wedding was the bridge between living with parents and living with a new spouse. This meant that most gifts were housewares and pretty trinkets to display for the couple in their very first home. That is a rarity these days, with most couples living together long before engagement rings are given and wedding vows are exchanged, which means that a couple generally has it all before getting hitched. I know I'm our case we already had everything for our house, so we found compiling a gift list tricky!
 
So, the dilemma left to you as the wedding guest is what on earth you could buy for a couple that seems to already have it all? Here are five unique gifts that you won’t necessarily find on a registry, nor would anyone else have thought of it!
 

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Kitchen Gift
Okay, so the happy couple may be living in pre-marital bliss, but that doesn’t mean they have everything they need for their kitchen. Everyone loves a gadget! Check out the wedding gifts on Cuckooland.com and see the genius that is this Smart Bacon Express The Bacon Toaster. No more frying pans or grills, but the perfect toaster for those lazy Sunday morning bacon sandwiches. Fun kitchen gadgets are always a loved gift!
 

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Travel Gift
Forget the honeymoon, if your wedding couple are ones who love to trek and travel across the world, why not go for one of these travel gifts? Add in a ‘where have you been’ scratch map and you have the perfect, personal gift for the couple who love to conquer the world together. I personally would adore this gift.


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Land Gift
This is an totally unique idea! We’re not talking a patch on the local allotment for the newlyweds, but why not give them the amusing gift of a small piece of unclaimed land? They can therefore be claimed Lord and Lady of the land you give them, which should raise a smile or two!


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Honeymoon Gift
Wedding gifts that are personalised are those that go down well with newlyweds, as they get a keepsake from their day. These personalised Mr & Mrs passport covers are an exceptional gift that they will love to use on their honeymoon together. Pair it with a polaroid camera for snaps of a vintage feel. Honeymoons are almost as exciting the wedding day itself so any gift for the honeymoon will go down very well.


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Romantic Gift
I love this idea! Notebooks like this that encourage a newlywed couple to write a line about their life together each day for the first year of marriage is a wonderful keepsake, and a way to look back at how their first year of marriage went in the years to come.

With this gift ideas you will never run dry for inspiration for the wedding season – no last minute panic! Enjoy all the weddings!

**Please note: this post is a brand collaboration**
 

Want your home to have the wow factor? Maybe you want to impress guests, or perhaps you just want a stunning, opulent space to enjoy in your own time. Most of us would love to live in a huge mansion, kitted out with the most beautiful decor if we had the choice, but that’s not to say you can’t have a lovely home if you’re not a millionaire. You can bring a touch of luxury to any space, and if you go about it in the right way, you’ll spend far less than you might think. Even if you live in a small city apartment like me, it is possible to get the home you love without it costing the earth. Here are some ideas to consider:


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Shop Sales
One of the best ways to snag great quality items at discounted prices is wait until sales are being run. End of line furniture is often massively reduced meaning you can save hundreds if you buy at the right time. This chesterfield leather sofa sale for example has up to thirty percent off which can mean over £500 savings on some pieces. If you know you’re in the market for a new piece of furniture, don’t just run out and buy the first thing that catches your eye. Follow your favourite furniture shops on social media, so you’ll be the first to hear about any sales, and keep an eye out for discounts. This allows you to fill your home with beautiful things but spending a fraction of what they originally cost.


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Scour Second Hand Finds
Furniture tends to be sturdily built, and a lot of pieces can last many lifetimes especially those made from solid wood. But people of course replace them far sooner than this. For this reason, it means you can often get hold of fantastic second hand pieces for next to nothing. Sure, some might need updating with a coat of paint and some new handles, but up-cycling can be good fun! Charity shops and car boot fairs are amazing for finding furniture and household decor gems. You might even get lucky and find someone selling designer or high-end furniture that’s nearly new for reduced costs; perhaps due to moving house and no longer having the space, or just because they fancied a change. Either way, it’s far cheaper than buying new. Plus recycling like this is good for the environment, and you get a beautiful piece for your home without breaking the bank.


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Mix and Match High and Low End
You can still achieve a luxurious looking home without spending a fortune on every item. You could buy an expensive sofa and accessorise with inexpensive cushions and rugs- that way they could be replaced easily later down the line if you want to switch up your room. You could buy an expensive dining table but with inexpensive, on- trend chairs. You could save on your bed frame but invest in a great mattress and beautiful bedding. There is literally so much choice on the high street in terms of home accessories, decor and bedding. Don’t be afraid to search places like Etsy and eBay for unique yet inexpensive items. You will find that sometimes you can find pieces that look like they cost far more than they did if you search carefully. Price is not always a reflection of good quality.


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How would you go about adding a touch of luxury to your home without breaking the bank?

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I'm a firm believer that a beautiful wedding can be achieved even with a tight budget. And no, you don’t have to sacrifice important features to make it work. Shopping around and taking more calculated approaches to everything could help to keep you out of debt and still have a gorgeous day. Here are a few tips and tricks for keeping your wedding spectacular when strapped for cash.

The Venue

Church weddings are expensive, but other venues aren’t far behind. You can save costs in all cases by timing your wedding right – particularly the ceremony. The summer is when prices for venues are highest. An off-season wedding could save you a lot of money. September and May are usually classed as off-season and you could still get amazing weather. Mid-week weddings, especially a morning wedding, meanwhile can save you thousands compared to weekend weddings.

Another solution could be to get married outdoors like we did! In most cases, a beach wedding or a forest wedding may only need permission from a local landowner. Some may charge a fee, but it’s unlikely to be a lot. You’ll be able to get married in the height of summer to up the chance of good weather. That said, it’s still worth hiring a marquee or two just in case the heavens do decide to open. Getting married abroad can tends to be cheaper too, so if you're happy to have a smaller guest list, it may be worth consideration.

Food and drink

A big chunk of your catering cost will go towards paying for staff. However, you may be able to cut out a lot of this.  Have drinks already put on the tables in ice buckets (you could have a spare table in case drinks run low). Meanwhile, consider hiring chefs to cook at the table. This could add extra entertainment whilst cutting out the need for waiting staff. Of course, there’s also the option of a buffet which saves on staff and also tends to have lower costs per head. It also gives the wedding a more casual, 'family feel' which we loved.

Photography

It’s worth having a professional photographer to take those memorable snaps that will stay with you for the rest of your life. That said you may know a friend or family member that’s into photography that could shoot your wedding for a cheaper rate. There’s also the option to hire photographers for a set period instead of the entire day. A wedding shoot just after the ceremony could be all you need – you may then be able to get guest to take snaps throughout the rest of the evening, which was fine for us.

Wedding Invites

Invites and other wedding stationary can be surprisingly pricey. There are companies out there that do budget wedding invitations ,many of which still look professional and stylish. Consider whether you need to send an invite to everyone or just the close guests going to your ceremony. A free digital invite could be all you need to invite those reception guests, of which there may be hundreds in some cases. It's also super tempting to go overboard with other stationary; menus, thank you card, order of service, the choice is endless! Think about whether it's all really necessary for your big day before shelling out.

Decorations

It’s easy to go overboard on the décor and blow your budget. Getting creative and knowing a few of the tricks of the trade might allow you to save costs. Lots of electric lights outdoors could be expensive. We made a lot of our decorations ourselves. Candles, or indeed Chinese lanterns, could give a more ambient and warm feel whilst costing less.

Florists meanwhile will often try to persuade you to buy the most expensive flowers. Don’t be pressured into doing this. Also consider how many flowers you realistically need. A big fancy flower feature may cost less than having flowers all over the place and is likely to stand out more.

Your cake can also be used decoratively. Consider having only a top layer of cake and lots of fake tiers beneath. It will still make a visual impact whilst costing less.

Wedding vehicle

Hiring a chauffeur and a vintage car won’t be cheap (a carriage will be even more expensive). Consider whether this needs to be a big spectacle – often dressing up your own car and getting someone else to drive it can have a cute and charming factor. You may even know a friend with an antique car who may be willing to let you borrow theirs for the day.

The dress

Every bride should be able to have a beautiful dress for their special day. If your dream dress is too much to purchase, consider hiring options. This will allow you to have a more extravagant dress for a fraction of the cost. Yes, owning the dress can sometimes feel better, but consider the fact that most people who buy dresses simply let them gather dust for years to come.

Of course, an alternative could be to buy a dress and then sell it after. There are lots of sites where you can sell your wedding dress. Photographs will provide all the memories you need.

 

A beautiful wedding doesn't need to cost the earth and, from someone who has been married just over a year, the main thing is that you are getting married to the one you love. Of course, it will be a wonderful and memorable day, but remember it's only one day out of the rest of your lives!

**This post is a brand collaboration**