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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If you are getting married abroad or having a beach wedding a San Unity Ceremony is a real cute and popular addition to the ceremony. We didn’t have a religious ceremony and the civil ceremonies in Greece are very short, just a few lines and the exchanging of the rings; it would be over in a few minutes! The Sand Ceremony was an add on that our planners offered and as Paul and I are total beach bums we thought it would be a nice touch and was very ‘us’.

The couple are given a vial of sand each, and take it in turns to pour it into a larger, decorative vase. It’s actually very symbolic and as your pour the sand the registrar reads words explaining how your sand is now mixed together forever, as one, never to be separated, which represents how you have become one person in your marriage and will be bound together forever. The words meant a lot to us and we were so glad we decided to have it.

If your planner doesn’t do it or you’re not using a planner you can get the vials of sand easily online, or more mean fully you could easily collect the sand yourself. If your weddings isn’t beachy I really like the idea of doing it privately on the honeymoon, like some people plant love trees, to cement your bond and you can use sand from that special place and remember your honeymoon forever.

Plus you get to keep the vase as well which is a lovely memento and looks cute in our living room.

xox

For someone who has never taken much interest in weddings before becoming engaged the process of planning a reception seems like a long and extremely daunting one, full of terms that I had never heard of before in real life (calligraphy anyone?!) and potential pitfalls regarding having a ‘theme’ and choosing a ‘palette’ with ‘accents’ (what the hell?!).  To be honest, I asked my creative mum who has an amazing eye for detail to take the reins on most of those decisions. However, there was always one thing that I knew I wanted for the reception: a long, banquet style table set up.

I wanted this look for the following reasons:

  1. It’s DIFFERENT. Although becoming more popular it stands out from the regular round tables with a top table set up.
  2. I don’t like round tables. No offence I just find them too formal and they remind me of corporate events.
  3. I couldn’t deal with the stress of who would sit at the top table. My brother?! Sister in law? What about Bridesmaids partners?! Minefield.
  4. I had seen sooo many cute pictures on Pinterest of long tables covered in jam jars full of flowers and I was won over.

Let me tell you something. I received a lot of opposition to this decision. ‘But how will people talk to each other?!’, ‘People won’t mingle!’, ‘I won’t hear the speeches if I’m on the end…’ Honestly, I had so many comments like this. But I’m so glad I stuck to my guns and had the long table.

We had 50 guests in total so 25 on each side with Paul and I in the middle. The seating plan was easy because I sat couples opposite each other and mixed up family groups and age groups. It worked really well and everyone mixed in. Plus the fact that the table looked stunning with the jam jars and all the guests commented on how amazing it looked! It gave the wedding much more of the casual, ‘big family meal’ feel that was so important to me.

Go for it girls! Break table tradition!

xox

 

I am a big fan of the ‘wedding week’ rather than the ‘wedding day’. In the lead up to the wedding we spent most evenings seeing our family and friends, having lovely meals out and meeting up for drinks in a huge group, and then the day after the wedding my mum had organised a sunset boat cruise for all the guests. Luckily, the storm was a one-day-only thing (how convenient of it) so the boat trip was well and truly ON.

The boat picked us up at 5.30 and we set off on a 3 hour cruise around the island. It was absolutely amazing; I’ve been on many boat trips but obviously never had a two deck boat all chartered all to myself and filled with all my favorite people in the world! We had our own music and the drinks were flowing. Everyone had a fantastic time and it was so nice to see.

The boat took us in and around the Keri caves; beautiful rock formations surrounded by crystal clear blue lagoons, before taking us to an area of the sea where the boat stopped and we could all jump off the top deck. Everyone was really brave and jumped off and some (including my brother) suffered some spectacular belly flops!

It was such a lovely way to spend our first evening as husband and wife. As we watched the sunset and danced along to ABBA I can hardly remember a time when I have felt so happy!

An amazing end to a fantastic wedding week 🙂

xox

What a day it was.

The best, and possibly the strangest and most emotionally draining day of my life. Most importantly – the day I married my Prince Charming and became Mrs Erler.

It was  a beach wedding. An outside reception. Obviously we were planning on sun. But the Gods had other plans.

Yes, we had a freak thunderstorm, the likes of which hadn’t been seen in June in Zante pretty much ever. Yes, it POURED with rain all afternoon and evening so we couldn’t eat under the stars and have photos outside in the garden like I planned. And yes, in the videos of the speeches you can hear the rain literally lashing down on the emergency plastic cover the villa owners rushed to put up the day before.

However. We were lucky! I got to make my entrance, have the ceremony and most of the photos on the beach all before the heavens opened. And plus, the moody sky and thunder and lightening made for some amazing and very different photo opportunities!

It wasn’t what I had planned or imagined, but it was still amazing. Our guests still had an incredible time and danced all night. It was still hot, and miraculously no one (including us) really got that wet! My advice to any bride who has bad or shock weather on her wedding day would be: yes, you will be a bit upset. I had a few moments throughout the day. But you will still have an amazing day. And no one will ever forget it!

Plus, superstition dictates that rain means good luck and that you’ll have many children. So there you go.

A few details from our day which was organised perfectly by Zante Weddings. They did an amazing job and gave us the wedding of our dreams.

Bride: I wanted to go for a relaxed, boho look which would fit our rustic beach venue. My inspiration was the bride from the Mamma Mia movie. The most important thing to me was that I wanted a flower crown! I found that first. I discovered Ana Maria Bufnila and her beautiful handmade jewellery and hair pieces at the National Wedding Show.  She had my crown on display and as soon as I saw it I knew that’s what I wanted to wear – to me it was more important than the dress!

So, the dress had to fit the crown and not the other way around. My dress was probably only the 7th or 8th that I tried on in total, and on the first day of looking! I loved it. It was the perfect mix of beachy and loose with a little bit of bling, tight at the top and free flowing at the bottom with a manageable train. I also knew that I would be wearing flat sandals (from David’s Bridal) and the dress I chose looked fine with flat shoes.

I wore my Grandmothers pearl earring for my something borrowed, my dress and shoes were new, my something blue was a surprise from my mum which was a pearl bracelet with a tiny blue bead! So cute. My something old was a fairly last minute decision. I didn’t think I wanted a veil until my mum suggested I tried tucking the one she wore into the back of the flower crown – and it looked stunning. I loved it straight away! There was something special about wearing my mothers veil on the same day that she married my Dad, 28 years later.

Groom: Paul was somewhat relaxed about what he wanted to wear for the wedding! We both knew it wouldn’t be a full suit, firstly due to the heat in Zante but secondly because I think suits look a bit odd at beach weddings. We got the majority of his outfit from John Lewis. A nice pair of beige trousers with a white shirt and brown, leather boat shoes. The bowtie and the braces were his choice, but I thought they looked fab and something you don’t usually see for grooms. The pink bow tie was bought online from Mrs Bow Tie and the braces were H&M. My wedding gift to him was a gold, engraved pocket watch which he chose to wear in his pocket on the day which was a nice touch. He looked very handsome 🙂

Bridesmaids: I had 5 bridesmaids. A mix of family and friends. All lovely and all exceptionally beautiful. They are all different and so I didn’t want to dress them the same. I chose 2 colours of dress fabric from David’s Bridal bridesmaids collection and they could choose between the pale pink and the mint green. I also had them choose a style that they liked the best from 6 styles which are designed to match but are different cuts and fits. I would encourage any bride to do this. The effect of having not only 2 complimentary colours but also different styles looked amazing on the day. They also chose their own hairstyles so we had a mixture and had hair combs with a fresh rose and gypsophelia in it, which matched their posys.


Wedding Party:  Other than the bridesmaids the rest of the party was small. Paul had his father as his best man (pictured with Paul above) and we had one usher who was my brother. My Dad walked me down the aisle and my mum was also part of the party, she and my brother walked down the aisle together ahead of the bridesmaids.


Guests: We were overjoyed that 50 people came all the way to Greece for our wedding. We were surrounded by our family and friends and felt very loved the whole week. We were joined by my very large and Paul’s slightly smaller extended families, including my beloved Grandmother who, even in her 80’s, couldn’t be kept away. We were shocked and flattered by how many friends made the trip, many making it their summer holiday and we are so grateful. It means a lot. Everyone looked fab on the day and managed to grasp my rather vague dress code of ‘beach chic’ excellently!

Ceremony: The ceremony was at Cameo Island at 2.30pm. It was hot! This venue is a very popular and is truly an outside venue so we were extremely lucky that the rain didn’t come down earlier otherwise it would have need to have been relocated. It’s easy to see why the island is so popular. The bridal entrance is a set of rustic stone steps leading down to a stunning cove looking out towards the open sea without a person in sight. The rickety bridge, stone and pebbly beach for guests to dip their toes in create a magical atmosphere and some very different wedding photos.

The ceremony itself was very short with just a quick set of ‘I Do’s’ and the exchanging of the rings. Paul and I read poems to each other and although I didn’t look up he said there wasn’t a dry eye in the house! We also had a sand unity ceremony which involves the mixing of two bottles of sand into one; symbolic as well as a nice memento to keep. Warning – when it’s humid the sand doesn’t come out that easily!! You may end up spilling it all over the table like me!! All of this was conducted under a beautiful wooden arch dressed with flowers standing on scattered rose petals. We walked back down the aisle to ‘Hold My Hand’ by Jess Glynne and the confetti was thrown and that was it! After what seemed like a million pictures and a few bucketful’s of rain it was time for the reception.

 

Flowers: We decided to leave it up to the florist. I know nothing about flowers so I decided it would be best to trust the experts on the occasion. Looking back there were actually quite a lot of floral arrangements involved in the day in one way or another. We had my bouquet, the bridesmaids posys and hair combs, buttonholes for the boys, corsages for the mums, flowers for the arch and aisle, flowers for the cake and of course the stunning mason jars all along the table. Considering the brief I gave the florist was ‘pretty, pastel and wild looking’ I think she did an amazing job and I was blown away by the flowers. They all tied in together without being matchy matchy which is my worst nightmare! Personal favourites were my wildflower bouquet (of course), the button holes – a single rose with daisies and gypsophelia, and of course the beautiful table jars which next to the plain white table set up were one of my favourite things about the whole day.


Reception: The reception was held in the gorgeous Artina Villa, a beautiful cliff top building over looking the blue Greek oceans – on a clear day! Unfortunately my visions of guests sipping champagne while listening to the Greek musician quartet and admiring the stunning views didn’t quite come to fruition. We had the champagne and the musicians (who were fab!), just the view by this point was somewhat obscured by the low lying and very angry storm.

The reception was decorated beautifully with extra surprises I wasn’t expecting like chalk board signs, vintage suitcases and a station for guests to draw portraits of us! All arranged by my thoughtful and clever mum. The table set up was one of my favourite things and I was so pleased with it. With a relatively small group I was adamant about having one long table to give it a more casual and family feel. Not only did the mason jars look amazing but we also had hand cut heart table confetti, hessian envelopes with scratch cards inside for each guest with personalised stickers and paper name place cards in the shape of birds. The favours were sourced locally- olive soaps for the girls in a hessian bag and olive oil for the boys, finished with a personalised tag.

We enjoyed amazing Greek food and our yummy cake for pudding. The speeches from my dad, Paul and the best man were all brilliant, funny and moving in their own way. However, my brother was the one who caught me off guard with a ‘Wedding Day Song’ he had written and performed it on his ukulele. It was hilarious and also so sweet it made me bawl. Paul even admitted to shedding a tear. It was the perfect gift.

The evening went so fast and before I knew it the table was cleared and we were dancing he night away as the rain continued to pour. We had a lovely firework display which went ahead even in the conditions. Funnily enough the rain finished just in time for everyone to leave and we had our sparkler send off.



Cake: We wanted a simple, no fuss cake because neither of us particularly like icing. A naked cake made with Victoria sponge and fresh fruit was perfect. And how stunning was it?! It was so yummy it didn’t last long as the guests ate it for pudding. No saving the top tier for us!



First Dance: A few weeks before the wedding I mentioned to Paul that I found the concept of a first dance really awkward! The thought of 4 minutes swaying in the soot with everyone watching made me shudder. We had already chosen ‘Thinking Out Loud’ for the song and I suggested, somewhat jokingly, that we should choreograph a routine to do on the night as a surprise like Ed does in the music video! Miraculously Paul agreed! One of my most memorable moments of the evening is the gasps and ‘Awhs’ from everyone when we burst into a seemingly spontaneous dance routine with lifts and everything! Plus it was brilliant fun practising in the lead up too.


Wow, what a marathon! I could go on and on but I think I’ve covered the important bits and what I’ll want to look back on and remember in the future. What words struggle to express is the love and warmth we felt that day, and all week, from all our guests who felt like one big happy family. I have never felt so lucky. I got to marry my soulmate in (almost) paradise surrounded by people I love. And that’s all that matters really.

xox