How about we all jet off this morning to Crete to revel in the big blue and yellow day of Meline and Damon? These two are just the cutest pair and their couple portraits are so full of warmth and affection that I’ve snuck a fair few into this post.
It’s the first time I’ve blogged a Jewish wedding from the beautiful Greek island of Crete, and the first where the bride is wearing yellow! There’s so much to love about this delicious destination wedding — the ceremony took place on the beach right by the shore, under a stunning talit chuppah overlooking the breathtaking sea views, and there are lots of creative DIY touches throughout the festivities that you’re going to love.
The couple decided to do away with many wedding traditions in favour of creating a day that reflected them as a couple as well as making it an amazing experience for all their friends and, family and I have to say that looking at the wonderful photos by Newman Photography (one of our much-loved Smashing Suppliers) it definitely made for a very special destination W-Day.
I’m totally in awe of Meline’s yellow wedding dress. The girl totally rocked that sunshine shade! She actually wanted to get married dressed up as an Elf princess or Princess Leia from Star Wars but Damon thought that was a bit too cheesy… In the end she went for this absolutely magnificent yellow gown, and in my mind it’s the perfect accompaniment to that scenic backdrop of blue skies and sandy beaches.
Get ready for an intimate, laid back wedding with sublime weather and an even more sublime couple.
how we met
Meline, the Bride: We met on the lawn on the University of Pretoria campus in South Africa over 10 years ago. I was embarking on a veterinary degree and Damon a mathematics degree (such nerds!). Damon had an apartment right next to the campus so people would hang out there a lot. We were friends for a few months before we got together. A few months later we moved in together and the rest, as they say, is history…
Choosing to get married in Crete
We decided to get married in Crete, close to Chania on the beach in Falassarna. We were there three years ago for one of Damon’s maths conferences and just fell in love with the old town and the synagogue. Even before we got engaged, we knew that that’s where we wanted to get married – on a beach somewhere close to Chania. We’d explored the area quite a lot as well and found some amazing beaches and sceneries. The people and food are simply fantastic!
Lots of lovely creative DIY wedding ideas
The whole wedding had a strong DIY vibe. For example, Damon’s dad made our chuppah poles, and we designed and made the programmes for the ceremony to function as fans. A lot of our guests weren’t familiar with Jewish weddings so it was a fun way to give a short explanation for each part of the ceremony and keep guests ‘cool’ in the Cretan summer sun. Though on the day itself, there was a gentle breeze so that also helped to keep our guests from sweating too much.
Another DIY touch involved me making a box for the rings from a travel language guide (including phrases in English, Italian, German and French) printed in 1928. I found it in a second hand shop, glued a lot of pages together and cut out square for the rings to fit in. It represented our love of travelling as well as our different backgrounds and mother tongues (mine is French and Damon’s is English).
We also made wooden arrows with the cities our guests came from and the distances from there to the villa where we had the reception. We put theses arrows on a pole in the middle of the garden. It was great that everyone’s origins was included and it gave people something to talk about as well.
a blue and yellow theme
We decided on a blue and yellow colour theme – to represent the colours of the sun, sand and sea! We also used a picture we found online of an octopus with a top hat.
destination wedding tote bag favours
Since this was a destination wedding, all of friends and families traveled quite a way to spend this time with us. Most of them arrived a couple of days before the wedding so we got to spend time with them on the beach.
I personalised tote bags for each individual and couple using the image of the octopus in a top hat and the date of our wedding (05.07.2015). In the bags, we put a pair of either yellow or blue sunglasses for everyone, a recycled/reusable water bottle (I simply hate having to buy water in bottles as it contributes so much to environmental pollution, especially on such a beautiful island as Crete) to make sure our guests would stay hydrated on their daily trips but also during the beach ceremony and a personalised brochure with a map of the area, a mini ‘Greek’ language guide (with all the essentials, including wine and beer!) and a brief outline of the festivities. We personally handed out each bag as we saw people in the days preceding the wedding. It wasn’t much but I think people really appreciated the effort and the thought that had gone into it.
Most of our guests had actually never met each other but when they saw each other’s tote bags, they would start chatting – which was really good as we ran late getting to the pre- wedding outing and couldn’t introduce everyone straight away.
Our wonderful wedding planner
We used a wedding planner (Weddings in Crete) as we were quite far away and neither of us speak Greek. They were really helpful and organised our wedding as we’d imagined – despite some unusual requests. Elizabeth (who’s originally from the UK) and her daughters run the company and made sure things ran smoothly.
We first used the ‘octopus in a top hat’ image on the invitations (we just found it on Pinterest, so not sure where it came from but it’s not our design). On our first visit to Crete, we decided to hike around an island off the coast of Balos beach and came face to face with a small octopus while snorkelling – a surreal experience especially when it decided to extend its tentacles to ‘taste’ us. That image stayed with us and we made all our invites, welcome bags and programme using this image.
make up by friends and family
I don’t really wear make-up on a daily basis so it would have been a bit weird for me to wear any of my wedding day. I’d actually gone make-up shopping in Paris, while we were there in December 2014, and got some advice from a makeup stylist there to get as natural a look as possible. I didn’t really understand most of the technical terms, all I knew was that I needed a base to keep it from smudging everywhere! I stepped away with mascara, slightly shiny pink eye shadow and a natural lipstick – as well as this magical base that really saved the day – I can’t recommend that stuff highly enough!
One of my best friends and Damon’s brother’s girlfriend thankfully came to my rescue a couple of hours before the wedding and did all my make up – adding a lot of pastes and powders to my meagre make-up collection – and managed to cover up most of my sun burns! Having a few girly, make-up savvy friends around was a definite win!
Natural looking hair… and a flower crown
I’ve got long, long, long hair so I wanted to have it as natural as possible. Our wedding planners recommended a hair stylist who came to our house the day of the ceremony to help me get ready. She was amazing – she even massaged my bruised and swollen ankle (from a rough game of football a week before) with olive oil! I think it’s the first time I ever had rollers to style my hair but they were so effective that my hair stayed put for more than 24 hours! The stylist attached the flower crown and styled my hair around it so it looked so natural – exactly what I wanted.
a yellow wedding dress
I found my dress on Etsy. I knew I wanted a bohemian type of dress, and that’s what I searched for and after a few weeks, the yellow dress I wore came up on my results. It was perfect! I wanted a non-white laced-up corset top dress made from natural materials, unique and with no bling!
To be honest, I would have loved to get married dressed up as an Elf princess or Princess Leia from Star Wars but Damon thought that was a bit too cheesy… The yellow dress I found did make me feel like a Princess in my own right so it was a win-win!
Funny enough, we didn’t wear any shoes… We both wanted to feel the sand between our toes during the wedding so we went barefoot. I wore barefoot sandals that I found on Etsy and got some new toe rings as well.
We had to use our normal day sandals to step on the glass at the end of the ceremony though – we didn’t think to bring spares until the day of the ceremony so we had to make do with the ones we’d brought along from the UK.
I wore the same jewellery I wear everyday and added a few special touches. I normally wear a white gold opal ring on my left ring finger (Damon had it custom made for me by Guinevere Designer Jewellery) when he moved to the UK to do his PhD, so I kept it (to this day) on that finger, even though tradition would want me to wear my wedding ring there.
I also wore my engagement ring on my left index finger (where it fits the best since we ordered this one online from the States) made by Wexford Jewelers. We decided to have our wedding rings made by the same Wexford Jewelers in the same ‘Molten’ collection in black silver. I also normally wear silver bangles on my right ankle that my mum gave me when I started university over 10 years ago in South Africa so I kept those too!
The beautiful necklace I wore was a gift from my parents earlier this year when we visited them in Kosovo (my parents work there at the moment). They found it while we were wandering through the streets of a small medieval town called Prizren which is world famous for its fine works of silver.
The handsome groom
Damon wore a white collarless shirt, blue trousers and a grey and blue herringbone waistcoat. His trousers were ironed for the first time since I’ve known him!
no bridesmaids… but a very special role for my brother
I’ve never been a bridesmaid (so far) and the whole idea didn’t appeal to me so I just asked my brother to be my ‘man of honour’. He walked up to the chuppah just before me as my ‘retinue’ and carried our Ketubah. I was so happy to have him up there on my special day.
the wedding ceremony… officiated by a good friend
We asked our friend Daniel, a lecturer in the Faculty of Divinity at the University of Cambridge to officiate. He is a wonderful, knowledgeable person. He helped us put together our own progressive, egalitarian ceremony. We replaced the traditional circling of the groom by the bride with us each circling each other, plus a final circling-each-other- figure-eight-type-thing.
We searched for translations and interpretations of the seven blessings that reflect our beliefs and values. We asked each of our parents and our brothers to read one each and then Daniel read the final one.
To recognise how privileged we are to be able to express ourselves freely and live without persecution and intolerance, we added a ritual from an LGBT wedding ceremony of tipping some of the second cup of wine onto the sand. The idea is that we don’t feel that we can drink a full cup of wine in celebration while it is not possible for everyone to do the same.
Damon’s dad built the poles and brought them over from South Africa. They had to be collapsible to go on the plane but he did an awesome job. The chuppah itself was the largest Bnei Or (Rainbow) tallis we could find. We both find Reb Zalman Schachter fascinating. For us, the rainbow tallit he designed represents an inclusive, modern form of Judaism – perfect for our wedding.
Our entrance song was All I Want is You by Barry Louis Polisar from the Juno movie soundtrack, and our guests welcomed us to the reception in a tunnel of sparklers! Damon used to work in a record store in South Africa through which we were invited to the Juno Premiere in Johannesburg – we’ve listened to the soundtrack a lot since then.
Music for the party
Our second song was Star Power by Sonic Youth. Damon adores Sonic Youth! We first listened to them more than 10 years ago in our first flat together in Pretoria. We saw them live a couple of times and attending a secret interview at a music festival with them so they just had to be on there!
From then on through dinner we played a playlist we’d made before. There was some Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, My Bloody Valentine, Velvet Underground, Silver Mt. Zion and other acoustic stuff.
no flowers.. just bubbles, sparklers and candles
In the middle of the Cretan summer, nothing much grows locally apart from olives and Bougainvillaea. We’re quite environmentally conscious so we didn’t want to have flowers flown in for our wedding. I also never pictured my wedding with flowers – all I wanted were bubbles, sparklers and candles! The bouquet and boutonniere we ended up getting were gifts from the wedding planners to match our theme colours. The bouquet was stunning and I took a few of the flowers home to dry them.
I really wanted the guests blowing bubbles as we walked away from the chuppah at the end of the ceremony, unfortunately the wind was a bit too strong for the small bottles we bought so that didn’t work it out very well. The funniest part was when Damon’s gran splashed us with the soapy water from the small bottle as we walked past!
our ‘superhero’ photographer
I was at school with Lauren from Newman Photography and we reconnected recently. The photos on her website were stunning and it was a good opportunity to catch up with her. We couldn’t have made a better choice. She was superhero on the day – going above and beyond to keep everyone calm and happy, helping us organise and taking stunning photos.
No wedding cake — just beautiful local Cretan food
We actually didn’t have a wedding cake. The starter and mains were all local Cretan dishes so it just didn’t feel right to have a ‘traditional’ wedding cake. We all just ate baklava and fruits. The wedding planners also had a few Vegan cupcakes made to our wedding theme (blue and yellow beach themed decoration) to accommodate some of our guests.
ï¿¼Our catering was organised by the wedding planners – they brought all the tables and chairs and made the whole reception just beautiful. Everyone loved the local food and we ate wedding leftovers for days after!
DJ, party games, and glowsticks
We had our friend Graeme (a medieval historian/DJ) play after dinner. He mostly did the DJ thing and not the medieval history thing :-). Graeme and Damon shared a house when he first moved to Cambridge and they spent a lot of time talking about and playing music. We also had madlibs, Giant Jenga, Twister, Giant and Connect Four. The Jenga was a definite hit around 3am once the music had died down a bit.
The reception itself was outside so when it got dark the multitude of glow sticks came in very handy! It was great fun to see everyone so bright and colourful on the dancefloor.
advice to other brides and grooms
I used Etsy and Pinterest a lot for this wedding. It was brilliant to be able to see a whole lot of ideas but it eventually became quite overwhelming so we both sat down and ï¿¼filtered what we did and didn’t need – there were a few things that I really wanted but didn’t really need so I chose my top three and went with those.
It was all about having fun with our friends and family – guests don’t really care for decor or flower arrangements, they just want to have a good time, rather spend your money on good food, reasonable booze and entertainment! Use the natural scenery of your venue, if you can, nothing more is really needed.
Have minions! We each had two or three people that were on hand to do anything we needed to delegate to them. On the day, there were a lot of family members asking us for information or to do stuff so it was good to be able to have our ‘minions’ deal with whatever they needed.
Since we didn’t have any bridesmaids or groomsmen, it was a little challenging to delegate initially but I soon realised that people really want to help out so let them!
Don’t take it all too seriously. If things go wrong – and they do – just go with it.
One good example to tell you is that our guests got taken to the beach ceremony on a bus to avoid anyone getting lost and we drove ourselves in a Suzuki Jimny convertible (the same one we have back at home in the UK). We realised that we didn’t have any petrol so had to stop at a station on the way! Rather than get stressed about it, we just laughed! The local people were awesome and even the kids were blowing kisses at us as we drove away – out of a potentially stressful situation came a fun memory!