My Wedding in Crete by Caroline Scott
In July 1986 I was sitting in a Taverna in Patras on mainland Greece with my best friend. It was a hot evening, and we were happy to be on dry land after a twenty-four hour ferry journey across the Sea from Brindisi. Two Greek men came to sit with us and we chatted about the usual things, where we were from, where we were going etc. Out of the blue one of them said to me, when I got to Crete, I would fall in love. I seem to remember laughing at this ridiculous suggestion.
How right he was. On arrival at Chania, the cabin crew dutifully opened the doors and passengers began shuffling down the aisle between the seats. As I stood at the top of the steps, I looked at the view, breathed in the air, squinted in the sunlight, and something changed inside me forever.
Eighteen years later, I am returning to Crete, again, to get married. Because I am not marrying a Greek National the planning of this wedding is very different to planning a wedding here.
I began by scouring the Internet and Travel Brochures of Companies such as Argo Holidays, Olympic, Thomas Cook to name but a few but each time I was put off by the cost of the planning a wedding through them, and the fact that I was unable to get married in the part of Crete I wanted.
I was also looking for somewhere really special to stay. On a previous visit to Crete, my fiancé, Andy and I had stayed at a beautiful Hotel in old town of Chania. It was lovely but I had felt a claustrophobic on account of the fact we could see little sky from our ground floor room and I started to look for something suitable close to Chania, but not in the town itself.
For many years the attraction of Greece for holidaymakers was its simplicity. Holidays were cheap and cheerful with Greece earning a reputation for good value for money but pretty basic accommodation. I can only assume that this has changed along with the requirements of holiday makers who want to still enjoy the Greek experience but also want to have a few of life’s luxuries thrown in. Just East of Chania I found a hotel I liked. We decided to go for one week in September, just to check it out.
At around the same time, I found a web site for a travel agency in London who were offering their services as wedding organisers at a very reasonable rate. Fortunately, we did not want a big fat Greek wedding, just a small civil ceremony at Chania Town Hall would suffice.
Our Hotel is situated only fifteen minutes from the airport I was concerned there might be aircraft noise. There was none. The hotel was just perfect. It was right on the coast, with no immediate beach but two beautiful outdoor swimming pools.
The facilities within the Health Spa at the hotel dealt with issues such as hair and beauty treatments, so having those on site was going to be a big bonus. At forty years of age I was going to have to get all the help I could get! The town Hall in Chania though, presented us with a dilemma.
Whilst the old part of Chania around the Venetian harbour is without doubt one of the most picturesque places in Crete, the new part of the town is a modern bustling city with all the traffic problems to go with it. When we found the Town Hall, we soon realised, this was not really the kind of venue we had in mind. We had a rethink, and decided our dream scenario would be, to get married on the hotel terrace as the sun was setting over the sea. We put this suggestion to the hotel who could not have been more supportive of the idea. So with this in mind we returned to the UK and put our idea forward to our wedding planners.
Lengthy negations followed whilst they tried to obtain the permission from the Chania Registrar to perform the ceremony at the hotel. It was not forthcoming. The authorities would only consider conducting a marriage ceremony at a Civic location. We had seen a ‘City Hall’ about fifteen minutes drive from the hotel, which turned out to be the City Hall of Akrotiri. Built in true Hellenic style, we thought this venue was an acceptable compromise. We decided to get married in June and the date was fixed for the ceremony at 2.00pm on Friday 25 th . We were advised us that the authorities are only prepared to perform civic wedding ceremonies between Noon and 2.00pm Monday to Friday. I still don’t understand why they will only perform marriages at the hottest time of the day!
So it was booked. One of the conditions to getting married in Crete is you have to be there for at least one week before your wedding day. Flights from the UK are only on Tuesdays, so to get around several problems, we decided to stay in Crete for a total of three weeks. This meant our wedding fell right in the middle of the holiday. So the itinerary was Andy and I flew out on the 15 June, any guests who wished to join us could then come out the following Tuesday, we got married on the Friday, guests flew home on the following Tuesday and then we would have another week to ourselves.
The next hurdle to overcome was the paperwork. All paperwork had to be translated into Greek. We were required to produce our documents, each one had to be authorised by the Legalisation Department at The Foreign Office in London. Again the internet proved to be a very useful source of information.
We were required to produce photocopies of each of our passports, copies of both full birth certificates, as Andy and I had both been married before we then had to send copies of our decrees absolute, and two certificates of no impediment of marriage. This certificate was available from our local registrars office, and then authorised by a Public Official. They were then posted to the Legalisation Office in London and returned about two weeks later along with an Apostle of The Hague certificate attached to each one. These documents were then sent on to the Wedding Planners.
There was then a dip in the level of contact from the. We waited and waited for an e-mail confirming the name and details of our contact in Crete. Two days before our departure we had still not heard anything. I rang and was told me she I would be advised of these details. Nothing arrived by letter or by e-mail. Eventually, the day before we departed, I was given a telephone number, and a name. I rang the number from England and confirmed I would be in touch when we got to Crete.
Night flights have got to be the worst, but that early morning departure, when its dark and usually raining have got to be a very close second. However, it was all so definitely worth it. When you land on Crete and you’re greeted with the sights, smells and noise of this wonderful Greek Island.
The hotel and health spa was every bit as wonderful as we had remembered. We checked in and we allocated a room with a view of the sunset and the sea to die for. I could go on and on about how fabulous the staff at this hotel are and still not do it justice, so I will try and stick to the point of the story of how to get married in Crete. One of the ways anyway.
The following day I received a telephone call from a young lady acting on behalf of the Wedding organiser in Crete. She told me not to worry, that everything was okay with our plans and someone else would be in touch with us very soon. We received another call at about 6.15pm, and we were told everything was okay, that I would have to bring my hair appointment forward to 10.00am. The day would start with some photos at the hotel, then at the City Hall and finally in the Harbour at Chania. This all sounded fine to us.
Two days later we had another phone call from ‘the wedding planner’. This time it was to tell us that it was not going to be possible to get married at 2.00pm at the City Hall because it was closed at this time. So it had to be at 11.30am at the City Hall in Chania. I rang London, as it was they who had said it had been arranged at the City Hall of Akrotiri at 2.00pm. I was assured there was just a mix up and they would soon sort it out.
On the 21 June our Greek wedding planner rang again and advised us, it was not possible to get married at 2.00pm. He rang again the following day and confirmed, the best the Greek authorities could do, would be to have the wedding at 12.00 at the City Hall of Akrotiri. This meant we would have to be ready for 11.00 for photos. My only problem now was how I was going to get ready in time. On the afternoon of the 24 June I went down to the Health Spa and had the best Manicure and Pedicure of my life. Anna and Alexandra worked a miracle and I left about an hour and half later with very happy feet and hands. We chatted about the wedding and then Anna said she could do my hair, and she would come to work early to make sure it was done on time. What a wonderful girl. We had a look at what could be done with it. Whilst we were trying out a few styles, the Beauty Salon Manager Natasha came and asked if I would like them to get their make up artist to do my make up. I’ve never had a professional make up artist do my make up before, and it seemed like a great idea to me.
Friday 25 th June 2004. Our wedding day is here at last. We woke at 7.00am. I was tired because I had been dreaming about it raining on our big day! After breakfast I went down to the Spa where Anna was waiting for me. She styled my hair and then put on the tiara. When she was done Joanne did my make up, ably assisted by everyone else in the Salon. They wouldn’t allow me to see what they were doing until they were finished. When I looked in the mirror, I could hardly recognise myself!!!
It was like having my best girlfriends with me. Anna wrote the names of the single girls at the Salon on the bottom of my shoes, which is apparently a traditional Greek thing.
Whoever’s name is left on the sole of my shoe at the end of the wedding day, would remain unmarried. I think that’s what she was explaining. They all helped me to get dressed and after a few photos I presented myself to my waiting parents and an emotional fiancé.
Twenty minutes later, the wedding organiser, the car, the lovely bouquet and the photographer arrived. They were so very very sweet. We took some pictures at the front of the hotel, around the pool and on the terrace.
Then we went off in the car to the City Hall. It took about twenty minutes to get there. It was not at all how I expected it would be. I knew it was modern, but to say there were no allowances for ceremony would be an understatement. We waited for a few minutes and we were then shown through to the room. The Registrar read out some vows in Crete and the Greek Wedding Planner read out the English version. This was a very touching moment, because the way he read it out was just lovely. We signed the register and then made our way to the Harbour for more pictures. This was possibly the best part of the day for Andy and myself. As we walked around the harbour and in and around the Venetian streets posing for pictures, we had so much warmth and good wishes from people all over the world who were just walking along and sitting in the harbour bars and restaurants. At one point there was even a bit of a Mexican wave going on as waiters and customers in the waterside restaurants were clapping and cheering us on with their good wishes. On the way back to the hotel we were by some traffic lights and some workmen were making a new garage forecourt. When the saw our car, the downed tools and gave us such a round of applause!
Back at the hotel we opened our cards and presents and then spent what was left of the afternoon by the pool. When we returned to our room there was a bunch of roses, fresh fruit, honey and walnuts and a bottle of Champagne generously given to us by the hotel. I cannot praise the hotel highly enough. All the staff were just amazing, and their generosity was outstanding. At the end of our meal, they brought us wedding cake which we were able to share with all the guests and staff, as we watched Greece beat France 1 – 0 in Euro 2004.
We were absolutely delighted with our wedding day and if you like the sound of my story, and the thought of getting married in Crete appeals to you, I would love to hear from you. If you have any questions you would like to ask, advice or information from someone who has been through the process please do not hesitate to email me at:
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