Planning an overseas wedding sounds like it’s going to be an impossible task, but with the right mindset, it can be one of the best decisions you ever make. Our editorial director Amanda Bardas was married in Greece last year and has some sage words of advice for brides-to-be. But first, a little background on the big day, before we get into the details…
Jason and Amanda were married on a small Greek island, Paros, in August 2017. According to the couple, the most difficult process was organizing the paperwork, deciding on a date (both have an affinity for even numbers), and trying to decide on what dishes to serve from the menu.
The couple had 100 guests travel from around the world to join them for a week-long celebration across Paros, and then on to Mykonos for the "after-party."
Read on for our interview on what was involved in planning an overseas wedding, and the couple’s best words of advice.
How long did you actually spend on planning the wedding? Did it take over your life? What was your process?
Amanda: We only decided to marry overseas about eight months before we actually tied the knot. So we had the save-the-dates out a week after we’d made the call. This meant no time to stress over what invites looked like—I just opened Photoshop, found a font that I liked, and went to a printer that day. Jason is an art teacher, so he jumped on Google, found a picture of a church in Paros, and quickly sketched it for the save-the-date to give it some “Greek” flavor.
I understand that some find joy in the detail, but I was focused on the big picture, and spending time deciding on the little things wasn’t where I wanted to spend my limited time. I’m all about making decisions quickly.
Jason: We decided to dedicate "wedding planning" time every fortnight or month. So that was the only time we spoke about the wedding. And each time we had one of these "planning sessions" we went out for dinner and had a few bottles of wine to make it fun. We didn’t want to run out of things to talk about once the wedding was over. So to be honest, we didn’t spend that much time planning—I’m actually the one who had to twist Mandy’s arm into talking about the wedding. She wanted to talk about the holiday around it, instead.
How did you find vendors—like location, photographer, videographer—without meeting in person, or seeing the venue in real life?
Amanda: Google images! Google reviews! Word of mouth! I booked the location a week after we made the call to have the wedding in Greece. I literally Googled “best restaurant in Paros,” jumped on the phone to a few restaurants for some quotes, and then booked the one that fit our style and budget. Google Street View was also a huge help to see what the venue looked like from the outside. I also scanned the venue all over Instagram, checking hashtags, location tags, and the page's tagged images. I found the photographer and videographer through talking to a friend who’d recently been to a wedding in Greece—it was almost too easy.
We had a wedding planner on the ground, but if I could have my time again, I’d only use their services to set up the space on the day and help organize logistics. My mum ended up hustling and pulling together most of the details.
Jason: When you know what you like, it’s pretty easy to jump on email and request quotes—we didn’t see value in a wedding planner doing this for us, and actually found the big important vendors (location, photographer) ourselves. The wedding planner’s quotes always came in a little more than what we expected.
Amanda: Which is another reason why we would’ve done more of the planning ourselves—negotiating directly with suppliers generally means you can get a better deal by cutting out the middleman.
You had people fly in from all around the world—that sounds like a logistical nightmare. How did you make it easy for everyone?
Jason: I set up a website through Squarespace—it’s really easy. I just chose a template that we both liked. Knowing what we should include was tricky, but we Googled examples of other destination wedding websites and replicated them. We also made a Facebook Group so everyone could ask questions and share accommodation tips. We also used the Group as an easy way to chat with everyone when we were there—“hey guys, we booked an area on the beach today from 10 a.m., see you there."
Amanda: We included info, like what airline to book flights through, how to get to the island, places to stay, things to do, as well as details for the day of the wedding and our welcome drinks a few days before. I also added a section with important Greek words to know, so people could have a go getting into the language. That was fun after everyone had a few drinks. We also knew that many would be flying in or out of Athens so we provided accommodation suggestions for here, too. Most of our guests stayed at Mr. and Mrs. Smith's Fresh Hotel. It's super central if you're looking to do a bit of sightseeing.
Did you have any pre or post-wedding activities?
Amanda: We had welcome drinks two nights before, which was awesome for everyone to hang out and get to know each other. If you're having a destination wedding, I highly recommend the welcome drinks a few days before so guests can have a chance to hang out before the big day. The day before the wedding, everyone split up into groups and did their own thing, but as the island was so small, we all bumped into each other throughout the day. It was so special.
Jason: Except that we booked the wedding the day after Greece’s biggest religious holiday, so the island was packed and there were no cars left to hire—so we did feel pretty bad that people were stranded.
Amanda: Jason and one of our friends (hi, Ben!) acted as a taxi service the day before the wedding, driving everyone to and from the beach so we (me) could all have fun.
What was your highlight from the actual day?
Jason: Mandy really wanted to get a photo on a donkey in her wedding dress, but we didn’t have much time between ceremony and reception, so we had a donkey meet us before we went in. We were supposed to grab one photo and then walk in to Kanye West’s "Touch the Sky," but the donkey had other plans and started walking into the restaurant. We just went with it, and it’s easily one of my most memorable moments—lifting Mandy off the donkey and seeing the sheer terror in her eyes when she spotted the poop bag attached to the donkey.
Amanda: A highlight for me was before the ceremony, when I stopped with my family and bridesmaids for a few impromptu tequila shots (we were so early we had to kill time waiting for the groom to arrive—when does that ever happen?!). And then after the ceremony, when Jason and I walked together through the town and people were cheering and clapping. And Jason’s hilarious speech where he absolutely roasted me. It was like a 21st speech but better. Ok, all of it.
Photographer: Thomas Gallane
Shoes: Ermanno Scervino
Hair and makeup: Bride did own
Flowers: Locally sourced in Paros
Groom and Groomsman suits: Joe Black
Bridesmaids: Christopher Esber
Reception: Siparos, Paros
Wedding favors: Local honey for guests to take home, with a komboloi (Greek worry beads).