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Monday, July 13, 2015

Top Wedding Spots in Greece

Words by Maggie Lukas

In 2014, tens of thousands of couples, mostly from the U.S., Great Britain, China, Russia and India chose Greece as their wedding destination. In Santorini alone, over 1,200 weddings were held last year. While Santorini, with its dramatic landscape, continues to top the most popular wedding and honeymoon destination lists, the newly engaged are also discovering Greek islands and villages beyond Santorini for their destination weddings.

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Santorini lends itself as the perfect backdrop for a romantic destination wedding and most couples choose to have a civil ceremony. Santorini offers unique beachside locations, such as the black sand beach at Perivolos, but most couples opt for a wedding location on the Caldera cliffside with the dramatic views as the perfect backdrop. Couples have many choices on this tiny island: traditional chapels, wineries and unique, cliffside hotels with infinity edge swimming pools and cave suites carved into the mountainside. However, if you are envisioning the vivid colors of the sunset to lend the perfect glow to your wedding photos, you had better plan ahead. Wedding ceremonies during the hours of the ‘golden light’ are in high demand on Santorini; famous as a perfect vantage point to enjoy a spectacular Greek Island sunset.

According to travel market professionals, an increasing number of visitors are also choosing less predictable Greek destinations for their big day. Some of the more popular options include the following:

Skopelos Island: Skopelos has come into popularity in recent years as the wedding destination of choice for couples from the U.K. and Northern Europe. In 2008, the Hollywood interpretation of the Broadway musical hit “Mamma Mia” must have inspired brides-to-be dreaming of the perfect destination for their romantic, island weddings. The small chapel of Agios Loannis on the north-west of the island, which perches atop a 100m-high rock and is the best-known from the fiIm, has been the most requested venue for weddings in Skopelos.  Brides beware – this setting will literally take your breath away, not only for the spectacular views from so high atop this rock, but also because in order to walk down the aisle, brides (and grooms/guests) will have to climb nearly 100 steps to reach the top of the rock where the chapel is located. Once there, you will be rewarded with panoramic views of the sea and pine forested countryside. The setting will forever be etched in your memories (and make for pretty spectacular wedding photos). *Honeymoon tip: Secluded coves and unspoiled beaches are the perfect setting for those want to feel like they have an island all to themselves.

Rhodes Island: A bustling resort destination, Rhodes not only offers luxury and all-inclusive resorts, but also unique settings for wedding ceremonies. This Greek island has been inhabited by both Ottoman and Venetian empires, a history which lends itself to unique architecture and a cultural blending of village squares, Medieval castles and ornate structures. One of the more popular settings for destination weddings on Rhodes is a perfect example of this: Kallithea Spa was built by the Italians in 1929, and was recently restored to its original architectural masterpiece amidst nature and the never-ending coastline. At the entrance of the venue, visitors are welcomed by a grand water fountain amidst fragrant gardens colored by fuchsia bougainvilleas, exotic plants and an array of trees all leading towards the white columned walkway to the ceremony area. For couples looking for a more traditional Greek island setting for their wedding, the remote ancient site of Lindos has a small, white-washed chapel with a bell tower surrounded by a cobblestone courtyard and 360 degrees of uninterrupted sea views.

Monevassia: This village is at the southern-most tip of the Peloponnese region and built within a Medieval castle atop a slab of rock moored off the coast with sheer cliffs rising hundreds of feet from the sea. Monevassia combines the perfect balance of mountains and sea views. Besides beautiful hotels, which capture the essence of the location, couples can opt for a traditional tiny, rural chapel set in the heart of citrus groves and rolling vineyards or historical, elegant mansions furnished with period pieces.

Crete:  Of course Crete can offer a splendid seaside wedding location; picture romantic ports with backdrops of castles and churches atop hilltops. But, what Crete is truly loved and revered for is the nature. The Cretan countryside is abundant with olive trees, grape vines, fig trees and varying arrays of flowers. So, what better location than a traditional farmhouse surrounded by sweeping views of mountainsides and rich valleys, which allow Mother Nature to decorate your destination wedding?

Spetses: This island’s actual name is a derivation from "Isola de Spezzie," the Island of Fragrance, a name given by the Venetians because of the many herbs growing on the mountains of the island. Part of the Saronic Gulf (only two hours by high-speed ferry from Athens and 20 minutes by water taxi from the Peloponeese port of Porto Heli), this island is convenient for coupIes who expect to have many guests traveling to their wedding. When getting married on Spetses island, a bride may choose to arrive to the ceremony in a horse drawn carriage, make a nautical entrance arriving by boat, or via a local Greek custom which has the bride, her wedding party and guests walking through town to the ceremony site escorted by Greek musicians (typically a violin and bouzouki player). But, one thing is for sure, she will not be arriving by limousine or luxury car because all motor vehicles are prohibited on the island – making it the perfect destination for couples to enjoy strolling hand in hand.

Photos courtesy of (in order of appearance): Anastasios Filopoulos Photography (1st & 2nd), MagdaIene Kourti Photography (3rd & 4th) and Anna Roussos Photography (5th & 6th).

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