Did you know that Santorini has been the first wedding destination in the world for the last 3 years? Did you know that Santorini is almost fully booked for the next two years with people who wish to live the most romantic time of their lives with a magnificent view to the caldera and the world-famous sunset of the island?
Organizing this special event can be really tough, though, if you are a foreigner. Who will help you with the paper translations, who will explain you the complicated legal procedures, who will show the best wedding venues on the island? There comes the need for a wedding planner.
Mrs Anna Vafeiadou has been working as a wedding planner in Santorini for about 15 years. This is not only her job, this is her life, as she admits. Having organized memorable weddings for hundreds of couples, it is a pity that she started this business after her own bad wedding experience. "It was not only the ceremony, everything went wrong in my wedding", she remembers. "First of all, back then, 16 years ago, we didn't have a choice as where the ceremony would be held. We had to go to the local town hall department offices and have the ceremony there.
The office I went in, had chairs stored in the background next to semi-covered old computers with wires hanging and you could also see them in the back of my wedding photographs. The whole office looked like a warehouse although I was assured days before the wedding that this mess would be cleaned!
It also happened that the local counselor didn't have her glasses with her to read the wedding ceremony text so she said to us "well, let's skip the formalities. Do you accept each other as husband and wife?" when we said yes, she just said "OK, you are now married, sign here". I think it was the shortest wedding ceremony as it only lasted for 2 minutes!
On the present day, the celebrant of the town hall is an excellent professional who gives the formality and the respect a wedding requires and each time, he brings tears in my eyes with his performance although he has done this for a hundred of times.
The flowers had black edges and I had to clean my whole bouquet and not even use a centerpiece for the table that we had to sign our marriage certificate.
Regarding the restaurant, I will only tell you this much... the waiter was deeping his dirty nails to the plates when he was serving us and I had to go to the manager and complain about it! Here I was fighting on my wedding dress!
My own wedding day is the only reason I am here today doing the best for my clients! I decided to do something about it after my husband said to me 6 months after my wedding "Anna, instead of complaining, why don't you do something about it?" And I did! I went to the USA to get trained, as there was not an equal class in Greece.
Another thing that didn't exist in Greece and still doesn't, was the wedding planning as a legal profession so I had to get licensed as a travel agent in order to offer my services as a wedding planner. So, I am a licensed travel agent from our government that offers any services my clients need for a perfect wedding day!"
There are many locations to get married in Santorini, but the best time is certainly the sunset. The wedding can take place in certain licensed locations on the island, such as in Oia, Fira, Imerovgli, the chapel of Saint Irene or some wineries. It makes almost no difference as all locations have a wonderful view to the caldera.
However, Anna stresses that one thing should be paid attention: "To choose a legal wedding planner to trust! It is important to feel very comfortable with your wedding planner and trust her/him and I am saying this, as sometimes as a wedding planner I advise against my client's wish. Let's not forget that I live permanently here in Santorini and I know if a specific request will not work. Of course, I always respect my client's final decision but I always share my experience and try to protect my client, this is why they pay me for after all, to offer a perfect wedding day!"
This means that someone could be defrauded by a wedding planner?
I feel sad to say yes on this question... Actually, my surroundings suggested that I shouldn't show this side of Santorini but someone has at last to speak out and let people know the truth, so we can restore the perfection of this breathtaking island, get rid of the negatives and do what we are supposed to do... protect the people who do us the honor, of choosing Greece among many other countries, to keep the most important event of their lives, their wedding!
You see, I don't mind competition, competition makes us better and when the services offered are in excellent quality level, it means happy people who come back and make our beautiful island even more loveable.
But, it is true that we do have unlicensed and the worst part? Untrained people that call themselves wedding planners, offering their services via fancy websites to unsuspected clients. What's the harm if their prices are low? A client asked me once... My answer is that it depends how important your wedding day is for you.
There are two kind of bad wedding planners, the ones that do not exist at all and those who are not just unlicensed but also do this just for the money. It happened quite a few times that the so-called wedding planners disappeared after they got a deposit from the clients and the clients could not do a thing about it, as they were not licensed so as a result there was no way to track them down via the local authorities. They were only a name and a phone number on a well designed website.
Most of the times, when the clients come to Santorini, the existed "wedding planners" go to meet the couple at the hotel they stay as they do not even have an office, so the local authorities cannot catch them work unlicensed and a few days before their wedding day, the couple cross so many unpleasant surprises that is it too late to fix it!
Most of these "wedding planners" are photographers, musicians, hairdressers that we, the trained professionals hired for their services and then, they got the bright idea to do it themselves as it looked so easy to them to do what we do on a wedding day, not knowing the hard work that takes months or even years before the actual wedding day and all the effort involved! Last but not least, we have foreigners visiting Greece with a six months visa, so they come only for the summer, making money and offering pure services and then go back home!
How easy is it to book a wedding day in Santorini?
A legal civil wedding requires the availability of the town hall's celebrant but there are many times that the client brings its one priest/ celebrant in order to have a ceremony not offered from our Greek authorities, like a Budish or Jewish wedding, and they do make their wedding legal when they go back home since their own priest/celebrant is authorized to do so. And that requires the availability of the venue.