Celebrations in Crete
Gemma and David’s barefoot wedding on a sandy Greek beach
Gemma Coyle and David Armstrong from Harlow in Essex were workmates when cupid’s arrow struck them both, and both admit it was definitely love at first sight. After David’s romantic proposal during a holiday in Crete, the couple decided to head back to their favourite Greek Island to become Man and Wife.
Finding ‘the one’
We met at work – I work for a housing association maintenance company and David was one of my heating engineers. I used to plan his day-to-day workload. It was love at first sight – we knew each other about a year before we become official, but both felt something on that first day we met in the kitchen at work. David even talked about that day in his wedding speech, which had our guests in fits of laughter.
David proposed on holiday in Crete. It was the second night of our holiday and we had finished dinner when we decided to have a stroll around the hotel grounds. The hotel had a cave that you could walk through, so we went to explore. It was at this point David asked if I trusted him, “of course” I said and he asked me to close my eyes. I half expected him to run away and hide as we were in a dimly lit cave, but instead he asked me to open my eyes and he was down on one knee holding a ring. He said a beautiful speech, even remembering the number of days we have been together, before asking me to marry him. It was totally unexpected – I didn’t even say yes! All I answered was “Are you serious?” I was in such shock I didn’t think it was real. He stood up shaking with nerves and cuddled me and said “Gem, you still haven’t said yes!” to which I replied “Of course, Yes!”.
David wanted to get married abroad, and I love being on holiday, it’s when I’m most relaxed, so we agreed that a wedding abroad was our best option as long as we could still invite all of our close friends and family as we knew we wanted to be surrounded by those we loved. As David had proposed in Crete so it seemed only right to go back there, we did look at other areas in Greece but we absolutely loved our holiday to Crete and the locals we have met there are so welcoming and friendly.
We used the wedding planning services of a company call the Bridal Consultant, we found them online and they helped us the whole way through. I mainly dealt with a lady called Lisa from the Bridal Consultant who was absolutely brilliant. Everything was explained, she was always there to help and make sure all our legal documents were covered. I would highly recommend them.
We booked our trip through Thomas Cook; they were helpful on booking and researching hotels next to the location where we would get married.
Everything was planned before we left for Crete. We met our Wedding planner out in Crete a few days before the wedding to go through every detail and to see our venue. We put all our trust into Lisa and her team for us to marry in an area we had never actually seen and had arranged everything via email, but wow! They really did prove themselves!
Including Dave and I there were 55 Adults and seven infants who travelled out to Crete for our wedding. About 40 of our guests stayed with us at White Palace Grecotel Luxury Resort, the others were in different hotels and apartments across the island. Pretty much all of our guests accepted the invitation. A few guests with children left the little ones at home with family as it was during school term. Other than that there were only two guests invited that couldn’t make it.
Getting the look
I was actually quite nervous about trying on dresses, even to the point of making sure I had full make-up, hair curled and a manicure and pedicure so I looked perfect in the dresses. I had been looking online and seen a dress by Essence of Australia and liked their style. I was having a beach wedding so wanted something sheath that just flowed. The dress I had chosen was actually called ‘The Beach Dress’ and I found a shop in Colchester called The Wedding Shop who stocked Essence of Australia, including the dress I liked. I tried it on and it fitted perfectly and was absolutely perfect for our style of wedding – being barefoot on the beach! My parents bought my Swarovski earrings for me – they were the perfect match to my pear drop engagement ring. David also bought me a beautiful Pandora diamante bracelet, which he gave me on the morning of the wedding – that was an extra special surprise. My hair and make-up was done by Michalis Tsotras, arranged though the wedding planners, and I didn’t meet him until the day of the wedding. He was nice, friendly and so talented.
Something old, something new
I was given my Great Auntie’s gold wedding ring to wear as my Something Old and Borrowed – she passed away last year but had such a long, happy marriage, and it was an honour to wear it and to hope to have a life like both of them. My Maid of Honour had bought me a blue Swarovski crystal with a sixpence and a little silver heart, this was my something blue which I tied to the inside of my dress and wore it all day. My dress was my Something New.
Groom & bridesmaids
David wore a 3-piece suit from Next. We were looking for a light tan, beige colour, which proved very difficult as we were buying during the winter season. Luckily we found one, which was the exact match to what we wanted. He wore light brown boat shoes, a white shirt and a light cream tie. The Groomsmen wore the same but they only had waistcoats without the blazer and pink ties to match the bridesmaid’s dresses.
The bridesmaids wore long, dusty pink dresses from Debenhams. We bought multi-way dresses so they could pick a style that suited their shape, which they loved. The best part of it was that throughout the day they kept changing the way they were wearing them. They all had their own style and were also bare foot. As a gift I bought them earrings and matching bracelets, designed and hand-made by Alice Jewellery.
Our theme was ‘holiday’; our wedding invites were made to look like flight tickets and we just wanted it to be a great party and everyone to have fun. To me, when on holiday everything is just so easy-going and fun. For my flowers I had pink roses, daisies and gypsophila. The bridesmaids had gypsophila with pink roses. For my cake, I loved the idea of cupcakes, so we had them with a top tier where we had a clay Bride and Groom made to look like us. It’s a nice keepsake and always makes me smile as I think they look funny.
The ceremony took place in a beautiful location on the beach in Rethymno. It lasted 20 minutes, and we had two friends who did readings for us also to make the service personal. We were married by the Mayor but we also had a translator, so after each sentence spoken in Greek by the Mayor, the translator would repeat it in English. My dad walked me down the aisle and gave me away.
The reception was next to the Rethymno Beach, in a garden area behind the Minos Mare Royale Hotel. We had various hot and cold appetizers, breads and salads, followed by a mix grill for mains and for dessert we had seasonal fruits and traditional Greek sweets – all I remember is more and more food being brought to the table, and all our guests saying how lovely it was. There was enough to feed us for the week! Our table names were Greek Gods and Goddesses – the head table, of course, was Hera, Goddess of Marriage. As favours, all the ladies had handmade bracelets by our friends company @alicejewelleryuk, made with real chip stones. We also had a Message in the Bottle where guests could write us a little note and pop it into a glass bottle; we will open this on our first anniversary. I used a suitcase, which we had lined and decorated on the inside, for our guests to put cards inside.
We danced to the song Lucky by Jason Mraz and Colbie Caillat. It’s a beautiful song where they sing to each other, and there is one line in the song “I’m lucky I’m in love with my best friend” and that’s true for us. We had two DJ’s for the night who were brilliant; even they were enjoying the party. Our friends got on the microphone, and at one point the DJ’s were even recording us all dancing after we were going crazy for certain songs.
We had a video, a short feature clip and also all of our photos taken by Hanna Monika Wedding Photography – they are a Husband and wife team and spent all day with us snapping away at every opportunity.
My best memory is walking down the aisle, David and I had stayed in separate rooms the night before, I hadn’t slept much and I just couldn’t wait to see him and officially call him my Husband. It had felt like such a long wait all day and I just wanted to start our new life as Mr and Mrs. One of my funniest memories is, David will hate me for saying this, but yes he stripped down to his boxers on the dance floor! We have photo evidence!!!
David and I spent 11 nights in Crete in total with my parents. Our guest’s stayed for 7 nights and shared the holiday with us, but had different flights – it was more like a group holiday than a honeymoon. It was so lovely to see everyone getting on so well. We have decided to have our honeymoon, just the two of us in Thailand, on our first wedding anniversary.
David and I believe that we got a lot for our money. To have everything that we had at home in England would have cost a lot more, but at the same time we didn’t hold back, the guests that stayed at our hotel had travel provided and we had an open bar at the wedding, which was more of a thank you for everyone coming all that way to be there.
Lisa at The Bridal Consultant
Rethymno Beach, Crete
White Palace Grecotel
Hanna Monika Wedding Photography