Where: Martinis Marchi, Maslinica, island of ?olta (Croatia)
Theme: Pool Party
Photographer: Friends of the Happy Couple
Rugby journalist Nick had just finished working at the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand in 2011 when a message exchange led to a first date with digital strategist Tom, in the famous Bedford pub in Balham. A love of dogs, music and family bonded them over five and a half years, and in 2017, they married on the rustic island of Solta near Split in Croatia in 2017.
I'd always assumed I'd be the one to propose to Tom, but in April 2016, we scaled the Yosemite Falls in California during a holiday and it was Tom who popped the question; it was a huge surprise - I was completely taken aback. But, of course, I said 'yes'!
Why a Destination Wedding?
We wanted to have a foreign wedding as we'd been to a couple of them ourselves and preferred them. Although it is asking a little more of your guests (in our case, 84 of them), you get so much more time to hang out with them than you do solely for the day itself, so it spreads out the fun. In our case, we had lunches in the days leading up to our wedding and a big meal for everyone on the Friday evening, which was exactly what we wanted. All our guests took it as a holiday and were with us for at least 2-3 days, which made them so relaxed and ready to have a great time with each other at our wedding.
We shortlisted Ireland and France as potential locations but with Brexit on the horizon, we opted to look outside of the Euro-zone and everyone had been raving about the beauty of Croatia in recent years, so we turned a holiday there into a venue recce and discovered the incredible Martinis Marchi hotel. It's in Maslinica, a tiny village on the island of Solta, just across the water from Split. Initially we thought it would be way out of our price bracket. But unlike many UK venues, it does not have a separate venue hire cost; you hire out all seven room of the rustic, stunning boutique hotel and restored castle and it's yours for the weekend.
We liaised directly with the venue manager, which meant we didn't need a wedding planner, and they incorporated everything we wanted. In fact, they provided such superb service to us and our guests that we cannot recommend them highly enough. We think every wedding we go to now should finish with a five hour pool party, like ours did!
Our friend Emma is a theatre and graphic designer, and a former Olympic opening ceremony designer, so we were able to call on her skills to produce a simple rustic theme that coursed through from our invites to the decor on the day.
The venue is so beautiful, we knew we didn't need to overdo the decoration. We got hold of some fabric bunting and Emma created some paper tissue pom-poms (which also made the transporting of the decoration pretty lightweight) and ribbons. Once on the island, we gathered some local olive branches and lavender to make simple table pieces to augment the rustic feel, and added personalised two-line biographies of each guest on every table to give it an extra-personal touch. Plus it helped as an ice breaker, too!
The celebrant to our self-penned spiritual ceremony was a good friend, whom Nick had known since school. It was a short service, made all the more perfect by the intimate garden setting under clear blue skies. We chose two readings by AA Milne from Winnie The Pooh. We loved them both and because everyone's advice was, 'do what YOU want!', we had no problem in doubling up from the same author. They were read by Tom's Nana and my brother.
We then had reception drinks in the hotel grounds, right by the harbourside.
Food & Drink
Who leaves a wedding discussing the food? Not many people, so we dont think it's worth putting on high-end food at your wedding. It's largely soaking up the booze for most people...! We had a BBQ buffet dinner which was perfect as it allowed people to serve themselves whatever they wanted. Alongside the meats and fish, there were some incredible salads and side dishes and it was all delicious. We didn't bother with a wedding cake as to us, this is another set piece bit of fuss that we could do without.
Tom, however, did have a cake. He's gluten and dairy free, and the hotel chef made it specially for him. He was suitably impressed!
Pool Party Reception
Then came our party - a five-hour pool party which stretched into the small hours. The hotel's pool is located in a stunning inner quadrangle; we had inflatable unicorns, live music, disco lighting and a DJ, and served our favourite espresso martini cocktails.
I'm a DJ and Tom is heavily into his music, so choosing one song seemed silly. And that awkward moment where people are watching you dance just seems a bit weird to us, so we did away with the first dance.
We pre-DJ'd two hours of tunes, I played my own 45 minute set and a friend also did an hour. Everyone danced from the first tune to the last - in between jumping in and out of the pool in their pool party outfits. It was an evening we will never forget and one which many of our guests said will be difficult to surpass!
Best Day Ever
We told ourselves that nothing goes perfectly and not to set our expectations so high that anything negative could disappoint us. We need not have worried. The day was beyond perfect and we both want to go back and do it all again. The service from Martinis Marchi and their staff was five star. They were incredible. Unlike some hotels that charge room prices and then a separate venue hire fee, the all-in nature of booking the venue meant it was competitively priced to doing a do-it-yourself wedding in a barn in the UK, for example. It meant that our guests had an absolute ball and so did we, because we also had the time before and after the day to enjoy their company. Many said it was the best wedding they'd ever been to, which was incredible to hear.
As a couple, you know what you want or at least you soon find out. Now this might sound a little cold or business like but we wanted to focus on the 'customer experience' that our guests would have and this is definitely worth doing. Would any of the day drag? Were guests well informed as to what was happening and kept fed and watered all day? Sometimes little ideas like wedding favours can seem nice but might be entirely unnecessary or not augment the day for your guests that much. We wrote little two line biogs of every guest that was put on every table. It cost nothing but the thought made everyone feel so appreciated plus it served as a good icebreaker to those who didn't know each other. One last bit of advice would be to always leave a decent bit of time between any set piece moments if it requires moving your crowd of guests people wrangling can take 10-15 minutes each time, even if just from a garden to a marquee or similar.