Monday mornings are the perfect time for inspiration, so it’s a good job we have this exceptionally stunning location wedding to share with you all this morning! Croatia is fast become the jet-set capital of 2017, attracting couples and young dreamers with its picturesque island beauty, crystal clear waters and explosive international music festivals. Emma and Benedikt actually met at the world renowned Love International festival in Garden Tisno and exchanged their vows on the neighbouring island of Hvar. Blooming with the aromatic fragrance of lavender, rosemary and olives, the location of this wedding drew the couple in at first sight. The surrounding beauty inspired the colour scheme and the food offering was made up of authentic Croatian cuisine. Together with their wedding planner, Adriatic Weddings Croatia, this flawless bride created a dream destination wedding for their family and friends. Captured by the effortlessly talented Forever Photography, this couple will inspire you to pack your suitcases and start your venue hunt abroad. With the sun, chilled Mediterranean vibes and the retro setting of Bonj Les Bans Beach Club, it couldn’t have been any more perfect. Here’s bride Emily to tell you about her destination festival wedding….

We went for a two year engagement, as we knew we wanted a destination wedding and wanted to give people plenty of time to save the date. We also wanted to give ourselves plenty of time to enjoy being engaged – we’re young, there was no rush. Having a destination wedding is what truly made our wedding so special. It was the days that led up it, with people trickling in from all over the world, everyone in a “holiday mood”, and they’re all there for you, to celebrate your love. Spending the money was worth it. It wasn’t cheap, but we would do it the same way again in a heartbeat.

Proposal after a night of festival dancing

Benedikt proposed at a festival in Tisno, Croatia. It was the tenth and final year of the garden festival, and our first time visiting Croatia together. He’d been thinking about proposing for a few months, and because we’re both into concerts and festivals he chose this as the right time to do it.  He proposed when we came home at 6am from a day and night of dancing, he wanted to lure me outside on the balcony of our rented apartment to ask, so he said something about checking the view of the sunrise. We got outside and he got down on one knee to ask, neither of us remembers what he said, but it was probably something like how he still wants us to be dancing together when we’re old. He had a substitute ring instead of the real thing, because of my terrible habit of losing things, and he didn’t trust me at a festival with a real diamond! It was a really festive and happy couple of days celebrating with our good friends and receiving warm wishes from the other festival goers as well. We visited Benedikt’s family in Austria after the Croatia trip, and there he presented the real engagement ring (which I still didn’t lose!).

Anna Campbell Bridal Gown

My dress was by Anna Campbell. I met up with a bridesmaid in Madrid to try on dresses with her, and this was the dress that made me cry. I ended up buying it from the Anna Campbell in Australia directly, and they shipped it overseas to me. I then used a really talented seamstress (Susanna Rachel) in Dubai to help me make adjustments, and make extra bits so the dress was more for me. I cut the train off of the original design, and made a big detachable skirt to wear instead. The skirt was perfect for the feeling of the wedding and the photos, but being able to take it off and dance freely after dinner was awesome

My shoes were from Nikolas Kirkwood and I didn’t have any other accessories. The only addition was hair extensions to achieve the messy bun look I wanted. I’d never worn hair extensions before, so that was a pretty interesting experience. I ended up sleeping with my hairdo still in place, and Benedikt helped me remove the extensions and all the hairpins in the morning. I wore earrings and necklace from my husband, just general jewellery from anniversaries and special occasions over the years. I also wore pearl earrings from my mother in law, and a pearl and diamonti bracelet from my mum. As much as we could, we tried to have triangles weaved into the wedding (we both have matching tattoos of an isosceles triangle, it’s kind of our “thing”). A very patient lady at the nail salon painted really subtle triangles on a few choice fingernails for my wedding manicure.

Wild Rosemary and Olive Groves

We picked Croatia because when we were at the festival we noticed wild rosemary growing everywhere, and we’d been dancing in an olive grove, at the waters edge, watching the water reflecting the sunlight from the cloudless skies. With this in mind we began looking up weddings in Croatia, and reaching out to wedding planners. We first saw the venues Sveti Marak and Fort George on Pinterest, at this stage we liked both, so we started planning another trip to Croatia to visit the islands of Hvar and Vis off the coast of Split, and check the venues for ourselves. In the end we decided to go with Sveti Marak, we couldn’t even see the inside courtyard, but peaking through the front gate was enough for us to know it was the perfect place. We’d fallen for the island of Hvar, it was a better location, it was better for the travel we were asking of our guests, and because we’d also started communicating with Tamara from Adriatic Weddings Croatia we knew we wanted her to help plan our wedding with us.

We remembered how aromatic and energising it was; naturally growing rosemary, lavender, and olives everywhere! We designed a colour palette with this in mind, and based all of our decisions about the wedding using the palette. It was also important to us to maximise our reliance on the existing and natural resources, using these herbs and flowers to decorate, giving everyone traditional foods made with local ingredients, offering local wines and beers. We were so happy to have an excuse to go back to Croatia again for our wedding: the food is amazing, the people are nice, the weather is great, the festival is fun, and the natural beauty of the islands is more than either of us know how to describe.

The Ceremony….

Because we’d already done a legal wedding, this was purely ceremonial, which allowed us to be a bit more creative! We actually designed our own ceremony. Three main points that were important to us were that we wanted to close our eyes and soak in the moment. We also surprised each other with our own vows – we made a structure and agreed on an ending that we would each say the same, the rest we wrote individually. We asked the Maid Of Honor to review and edit our vows for consistency, then designed a certificate to print the vows on, which we signed at the end of our ceremony as a reminder of what we’d promised to each other.

We hired white chairs to place in the courtyard, and tied bunches of olive leaves on the aisle chairs. There were also two pedestals with a massive vase of flowers to frame us in the centre, and otherwise we let the venue speak for itself.

Indie Inspired playlist for the procession!

The bridal procession was an acoustic version of Skinny Love, by Bon Iver. When we walked back down the aisle as husband and wife, we played Only One, by John Butler Trio. Benedikt also created a playlist for after the ceremony, to play as we took pictures and guests mingled with glasses of Prosecco. The whole thing was an Indie inspired playlist; iron & wine, Phoenix, realestate, Mac de Marco etc

Tailored groomsmen and bridesmaids

We had to be in the colour scheme of the wedding and keep it cool for summer, so we picked the material and got the suits tailored. All the groomsmen wore only the vest, and the groom wore vest and jacket. We picked lavender in the boutonnieres.

We ordered the bridesmaids dresses online from a US store called Lulus and shipped to each girl (they all live in different countries!). They then had to get them tailored for length individually, and pick out shoes and accessories to go with it based on their personal style. We let them wear whatever shoes and jewellery they wanted. They also got to decide how they wanted their hair done, and helped each other doing their makeup.

Relaxed messy bohemian Bun

We girls had professionals to come and do our hair (including mothers). Everyone did whatever style they wanted. I went for a messy bun up-do kind of thing. We also had a good friend at the wedding as a guest, who is a professional hairdresser, so he did all the guys hair for them. I had my make-up professionally done, super natural, with eyelash extensions. Overall the look was supposed to be reasonably subtle, and long lasting (to survive the temperature of the afternoon sun).

Effortlessly talented photographer

We were lucky to get Forever Photography Studio to fly a day early to Croatia just so they could be at our wedding. They captured us, our friends & family, and the many characteristics of our wedding location perfectly. Jona is effortlessly calm & professional, able to balance giving instruction against capturing completely natural moments, with a magical spontaneous eye for locations & poses that turned out so well. She was so knowledgeable as well, often on the day we were asking her what to do and she had great snippets of advise and plenty of helpful tips to share. Whilst Jona was capturing the two of us, Jerry was getting amazing photos at the reception. We feel like we didn’t get to spend as much time with him, but our guests loved him and loved the way he encouraged them all to get together for great photos. We will never forget how beautiful our wedding day was thanks to their skill behind the lens.

Our videographers, A Video By Studio, were really cool guys too. They actually didn’t speak a lot of English, but somehow still directed us and worked really well with the photographers. On the day that they were very unobtrusive, and must have been capturing a lot of natural moments – we’re super excited to see the video!

Rustic Mediterranean Beach Club Celebration

We were kind of aiming for a beach wedding, but we still wanted to offer convenient and civilised facilities. We also had it in our minds that the venues should be naturally beautiful, and quite Mediterranean rustic. The ceremony was held in Sveti Marak, an old church in the centre of Hvar old town. At the time when we chose it, we’d been warned that due to its age and condition it might have been under restorative renovations in the summer of 2017, but luckily for us the restoration was postponed to 2018 and we were fortunate enough to be able to rent it for the day of our wedding.

The reception was held at Bonj Les Bans Beach Club, around a 7 – 10 minute walk along the water from Sveti Marak. Designed in the late 1920’s, it’s a cool retro-Mediterranean beach club, with upstairs for cocktails and dancing, and downstairs for sit-down dinner. It was a bit of a more luxurious and white stylised venue than the “rustic” image we had in our minds, but we tried to decorate it with as many touches as we could to balance out our desires with the style of the place.

DIY Craft Stationary

We made our own digital save the dates which we emailed out to everyone about a year and a half beforehand. Then we found a designer on a website called Minted, and asked her to do the invitations. We also signed up on Squarespace  and made a wedding website!

We designed and printed a schedule of the wedding day & the boat day which we handed out at the dinner the night before. We designed and printed the name/place tags ourselves, and threaded them with twine to tie around the napkins with a sprig of rosemary. We bought small blank paged books from a craft store, and designed cover artworks and inner pages. Benedikt helped me glue the covers and inner pages onto each book, and we then wrapped the spines in twine. We used these as our guest books.

Natural textures and rustic styling

It was really difficult to do more of our own DIY stuff from abroad, as there was only so much space (and weight) that we could travel with to Croatia! We found a lot of mini chalk board catering plaques, which we used to label all the different options for the drink condiments, and bought these over in our suitcases for Tamara and the team to set up. We like candles so much more than flowers, so there were a lot of lanterns and candle vases at the reception which were a great touch. Based on what we’d shown Tamara on our wedding Pinterest board as well, we agreed that to make Bonj Les Bans a bit more rustic we needed to have a lot of natural textures, and Tamara did a really great job of presenting all the food and drinks in ways that did this: lots of barrels and crates, rounds of chopped logs, vases of dried grass, old farm tools, hessian and twine. All of these little touches, with the candlelight and fairy lights flickering and off their different textured surfaces was the best way to warm up the very ‘white’ venue. Our flowers were inspired by our colour scheme: olive leaves, rosemary and lavender. We put an off white and a dusty peach colour in our scheme to balance out the greens against the purple, so we ended up with a fair amount of roses to do that. Otherwise the florist used a lot of what was naturally occurring to decorate everything. We made sure to use a lot of hessian, wood, and multi-coloured mini vases and jars to highlight the colours as well.

Croatian Cuisine

We wanted to have a mix of buffet finger food, and then sharing plates on the table for main courses. It was important to us that we offered everyone a taste of proper local Croatian cuisine; imagine lots of different ham & cheese platters, different kinds of gnocchi and pasta, lots of olives and accompaniments, grilled lamb and fresh fish.  We also had a midnight snack to keep our guests energy levels up (and hangovers down).

The wedding cake fell on floor….

We had a very basic single level lemon cake with cream cheese icing, and a few sprigs of rosemary to decorate it. In the end, our cake fell on it’s way out to us for the cake cutting, and this was beyond any shadow of a doubt the funniest moment of the wedding. We laughed so much, and after the shock of what had happened, our wedding planner snapped into action – she ran to the dessert buffet, grabbed a square of chocolate brownie and put it in front of us, handed us the giant cake knife and said “here, cut this!”. We still laugh, and in the end it’s something we remember very clearly out of the blur of everything else that happened that day!

Fun photo booth and an invitation to Croatia’s Love International

Since it was a destination wedding, we organised events over three days, we felt we had to offer more than just one day because people came from so far away. We had a dinner the night before, for everyone to get to know one another. Then there was the wedding, and a boat trip the next day

For all the dancing, we got a bunch of Photo Booth props for everyone to play with, which were a big hit! We also had bubbles for the first dance, & sparklers for the last dance. In the end this was really nice, because people had fun using them, and they were doing something other than just standing around us as we danced (we’re not very good dancers), so in the photos everyone is doing something, which looks really good.

Another main aspect of our wedding, was that afterwards we’d invited whoever wanted to join us going to Love International in Tisno, as the “part one” of our honeymoon. After we’d got engaged there, we knew we wanted to come back again – so the year after, when we were in Croatia to check the wedding venues we returned to the festival (now re-launched as “Love International”). We had such a good time!

First dance was an entire family affair

Our first dance was to ‘Baby I’m Yours’, by the Arctic Monkeys. We wanted something alternative, and when we listened to their cover of this song we loved it. We also did a father daughter dance, it was supposed to be to a cover version of ‘Sweet Child of Mine’, but the DJ accidentally ended up playing the original by Guns & Roses… At first we were completely shocked, but we kept dancing and took it in our stride! Benedikt and his mum also had a first dance together to ‘You Are The Best Thing’, by Ray La Montagne. We have a lot of favourite moments, but Benedikt says his favourite ‘favourite’ is when I walked down the aisle, and I agree, I was a bundle of nerves, and then I lay eyes on him and I was fine.

Any Advice?

Don’t get sick, take lots of vitamins and eat healthy leading up to the wedding. Get a wedding planner so that you don’t have to stress about any details on the day. Don’t build up your expectations as things go wrong during the day and you need to not be bothered about any of it – just enjoy and laugh and make the best of everything that happens. And hire Forever Photography! (or any other great photographer). The photography is actually a big part of the whole day and we think it’s important to have someone that you get along with, who makes you feel assured and comfortable.

The Line Up

Venue: Bonj Les Bans Beach Club
Wedding dress: Anna Campbell
Seamstress: Susanna Rachel
Wedding Shoes: Nikolas Kirkwood
Invitations: Minted
Florist: Floranita
Website: Squarespace 
Bridesmaids dresses: Lulus  
Groom & Groomsmen cufflinks: Etsy
Planner: Adriatic Weddings Croatia
Video: A Video By Studio
Photography: Forever Photography Studio 
Hair & Makeup: JL STYLE Beauty Agency



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