a guest post by Nick Kembel
I am from Canada, but my wife is Taiwanese, and we live in Taiwan. For our wedding, we got married in neither Canada nor Taiwan. Instead, we chose to celebrate our special day on the stunning island of Santorini.
Emily had never been to Greece but had always wanted to. Greece is considered very exotic in Taiwan, and many seaside hotels in Taiwan even copy the signature white and blue Greek style of architecture. Many of these are even popular wedding destinations in Taiwan for local weddings. This can help to explain why if you visit Santorini, you may notice a high number of Asian weddings taking place.
For me, I had already been to Santorini once and found it to be the most romantic destination in all of my travels. As a solo backpacker, it was a little depressing to see so many couples on cliff-top, candlelit restaurant patios, overlooking the cobalt-blue waters of the Mediterranean sea. I vowed that next time I came back; it would be with a partner. Ideally, to celebrate our wedding.
Fast forward five years or so, and that’s exactly what we did. The decision was an easy sell to our family and friends, too, so we had no less than 45 willing attendees at what was intended to be a very small and intimate destination wedding. With a “more the merrier” attitude, I happily proceeded to make all the wedding arrangements, travel itinerary, and book accommodation for most of our guests. For some, this may sound like a nightmare, but for me, travel planning is half the fun.
At the Athens International Airport, Emily and I met my immediate family and a few best friends, all landing within a few hours of each other. Having not seen my own parents in well over a year, it seemed like a dream to suddenly be with them standing before the mighty Parthenon or dining in the shadow of the ancient Acropolis.
A few days later, we were meeting another dozen or so relatives at the airport, all boarding the same Aegean Airlines flight to Santorini. Arriving at our hotel, it was everything I expected and more. I had spent countless hours selecting the perfect hotel, and my research had paid off. We wanted something cheap enough for budget-minded friends but comfortable enough for elder family members. We wanted to be close to Fira, the island capital, but not right in it. And more than anything, we wanted it to be a small, friendly, family-run establishment.
The owners of our hotel of choice, “Hotel Thira and Apartments,” were exceptionally friendly. In many ways, they made the whole trip. From small treats left on our beds and offering us free shots of raki by the pool to providing all the information we need and even renting us cars and ATVs from their own rental shop, this family went out of their way at all times to make our stay as comfortable as possible. On the day we left, they gave us signed souvenir gifts, and I even saw tears in their eyes.
After allowing everybody a day to few days to rest and catch up with each other, I planned an afternoon gathering at a winery that may just have one of the finest views on the island: Santo Winery. After a brief tour, we indulged in sample trays various wines, cheeses, bread, and olives. I’m not usually a fan of sweeter wines, but Santorini is best known for its sweet whites, and indeed these seemed to be the best accompaniment to the gorgeous view of the sun setting over the ocean-filled Santorini caldera, with volcanic Kameni island poking out of the water right in the middle.
After that came the big day. It is such a bizarre feeling waking on the morning of your wedding. I was literally shaking from a combination of nervousness and excitement, and gazing over the lovely eastern flats of the island from my hotel balcony was the only thing that could calm my nerves.
When the time came, we went ahead, leaving Emily behind with my father. For what seemed like an eternity, I stood at the front of the open terrace of Dana Villas, the hotel I had carefully chosen for the location of our reception, with all family and friends’ eyes on me, the open expanse of the caldera behind me, and my hair blown furiously in the wind.
Suddenly there was a pause in the music and all went silent. Then our wedding song came on, of which the chorus went:
And we love you it’s a beautiful day
Thank you for the journey to this new day were we’ve been
Gifted this island we’ve been gifted this day
And we’re all here together on this beautiful day
The song was chosen to represent more than just our love. We figured that was a given. Rather, the song would forever live in our hearts as a reminder of how beautiful that day was, with all our loves ones coming together from different corners of the globe, celebrating our happiness together on one of the world’s most beautiful islands.
As the song played, my father walked Emily not down an aisle but down a classic series of steep, winding, whitewashed Santorini staircases. With her simple, white gown to match, she looked like an angel descending from heaven.
I’ll spare you the remaining details of our wedding night, but suffice to say that it was beyond perfect.
Our remaining time on Santorini was more relaxed. One day, a group of us hiked a trail from near our hotel in Fira all the way to Oia, the immensely popular “sunset village” at the northern end of the island. The views along the way were so magnificent that we had to stop frequently. It took us a whole day to get there, but it was a perfect way for my friends and family members to get to know each other.
Another day we took a full-day cruise to Kameni, the volcanic island in the middle of the crater, enjoying a chance to swim in hot spring ocean water and stopping for lunch at laid back Thirassia island, where we could dive off the docks into the clear blue water. Yet another day we rode ATVs around the island, getting away from the crowds, and also stopped for a swim at Red Beach, with its incredible martian backdrop.
Another thing that blew me away about that Greece trip was the food. The first time I visited Greece, I was on a tight backpacker’s budget and ate Souvlaki for almost every meal. This time, by spending only a little more, I found that every single meal was incredible.
All in all, our wedding on Santorini was the stuff of dreams. It was so much more than just a wedding. Our marriage offered the perfect excuse to visit one of the world’s most incredible islands. It also gave 45 of our friends and family members, many of whom had never even stepped foot in Europe, the same opportunity. It is a week that we will never forget.
This great story is part of the series Tales from Greece, where travelers share their experiences from their holidays to Greece.