A beach wedding on the Spanish coast of Marbella
10 Oct 2019
Leah Greaves married Erjon Kozeli in La Cabane, Los Monteros Hotel, Marbella, Spain
How did you meet?
We met at Covent Garden in London. We found out we went to the same university (Westminster University). He was doing a Masters and I was doing my degree.
Tell us about the proposal.
The proposal was magic. I asked Erjon if we could spend Christmas and New Year's Eve in Thailand. I used to live there as a teenager and I really wanted to show him the country. We had a beautiful Christmas dinner booked in a five-star restaurant inside a cave grotto. We had Christmas dinner on the beach at the cave and he made a speech. I knew something was up when he starting crying during the speech and then he was down on one knee.
What was the theme for the day?
We had a colour theme inspired by the south of Spain. We chose lemon and lavender as a colour scheme – this was shown in the invites and all the way through to the table décor.
What venue did you choose and why?
We chose a venue which included the requirements we had in mind. This consisted of a venue on the beach where we could have full exclusivity. We chose the venue because from the first moment we saw it, it had the exact aesthetic we were looking for. It was love at first sight.
When did you know when you’d found ‘the’ dress?
I was very lucky that the dress I chose happened to be the first dress I tried on. I tried on about eight dresses, all in different styles. However, the first dress I stepped out in was stuck in all of our heads. I tried it on again as the very last dress and when I came out my mother was in tears. That’s how I knew it was the dress. My dress was by Justin Alexander from London Bride Shop.
Does the dress match the one you originally thought you would choose?
Not at all – the dress I originally had in mind was lace embellished with jewels and the design actually made me look more mature than desired. That dress would have been better for a church wedding. The dress I chose in the end was the perfect fit for me and for the day.
What did the bridesmaids wear?
For my bridesmaids I had my close childhood friend, Alizeh, and two of my husband’s cousins, Alda and Jenny, who are also very close friends of mine. They wore beautiful chiffon dresses in a pale lilac colour from ASOS.
What did the mother of the bride wear?
My mother wore a non-traditional outfit which she suited very well. This was a short, white silk dress covered in white feathers. She wore this with a magenta purse, heels and matching nail polish. She believes your shoes should match your purse and that has always stayed with me.
Where did you find your suits?
The suits were found online at Samuel Windsor.
Did you hire a wedding planner? How did they help?
Yes, we hired a wedding planner from Sunshine Weddings Spain. The experience would have been very different without them. I think for a wedding abroad this is very helpful and if you have the budget it is worth it for the peace of mind. They helped us to secure our vendors and communicate with the venue. The most helpful aspect was that they had a schedule of the day and were managing everything. This meant we didn’t need to worry about paying or communicating with any of our vendors because they did all of this for us.
Tell us about your floral arrangements.
My vision for the flower arrangements was similar to the colour scheme. I wanted to incorporate lavender as this is typical of this area in Spain. My bouquet was a combination of lavender, lemon freesias and olive leaves. It was very bright. This balanced nicely with the altar flowers which were more neutral hues of green, white and a touch of lavender. The flowers in our centrepieces were white roses.
Tell us about the details of the day…
The details of the day were important to us especially because I did everything myself. I did not want to spend a large portion of budget on the décor or stationery. I designed my own invitations, table numbers and name cards. I cut everything by hand and lovingly packed it in my suitcase in bubble wrap.
There was such a consistency in the theme as I had carried out the colour vision I had in mind. However, our guests were also provided with miniature bottles of great quality olive oil from the region, which added a local touch.
How did you feel as you walked down the aisle?
It was the best moment of my life. The memory of seeing Erjon stood waiting for me with the sea in the background is forever imprinted in my mind. I suffer from chronic anxiety and was worried about how I would feel, but it was the most peaceful and calm moment of my life… it felt right.
How did you make the ceremony personal to you?
We had the ceremony in English and then some parts were in Spanish so that my family could understand the key moments. We were able to choose the music and opted for a classical piece we both love.
What was your most memorable moment?
The most memorable moment was when we came back from taking our couples photos on the beach and walked back in to dinner. Everyone stood up and clapped for us and one of our favourite songs was playing in the background. Seeing our family and friends support us and look so happy for us brought tears to our eyes.
What was the most challenging aspect of planning this wedding?
The most challenging part was definitely the budgeting of the wedding. This can be the cause of disagreements and it is challenging to prioritise certain things over others. More so, we differed on what was important for us – flowers for me, open bar for Erjon. We had to save up for almost two years, it was tough but it was worth every penny.
What was the most important investment for you?
The most important investment for us was the food and open bar. We had guests flying in from all over the world including Dubai, USA, Albania, France and the UK. We wanted to thank them and make it worthwhile by making sure the drinks were unlimited and the food was fantastic.
What song did you choose for your first dance, and why?
We chose At Last by Etta James. We chose this song because we used to listen to it in our very first apartment. It was a tiny bedsit loft in West London and we had nothing at the time except a bed, TV and each other. It was very meaningful for us to play this and see how much we had grown together.
Did you have any evening entertainment?
Yes, we hired a DJ – DJ Scott from Marbella – for the after party and that was a great choice. He really made the party happen and our guests danced until 4am.
Tell us about your wedding cake.
We didn’t have a cake for our wedding. We had a four-course meal with desserts, coffee, petit fours and plenty of macarons so we decided that the cake would not add value to our guests' experience. It was also a great way to cut costs.
If you could go back and change anything, what would it be?
If I could change anything, I would ask guests to arrive even earlier than they had. I had told people to arrive 30 minutes early, already anticipating some would be late. Even so, as I was about to walk down the aisle some guests had to walk through. Even when you emphasise how important it is to be on time some guests will find a way to be late.
Did anything go wrong on the day?
There were 10 guests which were late and had still not arrived by the time I was about to walk down the aisle. They filtered in during the ceremony and even though I did see it, I was too happy to care.
Was there anything you wish you’d known before?
I wish I would have known not to be so worried. I was very worried I wouldn’t be able to go through the wedding without breaking down or being overly nervous. It was actually the calmest and most serene moment I had ever experienced.
Where did you go on honeymoon?
We have not yet had our honeymoon due to our work schedule. However, we are planning to go back to Thailand where we got engaged and also spend some time in Vietnam.
Do you have any advice for couples in the planning stages?
Yes, no matter how much you try your budget will probably go over what you initially planned and you just have to roll with it. Also, do your research – a lot of venues and vendors charge more knowing that bridal couples get desperate and a lot of things can be done on your own.
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