Wedding of the Week: Hazel Alderson and Paul Rowntree

18 Jun 2018

A sun-drenched wedding on the spectacular island of Santorini was the day Hazel Alderson and Paul Rowntree had always dreamed of

How did you meet?  

Not long after I started a new sales job I received a telephone call from a friendly chef requesting an appointment to meet him to discuss possibly supplying the restaurant he worked for. Strangely, this wasn’t particularly his role at the time and he had taken on this task. A few days later I walked into the restaurant for my prospect sales meeting and this turned out to be the first encounter with my future husband. We now joke this was possibly him looking for better prices and that I definitely went the extra mile for my sales figures that month. 

I would say neither of us were looking for a relationship at that time but there is no truer saying of what is meant to be will be and that a touch of fate brought us together to meet the way in which we did. We soon became inseparable and a little over two years later, Paul got on down on one knee with the most beautiful engagement ring I had ever seen. 

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Tell us about the proposal. 

Paul had planned to take me for a romantic dinner for my birthday and propose that evening. Instead I was rushed into hospital for unexpected emergency surgery. He proposed as planned the following day (my birthday) after I hadn’t been washed in two days, had hospital socks on and I couldn’t have looked any worse. 

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What was the theme for the day, and did you have a colour scheme? 

The theme was romantic 'white flowers and  crystals’.

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What venue did you choose and why did you choose it?  

After researching ‘weddings with stunning views’, my husband and I fell love with a preview digital image of a venue called Le Ciel on the island of Santorini, before we had even had the chance to see any real wedding photographs of the venue itself. 

On this image alone we contacted the venue directly and went on a waiting list. We contacted them weekly in hope of a cancellation and were lucky enough to get our dream date booked 18 months in advance. 

We found the decision to get married abroad a very difficult one to make. We knew getting married abroad would limit the amount of guests able to attend, and for the ones that were willing to make the journey we worried about their costs and childcare. The island of Santorini is not very child-friendly so this was very difficult. However we were simply in love with the view and the venue and ultimately we knew we needed to make the decision based on what we wanted.

We traveled to Santorini the previous summer to see the venue and start the planning in person. We were hoping the island and Le Ciel was going to be everything we’d hoped for. We were not disappointed. As soon as we walked through the glass entrance doors, I knew it was the place I wanted to get married. The view was absolutely spectacular and the venue itself was modern, romantic and beautiful.

The wedding terrace is completely private and the reception room features full-length glass windows overlooking the stunning caldera view. The sunset from the venue is one of the best on the island. 

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Did you hire a wedding planner?

Yes. I was advised that to get married at Le Ciel we would need a wedding planner. I must have sent, without exaggeration, hundreds of emails to my wonderful wedding planner, Michael at Weddings Santorini.

We were soon to realise Santorini was a very boutique island and the vision he had our hearts set on was to be a very expensive one. Again we wondered if we could make this dream a reality and my husband made the decision to work an extra day per week to pay for the additional luxuries we had our hearts set on.

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When did you know when you’d found ‘the’ dress? 

Finding the perfect gown was another challenge in itself. As a curvaceous woman, all of the backless and illusion neckline dresses I had my heart set on did not suit my body shape. I came across a wedding range called Allure Women for real curves which allowed me to regain my confidence if could find my dream dress that would actually fit my body shape.

My mother begged me to try on a dress with lots of sparkle which was something I didn’t particularly want, however as soon as I could see the light reflecting off the crystals I was in love with the idea of a ‘bling’ style dress. After hunting down a bridal store in the North East of England that stocked the range, I tried on the dress and loved it despite it being in a different colour. I tried five dresses in total.

I custom ordered my Allure Bridal dress with full crystal detail on the bodice and a big and dramatic fishtail bottom. After I had found my perfect dress, I struggled to find a cathedral veil to match. Two months prior to the wedding my sister gave me a gift to open which was a hand-crafted cathedral two tier veil that she had custom-made herself. It was absolutely stunning and even more special that she had made this herself.

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What did the bridesmaids wear?

As a bridezilla, I had researched many bridesmaids' dresses and preferred a Grecian style dress to fit the wedding theme for the adult bridesmaids. After a day out trying dresses (and drinking cocktails) the bridesmaids fell in love with a Monsoon evening gown covered in crystal beading. They were perfect and they looked stunning.

The child bridesmaids were more of a challenge. We visited more than 15 stores and travelled out of the area to no avail. We custom designed them in the end with the same one shoulder style and crystal detail.

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Where did you find your suits? 

We knew from the beginning we wanted black tuxedos. We visited a few national chains, although weren't overly impressed. We chose a local suit hire store in our home town which offered excellent service and great quality.

I researched many Santorini based planners and chose Michael at Weddings Santorini as the weddings I had seen and loved the most were all weddings he had co-ordinated. Without exaggeration, I must have sent hundreds of emails to Michael and each one was answered quickly and efficiently. I gave Michael a good idea of the additional decoration and extras by sending photographs and we arranged two meetings prior to the day itself. Everything was arranged and supplied in perfect detail. He personally co-ordinated the day and the timings and we cannot recommend his services enough.

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Tell us about your floral arrangements. 

Michael, our wedding planner, put us in touch with a Santorini florist and wedding decoration company called Wedding Wish. From this point we liaised from the UK to Santorini by email and private Pinterest boards. They created various mood boards and a photographic presentation from our custom requests. The white flower and candlelight was something I had dreamed of for a very long time. We underestimated the budget needed for this amount of fresh flowers and decoration, especially on an island as boutique as Santorini which was a challenge.

The flowers were luxury white roses and hydrangeas lining the wedding gazebo and six large pillars going down each side of the aisle. The table centrepieces were tall silver candelabras with the same white roses and hydrangeas placed on a mirror with hanging crystals. They transformed the wedding ceremony area into a fairytale. Worth every penny.

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Often the aspect that makes a wedding original to the couple is the detail – tell us about the details of the day.

The wedding detail consisted of luxury custom floral arrangements, tall storm lanterns, groups of smaller lanterns and table candles for the romantic candlelight theme. We also has crystal brooches added to the menu and seating cards to add a touch of sparkle. We had a kids corner designed with floor mats, crayons, candies and white pom poms. For our wedding favours we decided to throw a free bar day and night… the guests seemed to thoroughly enjoy this. 

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How did you feel as you walked down the aisle? 

Phew… he’s here! In all seriousness, it was the best moment of my life seeing Paul's smile as I walked towards him. We went through a lot of challenges to get to that very point. It was very emotional.

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How did you make the ceremony personal to you?

Two very close friends read two beautiful readings during the ceremony. They were so emotional and there were lots of tears.

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What was your most memorable moment?  

We had our cake cutting outside as the sun was going down over one of the most beautiful views in the world. This followed into our first dance outside on the terrace with six fountain fireworks going off alongside all the guests waving sparklers. It was the most amazing moment and we will never forget it.

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What was the most challenging aspect of planning this wedding? 

Finding the money. We fell in love with a dream wedding with no real idea of how expensive getting married in Santorini would be. My husband decided to work an additional day per week to pay for the luxury extras such as the flower decoration. Worrying about family and friends also being able to afford the trip/take time away from work, leave children/bring children to be able to attend was very difficult. From all our loved ones making this effort, they simply made our dreams come true and we will be forever grateful. 

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What was the most important investment for you?

We opted for a fully inclusive drinks package for all of the guests. We felt as our nearest and dearest had travelled all the way to Santorini from far and wide we wanted to our guests to enjoy drinks of their choice all day without the worry of cost. My husband is also a chef so he designed the menu which was delicious with most guests commenting on how amazing the food was.

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What song did you choose for your first dance, and why?  

Use Somebody by Laura Jansen. It's a special song to us and the Laura Jansen version is really slow and romantic. Paul did cringe his way through all 3.25 minutes of it, however.

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Did you have any evening entertainment? 

We had Greek style plate smashing to get the party started and then an in-house DJ for lots of dancing. It was a great night and went far too quickly.

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Tell us about your wedding cake.  

The wedding cake was in the shape of a Greek church with the white and blue icing. It was very fitting and very delicious.

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If you could go back and change anything, what would it be? 

I would have not worried so much beforehand on the little details. The day went so fast I wish I had relaxed more during the morning and afternoon and taken more of it in at the time.

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Did anything go wrong on the day? 

My daughter and maid of honour threw up all of the night before and morning of the wedding, so while I was trying to get ready I was literally emptying sick bags from the bathroom. It goes to show that it doesn't matter if it's your wedding day or not... children will be children. Luckily she was fine by the time the wedding started.

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Was there anything you wish you’d known before? 

Always read the small print. It seems simple but we were stung with large VAT bills that we thought were included in the original quote.

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Where did you go on honeymoon? 

We stayed in Santorini for another week after the wedding. The grandparents kindly flew the children home after one week so we could have an extra week in an adults only hotel. It was amazing.

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Do you have any advice for couples in the planning stages?  

Join some bride or wedding forums for advice on your particular location or venue. You will learn a lot from other couples' honest advice.

Steal their style:

Venue: Le Ciel, Santorini, www.leciel-santorini.com
Wedding planning: Weddings Santorini, www.weddings-in-santorini.com
Photography and videography: Phosart Photography Cinematography, http://photographergreece.com/en/
Floristry and decorations: Wedding Wish Santorini, www.weddingwish.gr

Click here for more destination wedding inspiration or for more real wedding inspiration pick up the latest edition of Bride magazine.

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