CHERYL AND KRISTINA’S CROATIA CASTLE WEDDING

TELL US THE STORY OF HOW YOU MET

It’s a bit of a long one but will shorten it as much as possible. 
I (K) came to Dubrovnik in the summer of 2015, setting up the new entertainment department of the Radisson Sun Gardens Hotel. I received info about another department similar to ours, and that Cheryl was in charge of them. From our perspective, they were a tad unapproachable, so my team decided to befriend them, engaging them in social situations around the resort. While that was going on, C and I started communicating via email as department heads, but still never met in person.

Living in the time of the web, I googled her name, so I could recognise her around the hotel. Still, Google wasn’t overly helpful, and I just knew she was into powerlifting. I spotted one good-looking, ridiculously strong girl in the gym a few times but only after a few days, it clicked – that’s her! Parallel to my online snooping, my team was still working on warming them up, and we got the invitation to their house party!

The party was followed by another casual outing, then another, then another, all while our business chats started turning into more personal ones.

She was brilliant! Funny, intelligent, intriguing… I’ve called her Wonder Woman from the start. As our friendship grew, we pulled all-nighters partying, road tripping, researching every nook and cranny of Dubrovnik. Every moment we had – we devoted to exploration and adventures. We knew something was there, but our contracts came to an end. With her being from the UK and me moving to a different continent we parted ways one very sombre evening, thinking we would never see each other again.

We kept in touch, sharing our now separate lives until we finally openly admitted to ourselves that our connection was something extraordinary. The rest is history!

After several trips around the world, otherworldly moments together, and promises we’ll find a way to make it work, Cheryl moved to me in October 2016. 

We had our own set of challenges, no fairy tale is smooth-sailing all the way, but in the depth of it – it always felt perfect. We still devoted our time to adventures and travelling, but now creating our first “real” moments. Our first real memories, first home, first mutual friends, first foster puppy, first brunch… first everything. First anything. 
She is the most magnificent human I’ve ever met, and I will forever be grateful that we were brave enough not to give up when things got complicated. It was the best decision we’ve ever made and led us to our absolutely magical wedding day and very happy marriage.

WHAT WAS THE THEME AND INSPIRATION?

We didn’t have a set theme in mind, but we did know the following:

  • We both wanted it intimate and small, just closest friends and family.
  • We both wanted it to be outdoors.
  • We both wanted it to feature amazing Dubrovnik nature.
  • We both wanted it to be beautiful while relaxed and fun. 

Keywords ended up being: elegant, clean, modern with a historical twist.

Our locations have this unique feel about them with gorgeous sea views and greenery, so we decided to follow and compliment it. Keeping it simple, classy and green.

Some ideas came from Pinterest, Instagram and all other necessary evils, but we did use our imagination for the most part.

There was a lot of greenery, sparkling lights, candles, jewelled coloured details… Along with some personalised bits sprinkled around the venues – like the lounge area featuring a bridal lama since Cheryl wouldn’t get married without one, and a pup pencil holder representing our third family member, Cookie, who stayed at home.

Most of the items were ordered through Etsy and customised to our needs. At the same time, some were even DIYed and brought overseas in our suitcases.

The biggest help, however, was our decorator, Le Salon, who provided us with all that we needed.

She truly gave herself in, tweaking bits here and there until they all made sense and created the perfect picture. 

It was a joint effort to create a magical piece of forest right in the middle of Dubrovnik. 

Most of our suppliers were found online and chosen because a) they offered excellent services and b) if not even more important – they clicked with us and our vision.  

We knew that the day will be delicate and hectic. Hence, we needed people who didn’t need a lot of explaining, leading and urging – they just understood what we needed and were happy to provide.

Living away from our wedding location, we never managed to meet with some them or test anything out. If something was to be tested, our organisers did it for us and reported back, or we would meet briefly over Skype, and that was it.

It’s a big game of trust, but it’s true what they say – when you know you know. Luckily, it played out perfectly for us.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THE VENUE AND WHAT DID YOU LIKE ABOUT IT?

We always wanted two locations, one historical for the ceremony and one with more of a natural feel for the reception. Since we lived in Dubrovnik before, we’ve already fallen in love with a few locations which definitely helped narrow our search.

Sponza Palace (ceremony) has a stunning atrium which doesn’t need decorating to look incredible. It is one of the oldest buildings in Dubrovnik, and when we found out it can be rented out – that was it.  

Pop in a few chairs, few hand fans, so our guests don’t melt in the Croatian summer, add a touch of greenery & lights, and you’re ready to embark on the most magical walking-down-the-aisle journey.

I must mention, sounds of string instruments were incredible in those walls, and it’s a perfect size for a small wedding. 

Finding the Open Air Theatre in Dubrovnik was a pure stroke of genius from our organisers, we never knew of the location, and it was a perfect fit. Spacious yet intimate, green, and with a mesmerising view of the sea. 

Once again, we loved the location so much that we didn’t want to drown it in decorations. We stuck to wooden details (tables/chairs/photo booth), draped in a bit of decorative greenery, shaded by the sparkling lights above us and that was it. We even managed to use the cinema screen to add yet another pop of sparkling lights which looked perfect during the night.

The dance floor was a small stage in front of the screen, and it was never empty.

My favourite part was the aforementioned lounge area with lovely carpets and sofas, where we managed to display our personal items and the engagement book and world maps.  It was a place where you could sit and relax if needed, however, not many people used it since we were all too busy dancing the night away. It was still worth it since every space needs a little safe haven.

One thing worth mentioning is to choose an eye-pleasing location for the preparation portion of the day. It doesn’t seem important, but having a lovely backdrop makes a big difference when you get your pictures back and sets a positive mood for everyone from early morning.

I don’t feel like this is mandatory, and a beautiful location can mean anything from your childhood house to a luxury hotel or a rustic cabin in the woods, but make sure you and your future-spouse enjoy your surroundings.

YOUR OUTFITS

Once again – simplicity, elegance and comfort were our go-to words.

Cheryl dislikes long, elaborate dresses, so we knew from the start she would go for something different. At the same time, I had 0 clues about what kind of a dress I wanted, I just knew I didn’t want to feel like I’m wearing a costume.

Living where we live, the dresses from bridal shops were absolutely gorgeous but way out of our comfort level, so we turned to alternatives.

After a bit of searching, Cheryl found a renowned gown maker, Susanna, that loved the idea of the high-low dress she had in mind. Susanna led her through the process from initial drawings to the final details until it was just as Cheryl imagined it.

In terms of shoes, Cheryl wanted simple white pumps with a twist and found them in the Kurt Geiger store in Manchester. Well worth the trip, if I may add.  

Finishing touches included little diamond studs and a bespoke bracelet with gems representing her late grandparents that couldn’t be with us on her special day.

Same like Cheryl, I’ve decided against the traditional wedding dresses and by random luck found the perfect figure-hugging – high split – one-shoulder white dress in a boutique on the high-end side of the mall.

It was gorgeous on its own but given it was supposed to be a wedding dress I decided to play it up with a bespoke silk cape.

Once done, it was time to finish the look with classic Sergio Rossi white Plexi-pumps, a small ring, tiny studs and done!

Once the ceremony was over and we were ready to party, we have ditched our heels for Startas trainers, a true Croatian brand that allowed us to dance all night long. 

While Cheryl was running to the dance floor I have  also undone  my cape and played up the dress with the white & gold Hermes Clic Clac H bracelet for a bit of glam. 

I mustn’t forget, a big part of the outfit is the perfume. Cheryl chose the Van Cleef & Arpels – Rose Rouge & I went with the Parfums de Marly – Delina and they still bring back memories as soon as we smell them in the air. 

We ended up feeling just the way we wanted to – us, but better, ready to have the best day of our lives. 

Cheryl’s bridesmaids + MoH were dressed in the beautiful deep red wrap dresses by the Australian brand Forever New, rose gold sandals, and bespoke rose gold friendship necklaces.

Our guests were advised to dress comfortably, and as they wished, while respecting the cultural venue we would have our ceremony at.

Our best-dressed guest? A one-year-old gent sporting smart casual baby-wear.

DECORATIONS

Having such gorgeous venues helped when it came to decorations, it really didn’t need much.

We didn’t want an abundance of flowers since they end up in the bin at the end of the day, and since it was a destination wedding, all decoration had to come and leave with the decorator, so no DIY liberties (although we did take some) and that already had most things available. 

Things that keep us alive are travelling, nature, photography, and dinosaurs. Hence, we knew those would be featured in our day. How to make it all look cohesive and elegant was something we needed help with.

It was daunting, but soon our organisers recommended Le Salon. After a couple of back and forth emails, they crafted a perfect proposal depicting our vision, and they delivered everything we agreed on and more!

The majority is already described in the “Venue” portion of this document. Still, I would like to touch on the DIY since photos depict what Le Salon did way better than words.

Our DIY consisted of:

  • Me painting the kiddie dinosaur figurines at work (in full view of my colleagues who gave me their fair share of giggles) that were used as little party favours.
  • Having a sweat-shop party the day before the wedding at our hotel room assembling the party favour suitcases filled with heart candies.
  • Assembling bottled-poison party favours (poison being Coffee Patron) that were meant to be energy boosts at the end of the night, before clubbing.
  • Assembling seating place-card photos on top of the bottles. 
  • Creating and supplying the Ring Game and the Jenga Guest Book – both worked out wonderfully. 
  • Supplying the display stand for our engagement book (me asking C) and maps (C asking me).

Our organisers were kind enough to pick this DIY mashup from our hotel and deliver it to the decorator, who then incorporated and designed everything perfectly.

I feel like I’m not doing any justice describing our venues. Still, once again, that’s what the photos are for – simple, green, intimate and fun – that’s all we wanted, and we were super pleased with the results.

Oh, our wedding bouquets were gorgeous, but we lost both of them on the way from the reception venue into Dubrovnik at the end of the night – flowers are highly overrated in the wedding industry. 

CAKE

The cake was something we completely forgot about and was one of the last agreed items. Our guest already chose the desserts offered on our wedding menus, leaving the cake purely for the traditional portion of the evening – cutting it together.

Sugar & Spice made us a two-tier red velvet and lemon drizzle cake, fully wrapped in fondant (Cheryl loves it more than the cake itself), dusted with gold, and covered in red flowers.

We completely botched the cutting since we had no idea what to do but still had so much fun doing it. One of my favourite photos ended up being of us sharing a tender kiss while I’m holding a huge knife in my off-hand.

The best part of the cake? Two custom made bridal dinosaurs with their personalised veils, lipsticks, and pearl necklaces. Pure genius from the Etsy creator that now live on our TV stand. 

THE ENTERTAINMENT

Our ceremony was led by two beautiful string musicians, playing the violin and cello. They did an incredible job of learning the songs we chose for our big day: Doris Day “Dream a Little Dream of Me” for Cheryl’s entrance, Etta James “At Last” for my entrance, and then something a little bit different – Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us” for our exit. 

For our reception, however, Cheryl took the lead. She has created an oldies-themed playlist for the dinner portion of the evening filled with Frank Sinatra, Etta James, Dean Martin and Doris Day while moving the evening more towards our power ballad (C), rock (K) and a little electro (C) taste. Once the playlist was done, we needed someone who gets our vibe and is willing to work with what she has prepared.

Enter scene – Petar Ipsic. A well renowned Croatian DJ and radio host, known for his high-quality taste in music. He was recommended by so many online portals, and luckily, he said yes when we reached out with our request. He did a fantastic job reading the crowd, and all we remember of our party is jumping around the entire night having all of the fun.

We didn’t even try our cake because we were too busy dancing – and Petar is the one to “blame”. 

YOUR WEDDING PLANNER

Organising a wedding is a terrifying process. Organising a destination one is borderline impossible with our schedules, so we knew we needed help. We spoke to several companies, met with a few and in the end Yes I DU won us over. 

The two ladies we met, Martina & Maja, were highly responsive, very friendly and thoroughly professional from start to finish. They made us feel like they cared, listened to us, what we wanted, needed, didn’t want… They stuck to our budgets or communicated clearly where our budgets didn’t fit the reality, provided us with suppliers which we absolutely loved, and reassured us when stressing out. They were just there leading and supporting us from start to finish. 

All timelines were met, all obstacles were overcome and we didn’t feel a shred of worry on our day. Our job was to be there and be present, they did all the rest.

Everyone always told us to relax, that something always goes wrong and to just embrace it, but with our day nothing went wrong, or at least we didn’t noticed it. We are 100% certain that is because of them. 

TELL US ABOUT YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER

Another superb part of our wedding team – Luka from DeBotanika. We found him through one article recommending best photographers in Croatia, checked his portfolio and loved it. We scheduled a quick Skype, and that was it – he was booked.

On the day he showed up with Bruno (videographer), and they immediately started working in the background, warm, friendly yet invisible. We felt like we had a group of friends buzzing around us, capturing our moments, and nothing seemed forced or out of place.  

One of the main reasons why we chose Luka and Bruno is because we wanted to see emotions – not poses. And their portfolios made us tear up when looking at other people’s weddings. They both captured the real joy and love of everyone’s special day. 

The delivery was speedy, and the gallery was filled with a vast number of photos we genuinely loved and shared immediately with our friends and families – who loved them too. 

…AND VIDEOGRAPHER

Bruno Bilonic was in charge of videography, with reasons similar to Luka. He truly captured raw emotions, was super easy to communicate with, and had a vibe that we liked right from the start. 

Same as Luka, he was professional and invisible. A perfect videographer to have on your day but what impressed us the most is what we have received. 

Shots used, transitions, music – it is crafted in a way that continually makes us tear up, and the main comment we have while watching is “We had so much fun.”

Photographs are incredible but seeing them come to life is what makes it perfect. 

WOULD YOU HAVE ANY PIECE OF ADVICE FOR COUPLES PLANNING THEIR WEDDING?

From day one all we wanted from our wedding is for it to be an opportunity to celebrate our love and party with our loved ones. To say “I do”, look back at our guests and see people we truly loved and that loved us.  To feel as comfortable as possible, and have as much fun as possible. To be freely and unapologetically us, because how often do you get a full day of celebrations with all of your loved ones just for the two of you?

Having our family and friends around, loving everyone from our team, enjoying the food we chose, hearing all of the songs that meant something to us – that’s the important part. To us, that was all that mattered and all we remember.

Our advice list would be:

  • Don’t sweat the small stuff – I promise you won’t remember if the napkins were the right shade or if the cheese display had the right brand of brie. 
  • If it’s stressing you out to the point of tears – drop it, it’s not worth it. If you can’t drop it – take a break, it will make more sense after a few days away from planning.
  • Recognise when you need help – we don’t plan parties every day, let alone such elaborate ones, and people are more than happy to help.
  • Make sure to have a few moments together away from everyone – don’t forget this day is about both of you.

The main thing to keep in mind is that the world can burst into flames, but that’s ok if in the end you two are married and next to each other. Because it’s your wedding day, and hopefully, you will only get one of those.

TEAM

Ceremony Venue: Sponza Palace Atrium
Reception venue: Open Air Theatre Dubrovnik
Wedding planner: Yes I DU Wedding Planners
PhotographyDe Botanika Weddings
Video: Bruno Bilonic
Dress: Suzanna Bridal
Dress: Solace London
Cape: Moirai Atelier
Shoes: Kurt Geiger
Shoes: Startas
Shoes: Sergio Rossi
Accessories: Hermes / & Other Stories
Hair: Hair salon Magdalena
Make up: Katarina Dimnic MUA
Flowers & Decorations: Le Salon
Stationery: Greenvelope
Wedding website: The Knot
Cake: Sugar & Spice 
Music: DJ Petar Ipsic
Photo-booth: Polaroids & string display by Le Salon

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