Thursday, July 21, 2011

Real Weddings Bride Australia: Wedding of Rowena and Mowgli

It is with great pride, joy and excitement I present you this week's blog post. Not only clients, but 2 people who became very dear friends to us over the 2 year wedding planning period, Rowena and Mowgli, who got married June 19th 2010 got their wedding featured in the Destination weddings section of the world known Brides magazine in Australia. Thank you so much guys, it reminds us of the beautiful times we had....
And here comes the story.... I hope you enjoy it :)

Destination Bride’s Diary / My Croatian Island Wedding / Bride, Beach, Beyond
My magical island wedding in Croatia, Europe’s newest holiday hotspot.

It might not seem like an obvious destination to tie the knot, but we knew the minute the idea of Croatia came up, that it was the right place for us.

Who? Mowgli Frere & Rowena Carr-Allinson
Where? 19 June 2010, Hotel Sipan, Sipan Island near Dubrovnik, Croatia

Mowgli and I had been together ten years when he proposed on a trip in Oman. With his being French, and me English, we’d been to a fair few weddings in England and in France, so we were on the lookout for something really different.

Why Croatia? Why not! We were visiting Zagreb and it seemed like a great idea over a glass of Ožujsko beer, so we set about organising it. We thought: they have lovely weather, nice wine and great food – what more could you want for the perfect wedding location?

For two years, we explored the Dalmatian coast, searching high and low for the right spot until we came across the island of Sipan, with its teeny, tiny beach and its perfectly sized hotel. We wanted something simple, beautiful and private. The rest was icing.


A destination wedding challenge

I knew planning a destination wedding wasn’t going to be easy. As well as the language barrier, logistics and the sheer distance, there were other things to get to grips with, like the Croatian way of doing things. Sometimes when everything is ‘fine’ but nothing is actually tried out, it does get a little worrying!

Although we had a clear vision in our minds, we’d have to wait to see if it would all pan out according to plan.

First Things First…

My first step was to find help on the spot, in the shape of the lovely Ines Nanic who runs Dubrovnik Events (, tel +385 98 599 030). A wedding planner with years of experience, we met and instantly became friends.

Her and husband Marin, were our eyes and ears on the ground, and helped us with every little thing. They did everything from visiting locations, taking pictures and getting quotes to booking our suppliers. They introduced us to the fabulous 
Kristina Skvrce for our flowers, they organised sofa, cocktail tables and oil lamps hire and transport, and also advised us to book Ivan, the DJ who kept us dancing all night! They even arranged for thelegal paperwork to be done ahead of the wedding and sweet talked the registrar into performing the ceremony on the beach.

There is no way we could have done it without them. Although, on the day, we did because Ines had her baby son 24 hours before! Luckily for us, Marin was a total pro, coming to help with the final preparations!


The complex logistics meant the idea of traditional invitations didn’t work for us, and we opted for a practical website about what became known as ‘Le Wedding.’ As Mowgli designs them, we were able to have a great looking site with all the necessary info from flights from Geneva, Paris and London to hotel options, activities and other useful details like wedding lists, dress codes etc! To keep everyone up to date, we also sent out regular email newsletters and we soon had most of our guests’ bookings confirmed, which really helped with organising!

The Essentials

We got Mowgli’s fantastic Hackett suit in Paris and my mother spoiled me with a beautiful Spose Di Gio dress in london. Because it’s made to measure I arranged to come back for final fittings a couple of months before Le Wedding. We also met our wonderful photographer, Sam Bowen (, Tel:
07855 794461)and started paperwork proceedings, ordering birth certificates etc.

I hate to admit it, but I learnt how to work a spreadsheet – something I really thought would never happen!

I ran one for the budget, including all the decorations and food & beverages. I ran one for flight times & arrivals for guest transport and with Ines and the staff at the Hotel Sipan, we had another for room bookings. Tanja on reception did a fantastic job of allocating rooms to singles, couples, families etc – it was mind boggling!


Long Distance Décor
Decorations on a budget are hard to come by in Croatia so Ines advised me to bring as much as possible with me.

We duly ordered everything ahead. My favourite items were bunting I had made (having found the fabric in the US), lovely ribbons, and hearts, one made from rosebuds, the other twigs, as well as a gorgeous personalised lime green heart from the brilliant I also got lovely white paper ‘lace’ bunting and cute heart print jam jar style candleholders from the too. And, of course we made as a few trips to Ikea!

My sister in law, Eve, and friend, Kim, who both travelled from America were great, packing bits and pieces in their suitcases, like glow-in-the-dark bracelets, pink fans, personalised coasters and fuchsia silk gerberas. My mother also brought my parasol, dried petals and the kids’ gift bags while bridesmaids also had stuff stashed away. A real joint effort.
We had to think of absolutely everything. Being on an island meant no last minute dash to the shops !


A week before…

We decided to head to Sipan, a week before D day, to finalise preparations. A good move.
Driving down through France and Italy with the car packed to the rafters was an adventure! We had all our wedding essentials in there, including a few cases of our favourite French Champagne.

D Day -1 …

Our guests were travelling a long way to come to Dubrovnik so we knew we had totreat them like royalty! We did as much as we could negotiating hotel rates, arranging taxis, babysitters and picked the majority of them up in person with a fleet of minivans.

Dubrovnik, a fortified city built by the Venitians is a must visit, so someguests made a long weekend of it, indulging in some luxury at the wonderful Excelsior hotel. It was totally surreal and wonderful to see our nearest and dearest in this exotic location.

From our rendez-vous restaurant, Revelin, in the Old City, we walked down to the beautiful boat we’d hired and set off for the Elaphiti islands. The cruise was the perfect way to unwind and relax while enjoying the scenic ride. The weather was looking a little threatening, but as soon as we turned into ‘our’ bay, the heavens cleared and we heard everyone on board say ‘aaaahhh’ as they discovered Sipan.
The Friday Night party…
We wanted an informal BBQ night in the hotel’s Palm Garden. As we arrived, however, I noticed they’d set up smart set tables and felt like a total Bridezilla when I asked them to dismantle it all. It looked really beautiful, but it was too similar to the formal wedding meal set up and we wanted to keep things cosy and informal so people could mingle.

A couple of hours later our guests were sipping cocktails, listening to Mowgli’s funny welcome speech, watching the ‘who’s who’ slideshow, and getting to know each other. The BBQ went by too fast, and it was soon time to call it a night, even though I would gladly have sat under the stars, chatting and drinking wine with my favourite people all night!

A laid back morning

We decided to have the wedding late afternoon so everyone could enjoy the day doing their own thing. Some went hiking, some kayaking, some swimming, others had lazy lie ins… But with us all in the same hotel, we were constantly bumping into a friendly face which was lovely.

 That morning Mowgli had organised a France vs England football match. Against the dreamy backdrop, the boys played, and bonded while the girls cheered on. Others were dispatched on various missions to do all the things we’d totally forgotten about – like putting the rice in baskets, writing out the seating plan, and a serious napkin folding factory also materialised.

Our only problem seemed to be the weather. The islanders were adamant that the brilliant weather we’d had all week was about to turn. We crossed our fingers and by 4pm with no sign of rain we stuck to Plan A.

All of a sudden it was time to get ready, and that is when it all hit me.

Getting ready…
The famous bridal flutter suddenly surfaced. It’s odd. I knew I was doing the right thing and hadn’t a doubt in my mind, but still, an hour before walking down the sandy aisle the significance of it all hits you like a ton of bricks.

I always cry at weddings so I just knew this time would be no different – probably worse. Trying to practice my vows I started to sob. Josephine, who was looking after my hair and makeup, scolded me while she applied the waterproof mascara, and soon we were off to my mother’s room where the dress awaited with my flower girls and boys.

I was nervous but also really impatient. Lucy, Claire and Tash were brilliant at fussing over me and we were bang on time getting into the boat with my father. I enjoyed every minute of it!

As we approached the beach I could hear the song we’d chosen – “Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ by Israel Kamakawiwo Ole. To see all my favourite people standing there cheering and smiling was amazing. I was hit by emotion again and struggled to hold it together as Dad and I walked down the aisle.

I found out later, that by this stage, the best men, Mowgli and most of the guest were in tears. There was something in the air.

The ceremony
The ceremony was in two parts: the official, legal part and the ‘emotional’ part. The formal ten minute ceremony in Croatian (with an interpreter!) was actually very sweet, and gave us a little time to pause diffusing some of the tension, though we still managed to shed a tear or two.

After we were legally married, my Dutch aunt Liesbeth (for whom I was a bridesmaid 25 years before) stepped in for the ‘spiritual’ part. She was brilliant, enthusiastic, warm, funny and bilingual!

We replaced traditional readings with the “Book of Love” which lightened the mood a bit, and exchanged vows, American style. That’s when the tears flowed freely! There really wasn’t a dry eye on the beach, including the Croatian waiters and Sam, the photographer, who swore he never cries at weddings!

I used to be skeptical about people saying it’s the best day of their lives, but it’s quite true. For us, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to let all that emotion pour out, surrounded by those we care about.

Dinner & Speeches…

After the champagne toast with my father’s speech, we took half an hour out to take some photos while our guests ambled back to get ready for dinner, some even going for a quick dip.

The staff, still worried about the forecasted storm, warned us the party at the beach later might be impossible but, by then we were on such a high, we weren’t worried about anything!

Dinner was a Grilled Surf & Turf with everything from steak to lamb, squid, shrimps and seafood salads followed by Tiramisu and Profiteroles with localwines. I was quite surprised when oysters turned up, as I’m sure we never ordered them but perhaps they got lost in translation?

We loved the amazing speeches and skits from my Dutch family, the best men, my bridesmaid, the mums and siblings and the fantastic Jungle Book themed songfrom the British crowd.

A quick emotional thank you speech from us and it was midnight, time to head back to the beach for some dancing.

The Beach Party
Marin and his team had worked really hard to set up lanterns, sofas, glow-balls and the DJ’s kit. It looked amazing and very dramatic with the lightening on the horizon.

We did our first dance, a bit of mooching around to Robbie Williams ‘Feel’ interrupted by our take on ‘You’re the one that I want’ Grease routine which took everyone by surprise.

DJ Ivan kicked off the party with a little Black Eyed Peas which worked a treat. The dance-floor filled up and the atmosphere was electric. About half an hour later Marin came to see me with a big grin saying “The storm has passed. You can stay out as long as you like.” So, we did. Until sunrise! We couldn’t have asked for a better day – and not a drop of rain!

The day after…

With departures all day, we’d booked taxi boats from the harbour and waved everyone off. Instead of being an anti-climax, the goodbyes were wonderful too: plenty of hugs and kisses, followed by so much waving, my arms felt like they’d drop off!

That night we had dinner at Marko’s with the remaining guests. The family run seafood restaurant known as one of Croatia’s finest, was just anotherincredible bonus that made the wedding so special.

Ten days after arriving, we were the last on the island (but one!) still high on happiness, looking forward to our two month honeymoon!

A month after: July 2010
What we hadn’t realised is that the wedding high would keep on going…

We received the kindest cards, texts and emails.  Obviously our friends and family are all very polite, and we expected them to say it was great, but we never expected so many of them to tell us it was the best wedding they’d ever been to, that they loved it and that it had been truly magical.

Everyone agrees that something happened out on that little Croatian beach that day. A unique atmosphere born of the location and our togetherness, all focused on one thing. No interruptions. No distractions.

If I were to do it all over again there are a few things I would have tried to plan better, but the simple truth is that you can’t do everything, so a lot gets left to luck and goodwill on the day. And to us, it was just as it was supposed to be – relaxed, happy and laid back yet beautiful.

A huge thank you everyone involved. You know who you are.


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