Welcome to Ellwed Talks – the first podcast about destination weddings in Greece! My name is Sanya, the founder of Ellwed magazine and I will be your host today.
Join me in today’s interview with Elizabeth Cass-Kanti. Wedding Celebrant who writes, creates and performs wedding ceremonies for couples all over Greece.
Originally from the UK, Elisabeth found her passion as a wedding celebrant after working in tourism and property management on the island of Rhodes.
In 2015 her life path led her to meet a friend who introduced her to this career. Elisabeth trained with the fellowship of professional celebrants. With over 5 years of experience in working as a Celebrant and conducting wedding ceremonies all over Greece, she considers each one of her wedding ceremonies a unique accomplishment in itself!
In addition to that Elisabeth prides herself to have a ninja like ability to really ‘get’ the couple, what makes them tick as a couple and more importantly, what makes them firmly believe that they will continue in the absolute knowing that they are ‘right’ for each other.
She loves to incorporate Greek wedding traditions in a secular way into the ceremonies. She especially enjoys working with multicultural couples. Because there are always so many cultural and symbolic elements to explore and potentially weave into the ceremony.
In this episode we talk about those traditions, tips on best locations and what a celebrant can do for your wedding in Greece! Let’s get started!
Tell us a bit about your story, what lead you to your current career path?
I came to Greece in 1992 as a holiday rep for a British tour operator. I met my Greek husband on the island of Rhodes where I settled down, started a family and worked in my husbands’ family hotel business. Being the only ‘Indian’ in a business full of ‘Chiefs’ however did not suit me. So to get out of it I started a property management business for absent property owners here on Rhodes. This developed into a rental business and I set up a specialist villa rental agency. In 2015 I was worried that my business would not be sustainable due to the financial crisis. By chance I met a wedding celebrant. That changed everything.
My livelihood as a Greek villa holiday specialist came under threat during the financial crisis in Greece. By chance, I met someone who was working as a ‘Celebrant’. At the time I had absolutely no idea what a Celebrant was or did. But as she explained to me the role of a Celebrant I got goosebumps and I just had this feeling that this was something for me. The combination of being able to legitimately ask deeply personal questions, use creative writing to turn the answers into something amazing and truly meaningful in a wedding ceremony and then get to travel around Greece to be a part of a magical day? It was absolutely a no-brainer!
I met Julia (the celebrant) in the winter. By the spring I had completed the training and had my first bookings. And I haven’t looked back since! I am a bit of a serial entrepreneur. But business projects often lose their excitement for me once they are set up and performing. Being a Celebrant however fulfils my need for human connection, my need to be of service and my wanderlust. Five years in and I have no intention of moving on!
I am a wedding Celebrant! I write, create and perform wedding ceremonies for couples all over Greece. I’m not a planner, a religious minster or a registrar. I write the words of the ceremony in collaboration with the couple. That is how the couple get a wedding ceremony that reflects their personalities, their values and allows them to make their promises and intentions for a shared life together in a way that absolutely holds meaning for them. And this is compounded when I get lovely compliments from guests on the day. And of course that all important review from the couple! Unless it’s an elopement, it also means that the guests have a more meaningful, engaged and fun experience too!
They are the bones of my story. The flesh was born of overcoming cultural differences and raising a family in a foreign country. Untangling Greek beaurocracy to set up a business (more character building than a Greek mother in law!) Raising two incredible, kind and wonderful daughters. And tragically losing my husband to leukemia 18 months ago.
However, I believe that to be a Celebrant, you have to love people and be fascinated by their connection. Life experience, emotional intelligence, an ability to write and confidence in public speaking are all the skills you need. And some of those just can’t be taught!
But in the spirit of true transparency, in the celebrant world we believe that as a Celebrant you have to ‘click’ with your couples. And many us, myself included, will suggest an alternative. That is if we feel that we are not right match for the couple. Yes, that’s right. We may actually turn down business just based on chemistry and a gut feeling.
What inspires you in the business as a Wedding Celebrant and daily life?
I never tire of hearing peoples stories. I love my first read through of the couples answers. Invariable they make me laugh, cry and sigh in equal measures! It inspires me that some couples have endured so much and have managed to arrive at this point in their lives! Of course, not all my couples have overcome massive hurdles to be together, but they do all have this beautiful, deep connection and I find that truly inspiring! In general, people inspire me, but not always for obvious reasons.
My evolution as a Celebrant has also been a journey of self discovery. It has led me down many paths of exploration in terms of spirituality, the idea of love and what it means to me and other people and the absolute need to feel connection on a much deeper level. The nature of the job inspires me to do all that!
What was your best experience as a wedding celebrant? What do you like about weddings in Greece?
All my best experiences have been where couples have worked with me to create their ceremony, where they have invested their time to answer my questions and really explored ideas to include meaningful elements. (I can provide a couple of examples here if you need)
On an egotistical level, the affirmation from the father of the bride that after seeing the ceremony he ‘got’ what it was all about. Beforehand he had thought my role was a bit ‘fake’ and he hadn’t understood the value of what a Celebrant can bring to the wedding. He had been very cool towards me at the rehearsal and wouldn’t engage in conversation with me! #awkward! So after the ceremony when he sought me out to shake my hand with a tear in his eye, it was pretty special! It’s always great to get beautiful feedback from the couple, but I find it equally rewarding to get compliments from the guests too!
What do I like about weddings in Greece?
Are you kidding me?! What’s not to like! If you really pressed me to answer this I might say that the sunshine and the general relaxed vibe in Greece always make people so happy and smiley! I love the fact they are always outside in the fresh air, often by water and (usually) always bathed in sunshine! Greece is special anyway, so having a wedding is just an added special!
What advice do you have for brides getting married in Greece?
Meet your suppliers, it doesn’t matter if you can only do this in a video call. But it’s really important that anyone contributing to the vibe and actualisation of your wedding ‘get’s your vision. Your supplier should be excited and engaged in your vision – everyone has one whether they know it or not, but at least identifying what you DON”T want is a starting point.
Decide what the most important elements of your day are and invest your money there. Is the look of your wedding the most important thing, or the feel? What do you want to remember when you look back on your day.
Be realistic. Do your research. Unless you are eloping then you need to take in the needs and limitations of your guests too –Grandma Jean might not be up to climbing 305 steps to your ceremony venue and toddler jimmy might be at risk on the cliff top!
Wedding planners for a destination wedding are GOLD. Find a really good one who shares your excitement, respects your budget and who is not afraid to manage your expectations!
Allow time for moments of reflection. To stop and take a breath. Weddings can be months, even years in the planning. But if you are not careful, they are over in a flash!
And for the love of god, don’t get married at midday!! Especially if you have all indulged in traditional wedding attire #heatstroke
What trend do you see picking up in the world of weddings?
Elopements! And small scale weddings in terms of guest numbers are definitely going to be a necessary trend for the foreseeable future, thanks to the global pandemic of Covid-19. The silver lining to this might be that couples can get really selective with their guest list, which will mean less people to please!
Which is your favourite location for a destination wedding in Greece and why?
I am rarely disappointed by any location in Greece and each new one is my latest favourite! I do love an ‘off the beaten’ track location though, something quirky and absolutely anything in nature. One of my favourite locations ever was amongst the ruins of a castle in Kythera. The location had everything – it was very atmospheric and the sunset was mesmerising.
But the biggest draw was that it was on the doorstep of the groom’s ancestral home and he had grown up there, playing in the ruins. A totally enchanted childhood and one he cherished and wanted to share with his bride. So I guess an emotional connection with a place for the couple is always to going to make me love it too!
Tell us a bit more about what you are currently working on? Or share with us 3 things about you we should know?
I am currently promoting elopements! This has been prompted by the current situation, but the more I started to think about it, the more I realised it appeals to me in my work!
- I love a challenge! Whether it be a physical one or a logistical one. I am the world’s least athletically competent person, but that hasn’t stopped me training for marathons or trying to master paddle boarding. One of my best ceremonies in the early days was written in 48 hours of meeting the couple (usually we work on it for a few months before the ceremony) I had to step in at the last minute as they had been badly let down.
- I love a power tool. My best Christmas present ever was a cement mixer, but my new love is my strimmer which has all different attachments on it for different jobs around my massive, totally unorganised garden.
- Through the questions that I ask my couples in order to create their ceremonies, I love to find that one little nugget of information that totally reveals the essence of their connection and that will shape the way I write for them.
And for the last question, what advice would you give to all couples who want to get married in Greece? What is that one important thing your brides should know or pay attention to before coming to Greece?
Apart from getting an awesome Celebrant to perform your ceremony, research your location. Consider your needs. Unless you are eloping, you do need to consider the needs of the people you know will be coming. Try and visit at the time of year when you are planning your ceremony. Greece in September is not the same landscape as Greece in May – days are shorter, colours are more autumnal, it can be colder etc etc. use the knowledge you will gain by visiting to help you with your choices of outfits. Can it get windy?
Don’t even get me started on Mykonos! Will it be too busy, too quiet. Check out the forums, ask your planner, ask your celebrant. And unless you have an intimate knowledge of the area and local contacts, please get a planner. Maybe you only need a coordinator on the day, but if you are having a wedding with 20 guests or more don’t take on the stress or responsibility to make sure everything’s in place on the day.
Meet your suppliers, even if it’s online. It’s not enough to love peoples work on instagram or whatever, they have to be excited to work with you, to hear what your needs are and to tell you how they can meet them – or not.
Prioritise – what are the most important elements of your wedding? Is it fine art photography, cinematic video footage, a bespoke décor design, the content and style of your ceremony, a gastronomical extravaganza – decide what’s important for you and spend your money there.
If someone wants to get in touch with you, where can they find you?
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You can listen to this podcast with Elisabeth, the Wedding Celebrant on all your favourite podcast platforms. Search for Ellwed Talks and subscribe!
This episode is sponsored by Dexamens Seaside Hotel
Escape to the edges of Peloponnese and discover Dexamenes. A luxury seaside resort by the Ionian coast offering a boutique venue experience. Few minutes from the famous mythological Ancient Olympia, this post-war winery, was transformed into a barefoot luxury Eco-conscious resort on one of the most unspoiled stretches of coastline in the western Peloponnese. Have you ever stayed in a wine tank?
Visit dexamenes.com or call +30 697 252 1806
If you are a pro, join us!
We are excited to invite you to ALCHIMEIA, our first curated Portfolio Building Workshop for destination wedding Photographers and Cinematographers. Curated by Kiss from Fleur, you will be able to capture real emotional story of romance, high-end fashion and bespoke Greece. Let’s connect on this ultimate Portfolio Building Retreat with like-minded creatives and discover the secret luxuries of Peloponnese together. You will be able to revive and enhance your brand with your new conceptualised editorials. It’s time to write your new story! So, join us at ALCHIMEIA, the journey of changing one’s mind, heart or way of life, this October 14-16, at Dexamenes seaside hotel in Greece!
Find our more at bit.ly/ALCHIMEIA or contact firstname.lastname@example.org