When Niki of Seat Next to You reached out on our Instagram, we knew we had to feature this amazing lovestory!
Nikos and Zoe, got engaged in April and decided to get married this summer. After weeks of planning and designing their destination wedding weekend, their decision was to postpone their wedding for a year.
They felt disheartened and drained, despite knowing this was the right course of action for them.
They didn’t want this time to go by without being able to celebrate this new beginning and they came up with the idea of going back to their roots. And so they hosted a ‘traditional’ engagement reception a few weeks back. As they both believe in holding onto Greek traditions and customs, no matter how outdated they may seem and have fun while doing so.
And this is what they did a few Sundays ago. Their immediate families got together at Zoe’s family home where they celebrated in the family circle. They cooked, they decorated the house, they dressed up and in their own playful retro style, they had a beautiful meal, shared memorable moments and laughed a lot. This story will show you that there is always a way! Nikos and Zoe decided to embrace the reality and traditions!
And now, dive into this interview with Niki of Seat Next to You and the couple, Nikos and Zoe to read their story!
Zoe and Nikos, would you like to share your story with us?
When did you decide to get married, when was your wedding scheduled for, and a few details regarding your plans?
To be honest, we never thought it would happen this way. In the middle of a global pandemic. But it did and we wouldn’t have it any other way. In the past few months, we grew closer to each other; more than we ever have been in the three years we’ve been together. It’s a challenging time for many couples!
Living together 24/7, having no space and time for yourself, doing absolutely everything together… You just don’t know how things will turn out. For us, time ran smoothly; gracefully. Things weren’t always easy in this restricted new reality. But it was becoming more and more evident that we love learning everything about each other! Especially the not so ‘charming’ qualities. And so, one Sunday afternoon in mid-April, as we were doing house chores, we said ‘yes’ to a life together. To a life full of courage and love that no matter what, it always goes on…and that’s how we ‘got engaged’.
We decided to get married right away. We didn’t want to wait any longer. Our plan was to get married at the end of August and host a big party in Halkidiki. The place where we both spent our summers growing up and is full of fond memories. Things moved really quickly from then on. We reached out to Niki, one of Zoe’s closest friends who is also a wedding planner and we started designing our wedding straight away. Our ceremony and venue were the first items on our agenda. Although site visits were not allowed, we leveraged the use of technology and made significant progress. In just two weeks’ following the proposal, we were ready to send out our ‘save the date’ cards. Except we didn’t.
When did you think for the very first time that you might have to postpone your wedding?
It must have been early May when we started to think that we may have to postpone our wedding. Constantly being bombarded by ‘new’ information regarding weddings this summer, speaking to vendors covering every eventuality in our communications, spending hours on the phone with our families explaining how this was going to ‘work’ left us feeling emotionally exhausted. Our families were concerned and couldn’t share our joy and excitement all this time. They were nervous, reserved and hesitant about us getting married during this crisis. All these fears and concerns started to take their toll on us too.
Very soon, we too, started to realize that non-stop dancing and singing till morning, hugging and sharing our love with our favorite people perhaps wouldn’t be feasible. We would have to restrict our guest list, implement social distancing and other measures according to the latest government guidelines. Some of our guests would not be able to attend at all. And most would have to make travel, work and family arrangements without really knowing how things will progress over the course of the summer. At the same time, people were asking us questions that we didn’t have the answers to. For example, how early did they need to book flights for? Would there be a 14-day quarantine in Greece? Are there hotels offering flexible accommodation?. Needless to say, all of the above painted a picture of a wedding that was miles away from the one we had in mind.
What made you decide to postpone your wedding in the end?
These first few weeks in May were an emotional rollercoaster for us. We took a step back, spent a few days discussing things, just the two of us. In the end, we realized that it was truly important to us to be able to celebrate our big day with our family and friends. Just the way we had imagined it from the very beginning, when the time was right, and without any discounts. And that was the true cause to postpone our wedding. However, this did not mean that we had to pause everything right now. We wholeheartedly believe that when nothing is sure, everything is possible. This became our motto and got us thinking.
What was the reaction from your family and friends?
Everyone embraced our decision to postpone and were very understanding. It was and still is a stressful and uncertain time for everyone, and now they have one less thing to worry about. Because most – if not every single one of our guests – were somewhat concerned about our plans. Some more vocal than others. But it was a shared feeling and we just did not want to prolong this nervousness any further.
How do you feel now that you have decided to postpone your wedding??
Zoe: Relieved! It was rather stressful and challenging for us having to design our dream wedding while dealing with all sorts of emotions. Mostly uncertainty, and managing travel plans for our family and friends coming from Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States. We are now taking the time to re-consider some of our decisions. However, with renewed enthusiasm and passion, we will be making better and bigger plans for the future.
And so, from full wedding planning mode you decided to do something different. Tell us a bit about your idea to host a ‘traditional’ engagement reception.
Nikos: I must admit, this change of direction was a much-needed distraction. When Zoe first came up with the idea, I went silent for a minute and then we both burst out laughing – it was PERFECT. Funny, romantic, somewhat ‘silly’ maybe, a bit of out of date, but nevertheless fit for purpose. With the restrictions lifted, we were able to see our immediate families again. So we decided to host a small Sunday lunch to celebrate together in Zoe’s family home. In a beautiful balcony, overlooking the city of Thessaloniki, in a warm and relaxed environment. Our families met ‘officially’ for the very first time, with one task! To give us their blessing, like they did in the old days.
What made this day so special for you?
It was certainly a combination of things! Our mums dressed up elegantly, and everyone had their ‘Sunday’ clothes on to honor us and celebrate our reunion. The kitchen table was beautiful. With a buffet style, full of traditional filo pies and everything and anything you can imagine! From salads to loads of finger food, while in the oven Zoe’s mother was preparing a stuffed meatloaf with potatoes. My mother, on the other hand, had prepared spaghetti and meatballs (a Neapolitan favourite) and tiramisu for dessert. These are just two of her signature dishes and it was her own way of saying: ‘from Italy (where she comes from), with love’.
The veranda was so brightly colored from the various flowers and plants, it even had trees! Zoe’s family had started to look after this particular space shortly after Zoe was born and now it’s full of greenery, pretty much like a garden. A huge amount of care and thought went into making this an absolutely charming place and we loved the atmosphere; every little detail was inviting.
In this setting, which resembled more a cosy gathering than an engagement reception, our mothers, in between preparations and snacking, started to exchange life stories. And the ice broke. In a smooth and effortless way, without us even noticing it.
Zoe: Can I just add that he also brought me the most g-o-r-g-e-o-u-s bouquet with my favorite spring wildflowers? I was over the moon! Back to our story: shortly after, the real ‘stars’ of the day arrived, all dressed-up: my grandparents. It was the first time in two and a half months that they were leaving their house. And they did it just for us, to give us their blessing, and take photos with us to remember these moments. My grandmother also gave us her delicate handmade crochet doilies which she has been making for two years as my wedding favors.
We obviously ate a lot that day. Words cannot describe how amazing the food was! We even had the traditional ‘bezedes’ (meringues) as custom has it, a very exceptionally selected rose wine, as well as mouth-watering desserts that didn’t last long. Later on, my two beloved cousins also joined. We were happy to hear the snatches of conversations, news shared, glasses clicking, and giggles everywhere after this isolation period.
Looking back on that day, it was without a doubt very emotionally charged, yet comforting at the same time. All the small details played their part and what we experienced was truly unique and authentic. Amidst taking photos, drinking, eating and chatting, we managed to create a very light and relaxed mood for everyone.
In hindsight, this might have been the happy medium we were after from the moment we realized we’d have to postpone our wedding plans for a year. A close family celebration which would break the ice and lift some uncertainty and concerns for the future – all very much present while on lockdown. A Sunday fiesta full of love, laughter and our parents glancing at us, giving us their blessing. And, above all, a memorable experience for us combined with an urban family photo shoot, to capture these blessed moments in time.
From your recent experience on this, what would you advise other couples that might be in the same situation?
Nikos: My advice to other couples is to do exactly what you feel comfortable with right now; be unapologetically you and if that means to have a very intimate wedding this year, with just your family in your balcony or backyard, do simply that.
Zoe: Do not be afraid to say, ‘I want to have fun with you no matter what’ and dream beyond the difficult period we live in. You can reschedule your wedding for next year but still celebrate your decision and union with a few of your favorite people in the world this year by having an engagement party (or just party)! Open up to new ideas and do not forget to laugh.
Our dream team:
Concept, design + couple: Νίκος Ράμμος + Ζωή Θεμελή
Photography: Momentum Photography Cinematography
Design & planning: seat next to you
Suit: Tailor Italian Wear
Florals: Stagkos Flowers
Make up: Eleni Karagiannidou
Rings & jewellery: Mi Madas ti Margarita
Stationery: All Paper
Cake & desserts: Fino Patisserie
Wine: My Cava
This photo shoot took place while obeying social distancing measures, on May 31st. Zoe, Nikos and their immediate families have been on self-isolation for two and a half months.