By Lina Giannarou
“I can’t speak with you right now.” “But... I...” “I’m swamped. There’s a Korean crew in the middle of a shoot,” and with that, the line went dead. I was attempting to contact a wedding planner on Santorini who caters mainly to foreigners in a bid to gather information on whether the southeastern Aegean island is as popular a wedding destination for non-Greek couples this year as it was in 2013. There was no communication to be had but I had my answer. Once again, hundreds of couples from China, the UK, Russia and India are flocking to Santorini to exchange vows against its stunning natural backdrops.
Official statistics are not available as these weddings are not recorded with local registry offices, but it is estimated that over 1,100 wedding ceremonies were held on the island last year, with Indians splashing out more than others. It’s no coincidence that Santorini was recently voted second-best tourist destination in the world for newlyweds according to British website 101 Honeymoons. Paris came first and Capri third.
The trend is not limited to Santorini. According to market professionals, an increasing number of foreigners are choosing less predictable Greek destinations for their big day, such as Monemvasia, Skiathos (especially after the success of 2008 film “Mamma Mia!”), Symi, Crete, Paros, Milos, Kos and Myconos, as well as Athens. Greece also appears to be a market leader in terms of group weddings. Sixteen couples from China were married in Hania, Crete, and a similar ceremony took place on Paros. Also, a group of Russian couples recently got hitched on Crete after winning an online competition organized by a large tour operator called “My Greek Wedding.”
It’s obvious that the potential of the market is huge, as was recently illustrated at Bangkok Wedding Show 2014, in which Greece participated via the advertising project yourweddingingreece.com.
“We distributed 2,500 copies of ‘Your Wedding in Greece’ [a wedding industry magazine] and they disappeared,” Vicky Karantzavelou, general director of Travel Media Application, which is running the project, told Kathimerini. “Everyone came back and asked for more information.”
Karantzavelou says that there is growing interest from Thailand, where the young men and women of a constantly growing middle class are attracted to the idea of combining a traditional wedding in Greece with a vacation and their honeymoon.
Generally speaking, destination weddings appear to be especially popular in Asia. Greece can only benefit from this, according to Theodore Koumelis, CEO of Travel Media Applications.
“The wedding sector in our country is well organized, with many specialized services for the soon-to-be-wed couple. According to Greek tradition and culture, moreover, one’s wedding is one of the most important events in a person’s life. This is exactly the experience that foreign visitors want when they come to our country and they have increased exponentially in the past few years, coming from all over the world.”