A Destination Wedding on the Shores of Istanbul
February 13, 2017
DestinationLakesideSummer Weddings
Wherever Greg Finck points his lens, pretty is bound to follow. Case in point? This Istanbul, Turkey wedding that combines cultural beauty and classic romance for a day that's sure to inspire. Have a peek at the photos and don't miss the bride's perspective on destination wedding planning below.
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From the Bride... My husband and I got engaged on our 8-year anniversary, in Bodrum Turkey. He is Jewish Turkish (though was born in Switzerland and grew up in London), while I am Christian British (born in Belgium and grew up in the Turks and Caicos Islands). With all these factors at play, we had thought for a long time where we would get married and what type of ceremony we would have. As we both deeply respect each other’s culture and religion, we decided to have a ceremony that would combine both.

There are a number of reasons why we chose Istanbul rather than any other location, but the main reason is because it is a country I have come to love since I met Igal, and we wanted to share this with family and friends who didn’t know it. Not even my siblings had been! It is a magical place. It did, however, turn out to be a much more stressful choice of location than originally planned. In the months leading up to the wedding, there were a number of terror attacks in Istanbul, including the bombing of the international airport. I wondered about the safety of our guests, whether anything else would happen and if it was a good idea to go ahead as planned. I know that all weddings are emotional, but the run up to ours felt especially so. The flood of emails and phone calls from family and friends who told us that they would be there come what may, made Igal and I feel loved and supported beyond belief. And so the wedding went ahead as planned.

After researching a huge number of venues across Turkey, we visited Esma Sultan and fell in love. It was the perfect combination of old and new. We had been looking for somewhere with some history, but that was also modern and a bit different. Esma Sultan is exactly this. It is an old mansion originally built in 1875 and gifted to Esma Sultan, the daughter of an Ottoman Sultan. In 1975, it was destroyed in a fire. It has since been redeveloped, keeping its original brick exterior and a new glass and steel structure on the inside. It sits on the edge of the Bosphorus, next to the Ortakoy Mosque and overlooking the Bosphorus Bridge. Having found our venue, I was able to properly start planning.

My color palette was the palest of pink/blush, gold and white/cream. My flowers of choice were peonies, hydrangeas, baby’s breath and roses. My dream for the ceremony was to have a chuppah with draping flowers and white chairs lined with baby’s breath. For dinner, my mum and I wanted pale pink tablecloths and a centerpiece of smaller flowers and twinkling candles. Instead of numbers for the tables, Igal and I created doubled sided images with photos of us in different cities around the world. This way, everyone was sat in a ‘place’ rather than at a numbered table. Because of Igal and I’s international background and friends, we tried to weave in an international theme. I think the wedding planner described my vision as very romantic.

As I am quite a sentimental person, I wanted to have with me on the day, items from ‘my people’. My best friend bought me my blue garter, my sister bought my sparkly ‘I do’ blue underwear, I borrowed my mother’s earrings and wore my grandmother’s old locket, and of course my necklace and ring from Igal. We also wanted to give everyone we loved a role to play on our day. My sisters signed our marriage certificate and ketubah, my brother was the MC, Igal’s brother was best man, family and friends were our bridesmaids and ushers, our mothers did readings (which are ones that my mum has had on the wall in our home for as long as I can remember), our whole family walked down the aisle, and I made my two best guy friends ‘honorary ushers’ as they would have been bridesmaids if they were girls!

There were also a few fun Turkish details and traditions that we included. While the guests waited for us to arrive, the amazing whirling dervishes performed. Igal and I then entered followed the sound of six drummers who came in before us. This is traditional at Turkish weddings and made for a very fun entrance!

At Jewish weddings, everyone gets up and does the horah once the bride and groom have entered the room, but before you sit down for dinner. The drums created an upbeat atmosphere to get everyone on their feet. Seeing my parents and brother be lifted up on chairs was one of my favorite moments of the wedding. As they are not Jewish, this isn’t a tradition they know, but they had big smiles on their faces. Because of where and how Igal and I grew up, we had about 230 guests at the wedding from around 40 countries, and seeing everyone experiencing and enjoying something new was a highlight for us. In fact, we both agreed that sitting back and realizing that all of your favorite people are in one room, getting along and having a good time was just the best feeling.
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