Desert Rose – Interview with Raea of SIXFOUR

We’d like to take you on a journey to the Western Sahara.

The windy and volcanic terrain of this part of Morocco make for some of the most wild and raw scenery ever seen. It’s a truly multicultural place – part African, part Arab and part European, which gives it a unique character full of perfume, spice and craftsmanship that begs to be recreated into something tangible.

Imagine standing at the edge of the Atlantic, feeling the sun beating down and watching a large dune being cut off from the tide. It’s a simple but very special moment recreated with a minimalist scheme. Gold cutlery invokes that warmth of the sun; the hazy, fluted-sleeved dress echoes the swathes of fabric worn by the Saharoui; and the pleated two-piece worn by the bride a pleasant surprise – like spotting the ocean from the middle of the desert.

Rough textured vases, representing black streaks of volcanic dust, sit upon of pale linen – like muddied alabaster sand – take you on a road trip into the desert through rocky sand dunes and volcanic craters.

Their utilitarian buildings – designed to be uninviting outside – promise all their secret beauty inside. The earthen colours – dusky pink, grey and brown, are echoed in the dried flowers, pale pink roses and muted stationery below.

With memories from SIXFOUR’s recent trip there still vivid, this styled shoot not only reflects the landscape, but all the sentiments that still linger, proving that true personalisation can come from moments, not just monograms.

Interview with Raea & Alex – Cyprus Wedding – S I X F O U R Event Design & Planning

Tell us a bit about your background? I was born and raised in NZ, to a kiwi mum and Greek Cypriot dad and Alex was born and raised in Nigeria to an English mum and Nigerian dad. We met many moons ago when I first moved to London. Almost fresh off the plane, I met Alex while at work. Being a friendly kiwi, I innocently asked him out for a drink which inadvertently turned in a date. Very quickly we established a deep friendship and not long after that fell in love.

When and where did you get married? We got married in a small village called Tochni in Cyprus – Summer 2012.

Why did you decide to have a destination wedding? It wasn’t our initial thought to get married abroad, but as we started writing our guest list we realised very important relatives wouldn’t be able to attend in London. Our families collectively span the globe and are equally large, so we decided on Cyprus. It’s the middle point between Europe and Africa and is also where my dad is from.

How did you pick the location? Any time I’m asked this it makes me laugh, because I spent over a week scouting out Cyprus to find this one idyllic spot that had all the old village feels, but was also tucked away in the Troodos Mountains. On the last day of our search, Alex went online and typed in village wedding and found Tochni (literally 5 mins down the road from where we were staying). I was naturally sceptical of his choice, especially after all my hard work. But once I got there I knew it was the place.

Was there a style or theme? Explain some details? The style I was after was purely based on the surroundings, rich history and traditions of Cyprus. Weddings around 2010-2012 were still quite stuffy and over-produced and that was the opposite of what we wanted. I appreciate good design and quality (being a designer), so in creating the concept for our wedding I wanted it first to be sympathetic to the area and second to create a beautiful but relaxed atmosphere that also incorporated both our heritages. This was something many people weren’t doing at the time.

What were some of the most special elements of your location? The village sits at the foothills of the mountains completely tucked away where no one expects to find it. The drive in is rather uninspiring, until you turn a corner and you see the church is sitting in the centre of the village, over a river with the village buildings climbing up either side. The streets are narrow and winding, there is an old ruin and just beyond the village, the road takes you out into the fields at the base of the mountain. It’s a little piece of unspoilt paradise. I think you can say that for much of Cyprus, it’s a little wild and a little rough around the edges but has endless hidden gems most people never see. The one other special element was that the fields and road edges still had flowers (which only weeks later would have been scorched by the sun) so we were able to pick a good 50% of our flowers directly from the land. This meant so much to me and was one of many design elements at the time no one understood. Why do you want wild flowers from the roadside??! Now, wild flowers are accepted in their rawest form for design. I love that!

Did you visit the location or enlist help from anyone based there? When designing and planning a wedding abroad it is essential to visit the site as many times as possible, especially if you are not enlisting a professional planner. I initially hired a local planner, but progress was slow. In the end I decided to plan it full time, so quit my job and managed from the UK with one extended trip out to find my vendors and lock down some essentials. I had to jump a lot of hoops and throw my hands about with a raised voice a few times.

What was the hardest thing about organising a destination wedding? Explain some of the challenges and how you overcame them? The hardest thing of all is not knowing the area, the vendors or country very well.

A couple of examples are –

Being Greek Orthodox with Alex Catholic, we had to spend a lot of time with both churches to get permission to marry! It was so bureaucratic and time consuming. We had to legally marry first so that came at an extra cost. We turned our registry wedding into a London affair with a small party for our closest family and friends who couldn’t make it to Cyprus.

Language was a huge barrier too as some didn’t speak English and my Greek is basic. Thankfully with relatives in Cyprus I had my own personal translator as and when needed.

Getting people to understand my vision was quite difficult, so for me it was retraining their minds into other options. I gave myself only one piece of criteria, I will have what I want and will not stop until I get it. (Bridezilla much?) It was the only way not to get walked over.

What was the most fun thing about planning a destination wedding? The best part of all was creating something from scratch, in a place no one really knew and in a style that wasn’t common. It was a type of creative freedom if I can say that. The other great thing is that our wedding turned into a big wild family holiday/reunion/party. It didn’t feel like a wedding, it felt like an adventure.

How did you find vendors? All of mine were word of mouth thanks to family there. This was the safest form to find vendors in an area I was unfamiliar with. What I couldn’t find, my family also stepped in to create with me.

Where did your guests travel from? They literally travelled from all corners of the globe. New Zealand, Australia, UK, Europe, Africa…

What was the most memorable thing about your wedding? There are so many!

One though was the Zomata I had before the wedding ceremony. It’s a traditional fertility ritual. The bride is met by members of her family who wrap a red scarf around her waist and across her chest, then shroud her head with incense. It’s super emotional and very intimate. Some of my closest girlfriends from New Zealand were there and blessed me in the ritual. Then at the end the smallest baby of the family was rolled over the bed. It was my dear cousin Frances’ daughter who wasn’t even two weeks old!

Advice for others planning a destination wedding? If you plan to do it yourself, expect it to be a full time job. You have to understand the laws of that country and be able to manage multiple vendors leading up to and on the day. Weddings are stressful and you don’t want to hate the journey to your day and then worry throughout the day, hoping it will go to plan. Ain’t no one got time for that!

Hire a wedding planner and/or designer. There is a myth that wedding planners take over your wedding and aren’t sympathetic to your vision or desires. Truth is, they are there to facilitate in creating your dreams. They are your personal assistant and worth their weight in gold. Promise!

We hear you will be working as a planner, any styles or trends you would like to talk about or tips impart for couples in the planning stage? Yes, the company I co-own is called S I X F O U R and we are an event design and planning company. Our business is mainly focused in the UK and Cyprus.

For those in the planning stages our best tips are –

Be real about your budget and take time to get to terms with what you can afford.

Figure out the top 3 things you want to spend most of your money on. Get those things right and everything else will just be a bonus.

Decision making doesn’t need to be hard. When the way seems overwhelming think about your relationship and what reflects the both of you. It often makes the right decision easier to spot.

Styled Shoot – Stylist & Planner: S I X F O U R   Photographer: Bayly & Moore Location & Bridal Outfits: Brooke Tyson Ritual Hair: Boutique Bride Makeup: Made Up Models + Agent: Sophie Easton for Clyne Models Flora: Floral Stylist Co. Cake: Amy’s Secret Kitchen Props: A&C Homestore Furniture: Arkade Stationery: State of Reverie Jewellery: Zoe & Morgan

Photography of Raea: Bayly & Moore