Europe & Britain | People & Stories

"We got married at a surprise wedding on our Trafalgar tour"

Recently updated on December 4th, 2023 at 02:18 pm

A surprise wedding – on tour – planned with just 28 hours’ notice. Genius or genuinely mad? Lovebirds Craig and Graham got hitched in Paris while on tour with Trafalgar last year. They shared their engagement story with us and won a place on our Trafalgar Unlocked Awards trip to the Balkans.  

With a harpist duo, bird of prey, fireworks, and an ice sculpture lined up, their 2024 Australian wedding was set go down in history among the 200 family and friends that had already received invitations! So why did Craig and Graham decide to pull the pin and get married while touring Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina on our Balkan Delight trip? 

We interviewed Craig to find out more about what was going through their heads ahead of tying the knot in a very last-minute ceremony, and what went down during the countdown to the nuptials.

Professional photos by Ula Blocksage

Why did you spontaneously decide to get married on tour? 

Around a week into our Trafalgar tour, Graham and I were completely immersed in holiday mode and living our best selves. We had arrived in Dubrovnik, where the scenic backdrop was picturesque, the European summer weather was energising, and we had already formed close bonds with our tour companions. 

On a sunset dinner cruise on the Adriatic Sea, we joked with our new friends that we should just get married in Dubrovnik, because we already had the ingredients for a perfect wedding atmosphere.. something that no amount of planning could ever guarantee. The seed was planted and later that evening, on a night out with our (soon to be ‘Groomsmaids’), Graham and I looked at each other with a reciprocal spark of excitement.

“Let’s just do it… why delay, when everything is so perfect right now”. 

We all toasted the decision with shots of Rakija, as the evening suddenly became our bucks party! The tone of our travel experience invoked a very familiar feeling to the one I had on our Trafalgar tour, 12 months prior, when I decided to propose to Graham in Paris.

RELATED BLOG: ‘The most magical moment of our lives’ – Craig’s surprise proposal in Paris

How far ahead did you make the decision? Was it something you were thinking about before you departed for Europe?

The decision was made around 28 hours before the wedding took place! A wedding on tour was not something we had considered, as we had already started making our wedding arrangements at home [in Australia]. 

We had locked in a date for April 2024, so we were viewing this tour of Europe as a ‘pre-honeymoon’ of sorts, knowing that the wedding was going to be an expensive one and it may be a little while before we could afford to travel again.

How deep into planning your Australian wedding did you get? 

We were into the final stages of planning our wedding back home in Australia, [just] as we departed for our European adventure. We had booked the venue, selected the stationery, and sent out invitations to the 200 guests. [There was] a wedding website, so that family and friends could follow along on our planning journey. 

We had lined up a harpist duo for the ceremony, a bird of prey to deliver the rings, peacocks in the garden, and a massive ice sculpture. We’d even made a booking enquiry for the popular Aussie electro-rock band Rogue Traders to perform at the reception, followed by pyrotechnics. 

Needless to say, it had grown into a monster of a wedding – with a hefty price tag – and I had become an uncontrollable ‘Groomzilla’. Thankfully for Graham, our Trafalgar tour came at just the right time, giving us both the opportunity to step away from wedding planning and enjoy some time doing what we both enjoy most – travelling.

What did it take to pull off a surprise wedding on tour? 

It was so easy to pull this wedding off, but it definitely wouldn’t have been possible if we hadn’t done it on a tour like Trafalgar. We let our Travel Director know our plans in the morning and they were overjoyed and supportive of the idea. 

Trafalgar were incredible at helping to coordinate all of the wedding arrangements. With less than 12 hours notice they had curated an absolute dream setting for our nuptials… which is an extraordinary effort and we still can’t believe they achieved it.

Travelling with a tour group meant that we had made many new friends. Our ‘Groomaids’, Cassie and Kristen, were two tour companions that we had become instant besties with and they also doubled up as flower girls. 

One of them hadn’t packed a dress – who packs expecting a wedding?! 

Luckily, another tour guest offered to lend her a dress and they both looked beautiful in earthy, natural tones. We kept our plans secret from the other tour guests, deciding to surprise them all with the announcement that evening.

In the meantime, we embarked on a whirlwind shopping spree in Dubrovnik, to select our wedding suits and rings. With a stroke of luck, we found exactly what we were looking for at the first shop – assembling suiting separates that reflected the coastal palette of the Adriatic Sea. We matched in navy dress pants and crisp white shirts, worn with light blue blazers – the white rose boutonnière embellished with delicate feathers – a nod to my passion for birdlife and conservation. The look was complemented by rose gold and white gold wedding bands.

TAKE THE TRIP: Balkan Delight

Who was your celebrant?

A spontaneous or surprise wedding is such a fun and exhilarating concept, however it does come with its challenges… The biggest one being, “who is going to perform the ceremony?!”. 

Thankfully we found a quick solution and [we were] able to get one of our fellow tour companions ordained as a minister online! At the beginning of the tour, we immediately hit it off with Florida-based couple Ashlinn and Ed and had enjoyed building a friendship through the experience of travel and lots of laughter. 

Ashlinn fit the role of celebrant perfectly, with a brilliant blend of style, grace and kindness. She absolutely excelled as a freshly-minted celebrant and we have a feeling that this won’t be the last time she performs a wedding ceremony!

Tell us about the stunning location for the ceremony?

The sunset matrimonial celebration took place at Winery Botaro, a picturesque rural gem built upon 600 years of family tradition, where we enjoyed an evening of traditional music and dance, local wine, cherry liqueur and delicious Croatian cuisine, served with warm and welcoming Dalmatian hospitality. 

The venue provided a stunning backdrop to our ceremony, amongst the grape vines and framed by the majestic Dinaric Alps. Equally impressive was the endearing alfresco dining area, with rustic furnishings, charming Vichy plaid tablecloths and walls lined with goods made on site, from their signature wines and liqueurs to handmade Croatian crafts.

How did your Travel Director get involved in the spontaneous wedding?

Getting hitched in an unfamiliar location could have been a struggle, if we weren’t able to leverage off the local knowledge of our incredible Travel Director, Tod. He knew who to contact for flowers and a cake, and could advise us on where to shop for our wedding suits. 

Most importantly, he was able to navigate the language barrier for us, by liaising with local suppliers on our behalf.. including the venue itself, which was already part of the Balkan Delight tour itinerary as a ‘Be My Guest’ experience. Having that relationship with the venue owners enabled him to negotiate the special ceremony into the evening’s program. 

We wouldn’t have been able to pull off such a perfect wedding event without his help.. and in less than 12 hours!

Have you celebrated with family and friends since returning home? How did they react when you told them the news?

Graham called his family and close friends just before the wedding and they were all really excited. I half expected some of them to be annoyed, because we’d already sent out the wedding invitations before the trip…but no – they were all overjoyed by the decision to marry in Croatia. 

I, on the other hand, decided to call my mum much later into the celebrations, after quite a few wines, so she thought it was some kind of prank! We finally revealed the wedding to our extended friends and family around a month after the wedding, when we had gathered photos from our tour companions. Everybody was thrilled by the surprise announcement and could understand our decision to spontaneously marry, by looking at the incredible photos.

Would you recommend a spontaneous or surprise wedding abroad to others? 

Absolutely! Weddings don’t have to be conventional. I’m seeing more and more people embrace the elope abroad, because it is easy, unique, so much fun and most importantly all about celebrating your love in the way that YOU want to. If you feel like the moment is right, embrace it! You won’t have to spend a lot of money to achieve a dream wedding and most importantly, it takes all the stress and anxiety out of the planning.

Book a tour like Trafalgar.  You can go anywhere in the world that is meaningful for you and your partner and just make it happen! For us, Europe is our special place, but there are tours from Africa and the Middle East to the US and Canada… and the best part is that everything on tour is done for you.. you literally only have to focus on your love and making new memories together.

Oh, and not to mention the instant honeymoon. You’re already on it!

Craig’s pro tip: “If you feel swept away by the romance of touring and are thinking of getting spontaneously hitched, talk to your Travel Director about the upcoming experiences on the itinerary.  They will be able to suggest the perfect opportunities for the big proposal moment!” 

RELATED BLOG: ‘The most magical moment of our lives’ – Craig’s surprise proposal in Paris

Anything else you’d like to share about the surprise wedding on tour?

The best part about getting married on tour, was sharing the moment with our fellow tour companions, as it created such a positive trip highlight for everyone. Watching on, their faces beaming with big smiles, we felt enveloped by an atmosphere of happiness, warmth and inclusion.

Now we have moved on to the next chapter of our lives as husbands.. and with the money we saved by eloping, we can start planning our next tour adventure!

TAKE THE TRIP: Balkan Delight

Would you consider a surprise wedding or eloping overseas? Let us know in the comments….

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