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How to Plan a Wedding on Hvar: The Insider’s Guide

Hvar is a singular location for destination weddings, rich with natural beauty and traditional Mediterranean charm. Hundreds of couples tie the knot here every year. But destination weddings always require an extra degree of planning and Hvar is no exception. Matt and Elisha, the founders of Hvar Away, had the pleasure to hold their own wedding on the island. In this guide, they will share what they learned and offer useful tips to future brides and grooms considering the island for their nuptials.Note: We recommend a number of vendors in this article. These recommendations are based on our personal experience, research, and networks. We do not receive any commission or payment for promoting their services. Just our honest $0.02!

Why Hvar?

Above all, Hvar is a beautiful and headily romantic destination. It really is another world, boasting gorgeous beaches, centuries-old villages, and refreshing mountain landscapes alongside world-class luxury and a friendly culture. Many people on your guest list may have already visited this part of Croatia or would like to do so. From the perspective of wedding planning, Hvar also enjoys enviably predictable weather. It is known as the “sunniest island in the Adriatic” and rarely experiences precipitation in July and August, with consistently sunny weather in June and September as well.

Personal Touch

Croatia is still a fairly young country, having only declared independence from the communist federation of Yugoslavia 30-odd years ago, so the goods and services sectors are not what you might find in, say, Aspen or the Lake District. That said, many couples have celebrated their special day on Hvar and there is a robust ecosystem of planners, dress shops, venues, and all the rest of it across Croatia. Hvar’s more “startup” spirit can also mean that your relationship with vendors and other partners may be warmer, more personal, and more creative than would be the case in a location with a hyper-established wedding industry, where you are “one of many.”

Culture of Conviviality

Croatia is a country that puts family first and foremost. This is reflected all throughout the culture: from the prevalence of multi-generational households to the country’s child-friendly work policies. You’ll feel this ethos on your wedding day, too. As a rule, Croatians love weddings. For locals, it’s the biggest celebration most people will have in their lives. While you will probably not partake in all of the local traditions, you will certainly experience the mentality of joy and warmth that Croatians bring to this special day.

Matt and Elisha, the founders of Hvar Away

Possible Drawbacks

As with most destination wedding locations, if you choose to have your wedding on Hvar, you should prepare yourself for the possibility of some people not coming. Hvar is fairly expensive relative to Spain or Portugal and harder to get to than some other popular destinations in Europe.

Hvar is an island, so after the initial flight into Split, the large city nearest Hvar on mainland Croatia, visitors must take a ferry. The taxi from the airport to the ferry terminal takes half an hour. One should plan to arrive at least half an hour before departure. Finally the ferry itself takes anywhere from an hour to two hours. Of course, visitors must then make their way to their accommodations. This process has to be repeated in reverse on the return leg. The whole ordeal adds significantly to travel time, making Hvar a harder sell for weekend warriors, who leave work at 5pm on Friday and need to be back in the office on Monday morning.

There is also the question of cost. There are few bargains on offer for tourists, in spite of the comparatively low annual salary of most Croatians. At the moment, flights to Split are pricier than those to Madrid, Lisbon, and other sunny escapes. Accommodations, most restaurants, and even groceries are also priced to UK, German, and US budgets.

For the wedding hosts, some savings are possible. For example, personal services such as photographers tend to be significantly less expensive on Hvar than in the US or UK. Savings may also be possible with the venue, if you choose a location that does not do weddings routinely. Realistically, though, these savings are generally eaten up by the costs of doing a wedding far from home, such as scheduling an advance visit to select venues, cakes, and so on.

It’s not a great feeling when close friends and favourite relatives have to send their regrets. Although we love Croatia and Hvar, another country might be cheaper and easier for more of your loved ones to get to. One compromise that we have seen is to host a “jewel-box” wedding abroad – a small but lavish ceremony for the closest friends and family – combined with a larger and much more casual reception at home. This blended approach may also be a good solution to the legal complexities of getting married overseas, which we’ll discuss below.

Hiring a Planner

We recommend hiring an experienced, well-connected wedding planner for your ceremony on Hvar. Since you won’t be on the ground for most of the lead-up to your special day, there is tremendous value in having someone local who can conduct all of the relevant meetings, manage inventory, and take care of the cleanup and final reconciliations after your ceremony.

Every couple has their own approach, but most brides and grooms-to-be come to Croatia for an advance visit several months before their wedding to make key decisions. Generally, time must be spent in Zagreb, Split, and the island itself, because vendors are based in larger cities. A planner will make sure that your necessarily brief and busy stay is well-organised and minimally stressful. She will also be a constructive sounding board and will help you stay within your budget.

With several locations throughout the country, Adriatic Weddings Croatia is probably the most highly regarded firm for weddings on Hvar, too. They are among the largest, in terms of headcount, with several planners on their team. As an established firm, they have experience in a wide variety of styles and types of weddings and work frequently with non-Croatian clients. There is only one wedding planner on island Hvar, Hvar Beach Weddings, but there are a reasonable number of firms on the mainland. Look for some of the characteristics described above in whichever firm you end up choosing.

It’s important that, when you narrow in on a particular planner, you settle on a written service agreement and understand exactly what they will provide. For example, there is a lot of paperwork associated with the legal component of getting married in Croatia. Will they project manage that for you and ensure that you get all of your documents in on time? Will they provide a day-of coordinator or labour for setup and breakdown?

Since weddings are generally planned a year or two in advance, be sure that you and your planner are in alignment about a timeline for deliverables. When will she submit options to you and when will you need to decide? Getting clarity on these key points is enormously important and will prevent hair-raising moments of “I thought you were going to do that!” close to your wedding day.

Wedding planner

It’s the little things like “who will iron the tablecloths?” that often get missed without a wedding planner in place. And that was the case for us too. Luckily, Matt was on-hand to make everything perfect for his bride-to-be, even if that meant getting the steamer out himself on his wedding morning

After some back-and-forth, we wound up planning our wedding ourselves. It was a major learning curve and a lot of work, but we were happy with how our wedding turned out. While we have the benefit of living on Hvar, we also know couples who have successfully planned their weddings from afar, only coming to the island a few days before show time. For those who choose to pursue this more arduous but satisfying path, we have included some tips on all of the relevant vendors below. Much of this information will be useful even to couples who have hired a planner, as it may facilitate better conversations.

Basics

Weather

On Hvar, the heat is hot! July and August are prime wedding months based on school holidays, but June and September offer more moderate temps along with nice swimming weather. May and October are also blissful when the sun is shining, but they do experience a few rainy days. If you choose to get married in high summer, be sure that your venue offers shade or push back for a late afternoon or evening wedding – and be aware that the registrar’s fees climb steeply after 4pm. Keep in mind also that the best lighting for photographs is half an hour before sunset. You may want to plan a cocktail hour in your schedule around that time to make it easier to quickly get shots of all of your wedding MVPs.

The Long and Bureaucratic Arm of the Law

If you are getting married in Croatia, you will need a laundry list of documents proving that you don’t have bigamy on your mind. Mixed nationalities and previous marriages make everything harder. Apostilles are often required. And documents have an expiration date of 90 days, so you cannot knock this tedious portfolio of tasks out well in advance. You wouldn’t be foolish to hire a professional to manage just this. We have been impressed with Expat in Croatia’s advice and professionalism.

When you finally make it to the altar, know that you will need to pay the local registrar to make sure that your wedding is really… real. Her fee increases by 300 euros after 4pm, and after 8pm it doubles. There is also a fee of around 500 euros for marriages that take place outside of a church. Be sure to get a clear cost upfront.

You may look at all of this and decide to marry legally in your home country, and save Croatia for the ceremony alone. It’s a reasonable choice.

Cat and dog

Understanding Vendors

If people send you an offer, make sure it’s a proper offer in writing. Likewise contracts should look like contracts. The concern is not fraud so much as confusion. If a vendor is offering you multiple discounts over a platform like WhatsApp, and you don’t share a native language, the outcome can get muddled. Croatians tend to prefer a phone call or a meeting to text, which tends to be a more efficient way to work through all of the details and contingencies. You should expect to pay deposits digitally (e.g. with a credit card or bank transfer) and the balance in cash.

If you can, take some time to learn the lingo of weddings. “Classic” vs “modern,” for example, have a specialised meaning within the wedding industry. “Neutral,” “soft glam,” “natural” – terms like these all tell a wedding makeup specialist something very specific. You can get up to speed and have better conversations with your partners if you educate yourself on the vocabulary. You can find helpful glossaries online or on Instagram.

You should also be realistic about what money can buy. Unless you have no budget at all, you will have to set priorities and make sacrifices. Your vendors are, in almost all circumstances, trying to do their best but, unless you are hiring a truly world-class team, you are unlikely to get perfect results from every single one.

Personal Appearance

Hair and Makeup

This is one that you don’t want to fudge. Be sure to not only get trials with your stylists, but to make sure that your trials are perfect. If your hair and makeup specialists do not understand what you’re looking for in the trial, they are unlikely to do better on the big day. Take as many trials as you need to get it right, and if your stylist won’t make time for that, move on. Bring photos that are as close as possible to the look you want.

Finally, hair and makeup are entirely different skills. Hire separate people who excel at each. This will also help everyone stay on schedule if your hair and makeup team is doing your bridesmaids, too.

Hair and Makeup

Attire

If you wish to buy a dress in Croatia, you will need to come to the country six months or so in advance of your wedding to pick one out. Alternatively, you can bring your dress from your home country and simply pay a little extra for luggage fees. The latter is likely to be an easier option for most brides.

Most of Croatia’s dress shops are in Zagreb. There are plenty of options both to buy and rent. You can get a good idea of these retailers’ inventories by scrolling through their accounts on Instagram. As a friendly tip, aim for something comfortable if you are planning to change dresses after the main ceremony. It will really help you relax and enjoy the night after a day of intense emotions.

Elisha in a wedding dress

Elisha rented a dress by Ukranian designer, Oksana Mukha

For grooms, Fidelio is a great option for suits in Croatia. They have a variety of combinations, from ultra-formal to more contemporary, and include essentials like comfortable dress socks in their packages. Particularly if you are getting married in the summer, a second shirt is a must. You are almost guaranteed to sweat through the first. Likewise, if there was ever a time to spend a little extra on high quality shoes, this is it. You want to be able to dance the night away without thinking about your toes being pinched.

Matt’s Fidelio suit

Matt’s Fidelio suit

Finally, as a word to the wise, it is common for garments like wedding dresses and suits to have a bit of temporary stitching that helps them keep their shape in transit. Be sure to check with your dressmaker to understand exactly what you will need to do on the day-of to make your wedding ensemble wearable.

Logistics

Driver

A good taxi service is the lynchpin of a successful wedding. You need someone who will get all of your party from point A to point B without drama or terror. This can be more challenging than you might think, given how narrow and twisty many of Hvar’s roads are, and how often guests need “just a few more minutes'' before boarding the shuttle. We were fortunate to work with a driver, Petar from Hvar4You, who is everything you want in a chauffeur. Whoever you end up working with, be sure to do a visual (and olfactory) inspection of the vehicles they’ll be using and, as always, check references.

Venue

Your choice of venues is certainly one of the biggest choices that you will make for your wedding. Not only will your venue set the tone for your celebration, but it will probably determine the menu, sound and lighting options, and support staff, as well. Fortunately, the hardest part about choosing your venue will be picking just one location of the many magical spots on Hvar.

You have two basic approaches: a venue that hosts weddings routinely or a konoba (a sort of Mediterranean tavern) that only does events more occasionally. In the first column are venues like Palace Elisabeth in Hvar Town and Beach Club Hvar. In the second category, there are dozens of choices. Here are a few off the beaten path that are particularly worth checking out:

Kod Kućera – Farmhouse with a spectacular view.

Konoba Maslina – Another breathtaking view with a lovely garden for strolling. Could pair this with a gorgeous wedding in the church of Vrisnik.

Seca – Sleek, contemporary architecture against the backdrop of sprawling olive orchards. Remote, but very close to the gorgeous cove of Pokrivenik where there are ample accommodations.

Humac – Have your ceremony in a perfectly preserved Mediterranean village, followed by a candlelit dinner overlooking the Adriatic sea. The people to contact about this would be the owners of Villa Humac, who also lead local tours.

Finally, there is an abandoned monastery called St. Mark’s that makes for an absolutely striking ceremony location.

St Mark’s in Hvar Town

St Mark’s in Hvar Town. Photo credit: Adriatic Weddings Croatia

Rentals

In theory, you can actually get married anywhere on Hvar. The registrar who legitimates weddings can come to your backyard, if you so choose. Because the island has a number of extremely striking semi-wild places, this possibility suggests some tempting settings for a gorgeous and highly unique ceremony. For example, near the highest peak on the island, St. Nikola, there is an open field that looks out over the ocean. Near Jelsa, there are a number of stunning beaches, encircled by photogenic limestone cliffs. Unfortunately, it is more or less impossible to have a normal wedding ceremony in these places, because renting furniture, table service, a silent generator, and other essentials on Hvar is a real challenge.

Instead, your best bet is probably to skip rentals altogether and find a venue where you are basically satisfied with the existing look and feel, then make tweaks with fabric, florals, and lighting. If you really cannot stand something like the venue’s chairs, you can buy replacements from a company like IKEA, which operates in Croatia, and then resell that furniture after the wedding. If you go this route, beware of transportation surcharges – everything that enters or leaves the island must do so on the back of a truck that gets loaded onto the ferry. Be sure, as well, that you have a plan for who will set everything up and then load it away again when your wedding is over. Stacking chairs is not how most couples want to spend their first morning of married life!

For tablecloths and other textiles, we were very happy with the firm Textor, based in Split. As a sweet touch, they offered to sew together our used-once wedding tablecloths into bed linens which we can enjoy for years.

Accommodations

The island of Hvar is bigger than you might think. Hvar Town, for example, sits just west of some of the most incredible beaches and diving spots in the Adriatic. But by car, these spots are 45 minutes away.

If it’s feasible for you, choosing one part of the island to host most or all of your wedding weekend can be a very good move for you and your guests. When your party is spread out, people tend to mingle less – it can be hard to summon the motivation to meet new friends at a beach when you are enjoying a lazy, post-hangover morning in your hotel room.

Hvar Town is the best-known part of the island and has a lot to offer, but Stari Grad or Jelsa are also good choices. For a more romantic location, check out Pitve, Velo Grablje, or Ivan Dolac.

Pitve and Velo Grablje are wholly historic villages – there is no new or concrete construction – so they have preserved an incredible atmosphere of charm. In Pitve, Hvar Away has a number of villas to house your wedding party (Dvor Trio holds 18 and Villas Anouk and Belpur hold 20 guests), and there is a charming family restaurant, Dvor Duboković, that is large enough to seat most weddings. The village has commanding views of the Mosor mountain range, and is just 15 minutes from superb beaches and the high-end restaurants of Jelsa and Stari Grad.

Villas Dvor collection in the historic hamlet of Pitve

Aerial shot of the Villas Dvor collection in the historic hamlet of Pitve

Velo Grablje is another historic ethnovillage. Only a few young families live there year round. This presents a really special opportunity to have an entire Mediterranean landscape to yourself for your wedding. Velo Grablje sits on top of a ridgeline with truly unforgettable views over lavender fields and islands that seem to hover on the sea to the south. We had both our intimate wedding ceremony and reception at Alavia, a restaurant just above Velo Grablje, and it was one of the best choices we made.

Our ceremony seating at Alavia.

Our ceremony seating at Alavia

In addition to the unforgettable setting, the food was excellent, the team went above and beyond to support us, and the restaurant adjoins four lovely apartments with a pool, making things easy for the bride, groom, and members of the wedding party. We really cannot praise the team there too much.

The pool also gave us this unforgettable photo-op.

The pool also gave us this unforgettable photo-op

Velo Grablje trails down a thousand-year old stone walkway through a gorgeous canyon to the ghost town of Malo Grablje and onward to the seaside town of Milna. There are heritage hotels and beautifully restored accommodations all throughout this area, including a remarkable palazzo in Malo Grablje.

Or finally, consider Ivan Dolac, the quintessential seaside village nestled between the sapphire blue Adriatic and steeply sloping vineyards. With gorgeous beaches, a couple of lovely restaurants, and proximity to a surprising density of activities and day trips, Ivan Dolac is a dream beach escape for your guests. Here, too, Hvar Away has two villas, Luma (cap. 8) and Luce di Mare (cap. 7), which will elevate your guests’ experience with luxe amenities, generous common spaces, and beachfront access.

A final note on accommodations. We are of course biassed, but renting one or several villas is hands-down the best choice for weddings. Not only will your guests save hundreds of dollars in comparison to renting individual hotel rooms and eating out for every meal, but they will also have a far more special and meaningful experience in proximity to friends and loved ones whom, chances are, they don’t get to see very often. If you want to go the villa route and need some additional advice on how to “cluster” accommodations or best strategies for rooming people, just give us a call and we’ll be delighted to talk through your ideas.

Design and Decor

Florist

For our wedding, we kept florals fairly simple: mostly greenery with a touch of white. We used olive as a motif, because it’s attractive and appropriate to Hvar, but also because it holds up well over the course of a summer afternoon. Eucalyptus or lavender could be a nice alternative in the same vein. We went with Ljiljan from Stari Grad and were very satisfied with her work. For more elaborate florals, you could also look to Split, which has a number of experienced florists.

Signage and Stationery

We were extremely pleased with the price and quality of Retes, who did our signage. We designed our signs ourselves using Pinterest for inspiration and Canva without any issues. We did not send paper invitations but, on this front, you might be best off working with a vendor in your home country, since most of the guests will presumably be in that country, too. On this topic, too, working with someone who speaks your language as a native speaker can be especially helpful, to ensure that you are understanding each other on technical choices such as different printing techniques and design considerations.

Signage and Stationery

Website

For an international wedding, you need to have a website. If you are inclined to feel sheepish, please don’t! This will help your guests understand all of the logistics that they need to plan. There are a lot of providers, but we used Joy.com, which was terrific and amazingly, totally free. We were really impressed by its user interface, how easy it was to set everything up, and the platform’s rock solid reliability. Joy allowed me to send invitations and track who had opened them, their RSVP status, and meal preferences. We also managed our wedding registry through the app. As an added bonus, in spite of the free-99 price point, there were no ads.

Fun Stuff

DJ

We worked with a well-known DJ from our home country, the UK, who mostly works in clubs. He was phenomenal, but missed a few cues, including for the walk to the altar! Learn from us and be sure to find someone who both shares your aural aesthetic, but also has lots of experience working in weddings.

While we went with a Brit, you can certainly find a DJ locally. Split has a major music scene thanks to the Ultra festival, which takes place here every summer, so there are a lot of talented DJs to choose from. If you want something more indie or off-beat and you work with a local, just be sure to communicate that with them. There are plenty of Croatian music fanatics who know all about your favourite obscure bands from the 80s (or whatever you dream of hearing on your wedding dancefloor), but don’t just assume cultural familiarity.

Cake

Sweets Pastry Shop delivered the custom wedding cake of our dreams. It was on-time, reasonably priced, and massive. When I say massive, I mean that we ordered a medium and had to take all the shelves out of our fridge to make space for the leftovers (YUM, by the way). Their cakes are indulgent without being overly sweet. The design sensibility is on point – elegant but special – and they can adapt to your wishes.

The custom wedding cake

Photographer

If you get married and nobody sees it, did it even really happen? Leave that question to the philosophers and hire Kušec. This husband and wife team – Iva and Goran – are based in Zagreb. Superb technical skill is part of their recipe for success, but personality matters, too. Iva and Goran insisted we meet months ahead of time, which paid off at the wedding, when they brought a terrifically relaxed and positive energy to both our couple’s and group shots.

Whoever you work with, consider not only their camerawork, but whether this is someone you’d want to have a drink with. After all, he or she will be following you around for your entire wedding celebration! As with dresses, Instagram is a very helpful platform for choosing a photographer, because it offers a lot of visual comparison, which helps you understand different styles. Take the time to really visualise yourselves in a photographer’s photos, because it’s more or less impossible for a photographer to change his or her style.

The Weekend

The ceremony and party is of course the main event of your wedding, but with guests flying in from all over, you want to make the most of your entire weekend together.

The Rehearsal Dinner

We did not host a rehearsal dinner, because our wedding was small and fairly simple, but a rehearsal is a good idea for those whose weddings include a lot of moving pieces. It’s typical to have the rehearsal at the venue, but not strictly necessary or always possible. If you’re primarily looking for a fun restaurant to bring friends and family together before the big day, we recommend choosing a restaurant that is special without being on the highest end of formality and cost – keep in mind that travel drama is almost guaranteed, and that you want to save up most of your energy (and budget!) for the big day. Konoba Vrisnik, Nook, and Veli Dolac all fit this bill to a T.

Dinner at Konoba Vrisnik

Dinner at Konoba Vrisnik. Photo Credit: Konoba Vrisnik

Cake

If your wedding is by the sea or on a mountain, you might also consider choosing a rehearsal location that offers a different perspective on the island. Konoba Vrisnik is in the hilly interior of Hvar, Nook is tucked into the charming stone alleyways of Stari Grad, and Veli Dolac is a short water taxi ride away from Stari Grad on a beautiful bay.

Beaches

On the day after your wedding, guests will probably be a little groggy, but still eager to make the most of their holiday weekend. A day at the beach is the perfect move. We’ve written a whole guide to our favourite beaches on the island, so browse through that for inspiration. For a wedding specifically, prioritise accessibility and services. Depending on where you’ve “clustered” (see the section on Accommodations above), you will likely need to transport guests to and from the beach with a shuttle, so don’t choose the most far-flung cove, as romantic as it might seem. On the other hand, beaches within walking distance of towns like Hvar and Jelsa are lovely, but tend to be crowded in the season, and a feeling of privacy is better for a wedding group. Finding the right balance is key.

Your party will also be grateful for access to decent food, cold drinks, and a bathroom. Be sure that when you choose a beach with a bar or restaurant that they do not monopolise the beachfront with sunbeds for rent (which can add up for a large group), and that the beach is pebble or sand, rather than concrete, which is sometimes the case on Hvar.

Other Outings

There is so, so much to do on Hvar, from wine tasting to skydiving, kayaking to climbing, and spa days to history tours. If time and budget allow, this is a great opportunity to share something that brings you closer as a couple with friends and family. For our guests, Hvar Away offers a concierge service that makes choosing, reserving, and arranging transportation for all of these excursions easy and reliable.

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