5* Jiva Beach Resort Hotel – review

Although I love visiting Turkey, I always say that it’s not really like a holiday for us, there’s just too many people to see and things to do and we end up rushing around here there and everywhere. When we were there 3 weeks ago though, Berkay suprised me by booking us a day/night in the 5* all inclusive  Jiva Beach Resort hotel in Calis, to celebrate our first wedding anniversary.

Last October we visited Titanic Hotel in Lara Beach, Antalya, for one night and that was the first time I’d ever stayed in a 5* hotel anywhere, so I was curious to see how Jiva hotel compared.

When we arrived at the hotel, we went to check in and met a lovely lady on reception. After taking our passports and information, she looked at me and said ‘oh, you write a nice blog, that’s how I know you!’ which was surreal, it’s always weird when people recognise us! Our room wasn’t ready, but we were able to check in, use the facilities and eat lunch.
 
The lunch was an open buffet and it was amazing. When you tell people you’re staying in an all inclusive hotel, they’re always a bit worried about the food, they seem to have the idea that the same food is left out all day in the sun, and leftovers reheated and served up again for dinner, but that certainly isn’t the case here, and a lot of it was cooked in huge pans in front of us. There were tons of options just for lunch, jacket potatoes, soups, chips, meat, pizza, salad, fresh fruit, cakes, pudding.. I ended up having a very random mixture.

After lunch, we went for a walk around the hotel grounds. We used to live a 10 minute walk away from this hotel, and walked around the surrounding area almost everyday for years. We watched the progress from the outside, whilst it was being built, when it first opened in 2012 and when they extended it and added more rooms in 2014.  What really, really suprised us is how big the hotel grounds are. It’s like the tardis, bigger on the inside than it looks from the outside! Aside from nearly 400 hotel rooms, there are 5 outdoor pools, an inside pool & spa, game room, patisserie, buffet restaurant, 2 ala carte restaurants and several bars.

 
There is also a small lake which the hotel is built around. Back when it was being built we were always a bit put off because of this – it looked like stagnant, green water and we thought it would attract a lot of mosquitos, but it is a really beautiful focal point. The hotel describes this as a ‘natrual lagoon’ which they protected when building on the site. It has a lot of reeds and lily pads, as well as  fish, turtles, ducks and frogs living in it, you can hear the frogs croaking at night. There is a bridge crossing the lagoon and lots of seating areas all around, with paths lined with palm trees around the whole resort. The hotel also has it’s own section of beach, with sunbeds and umbrellas.

 
At 2pm, it was time to get our suitcases and head to our room. We had a standard pool facing room. The bed had a big ceiling fan above it which would be amazing in the height of summer. It had a chaise lounge in one corner, tv, a mirror/dressing table, mini fridge, kettle, huge mirrors, lots of wardrobe/hanging space, a safe and stunning bathroom with marble sink and shower. The shower was my favourite thing about the whole room – a ‘rain’ shower.  I could have stayed in that shower for hours, it was so powerful and so relaxing. The balcony overlooked the pool area and by spooky coincidence, had the exact same table and chairs on it as we had bought in B&Q for our balcony at home here in England just a couple of weeks before hand! How odd.
 
 
There are lots of different types of rooms at the hotel and 367 rooms in total. Attic rooms, standard rooms,swim-up rooms. The hotel has a thin, long pool outside the length of the ground floor, and some rooms have steps down into the pool from the balcony – lovely! There is also a honeymoon suite room with a hot tub inside, and a ‘presidential villa’ with its own private pool with curtain across it. I walked past it in awe, really looked amazing. I’ve since looked it up on the hotel website and it looks even better than I realised – I suspect the price is also ‘amazing’ though!!!
 
After looking around the room, we changed into our swimming gear and headed down to the pool area. We saw that the water slides were open so we went straight over to them – the water was freezing, as it was so early in the season the pools hadn’t had a chance to warm up. Despite the cold water, the slides were great fun. There was a kids pool next to the slides, an adults pool the other side of the bridge next to a jacuzzi style pool, and a main pool which  while we were there, hosted water volley ball and ‘animation’ dancers jiving to crazy frog around it every few hours…!
 
 
Underneath the pool area there are really nice toilets, lockers and showers. Handy if you have to check out of your room but still want to use the pool, or need somewhere to leave your belongings. The hotel also sells day passes, so you can pay a certain amount and get to use the facilities all day so these showers, toilets and lockers underneath are perfect for those guests too.
 
If the pool view becomes a little boring, and you fancy a change of scenery, the hotel has its own section of beach with sunbeds. We laid there for a while with a refreshing ice coffee.

After having enough sun for the day, we went inside to check out the spa. The Turkish bath was free to use yourself, but if you want bubbles and the proper experience, you have to pay. There was a free sauna, steam room and indoor pool too. The pool looked really relaxing, with a couple of sunbeds around it, mood lights and serene music, but don’t be fooled by the appearance, it was freezing, I couldn’t even stand in it it was so cold, so I’m not really sure what the point of it was. They have the usual massages and other treatments for an added cost, but we didn’t try any of them. They also had a free gym which looked well equipped, but who wants to use the gym on holiday, right? Hah!
 
Before dinner, we rushed to get ready and catch the sunset, our favourite thing about Calis. It looked especially beautiful with the boats in the foreground. We also used the opportunity to take a photo for our first wedding anniversary. The idea is, you take a photo of you holding your wedding photo, and then next year, take a photo of you holding the photo of you holding the wedding photo, etc etc. I hope we remember to do this every year and can see how we change over the years, and later on hopefully include children in our photos too!
 

At dinner time, we realised why the hotel gym exists – it must be to work off all the extra calories that you consume during the all inclusive buffet! The food was amazing, my photos don’t even do it justice but I was too busy building a mountain of food on my plate to take better photos! All sorts of food, including whole carved roasted Chickens, pasta dishes, fish, grilled meats, meat skewers, lahmacun, pide, pizza, chips, vegetables, stews, soups, sushi, rice, fresh salad, lots of various Turkish meze and traditional dishes, and the funniest thing – a whole chicken doner grilling away in the corner! Surely Turkey is the only place in the world where you’d find a chicken doner kebab roasting in the all inclusive buffet? Hilarious, but delicious! Berkay had 3 plates full, mostly meat! I limited myself and saved myself for dessert. Baklava, pudding, mini cakes and tarts, Turkish Lokma (similiar to donuts covered in syrup) and my favourite – beautiful cakes covered in brightly coloured icing and fresh strawberry, kiwi and banana!
     
As well as lunch & dinner buffets, the hotel also has a snack bar open every afternoon, an icecream stand open for 2 hours a day, and patisserie open 24 hours, all included as part of the ‘all inclusive’ concept. Local beer, wine, raki, gin, vodka and cocktails are included, as well as soft drinks, teas, coffee etc, but imported spirits and fresh fruit juices are extra. There are also two a la Carte restaurants which need booking for an extra cost too.

 
  
After dinner we went to the amphitheater to watch the entertainment for the night – a ‘Turkish night’ – I think we picked a good day! The only time I’ve ever watched any entertainment in Turkey was the night we stayed in Titanic hotel. I don’t know how I visited and lived in Turkey for so long without coming across any evening entertainment but it’s true! There was some more weird dancing to crazy frog, and then a really good traditional Turkish dance show, with men and women dancing to various music, drums, tap dancing, swords, whirling dervish etc! It was really good and lasted for about 45minutes. Berkay loved it, his face was beaming the whole time.
 
The next morning we had to wake up early to leave and go to the village, even though we were allowed to use the hotel facilities til 2pm. We did get to enjoy a lovely breakfast though – fresh simit, tomatoes, cucumber, salad, fried egg, boiled egg, cheeses, fried potatoes, sucuk (spicy sausage).. and sweet options too – fruit, fruit pies, pastries, pancakes with syrup, waffles with chocolate sauce… Because we were only in the hotel for one day, we had to make the most of it and eat EVERYTHING. Dessert with breakfast, yummy.


The whole place is so peaceful in the morning, the sea was still, beach empty, sunbeds empty. I sat and made the most of the last few minutes of 5* luxury, knowing that in a few hours time I’d be sat 4 hours away in Berkay’s family’s village, surrounded by farm animals and haystacks. Oh what a difference a few hours and a few hundred kilometers makes!

What really surprised me was how full the hotel was. We were there the last week of April/first week of May, and everywhere else was quiet, Calis was quiet in the evenings, the restaurants along the promenade fairly empty, but this hotel very busy – we inquired about staying for another few nights the following week and were told all rooms were full, they only had the more expensive suites available. It didn’t feel cramped though and there was no fighting for sunbeds, although finding a table at dinner time took a little searching! Regardless, it’s a beautiful hotel in a brilliant location and we’ll definitely be visiting again one day. A lot of the Calis beach hotels are 3* or 4* and a little run down, never really seem to have improvements or a lick of paint, so this was something a little different.

All those years we spent walking past it, watching it being built from the ground upwards, afternoons spent walking Boncuk past it, we never thought we’d actually stay there, and it was even better than we imagined.
 

Please note, Jiva resort did not sponsor this post, we paid for everything ourselves and they do not even know I am writing it!

Our new house!

This time last year, if you had told me that we’d be married, Berkay would have been living in the UK nearly 5 months and we’d have just bought our own place, I would have laughed in your face… In fact even 3 months ago if you’d have told me we’d be living in our own place by April I’d have thought you were crazy too…  alas, that is exactly what happened!

In the middle of March, after a stressful few weeks of dealing with solicitors, banks, and all those other ‘grown up’ things, we exchanged contracts and completed. We got the keys on 17th March and moved in within a few days, between working and Berkay having a horrible toothache! You might be wondering how on earth we managed to buy property in South East London, and so soon after Berkay had moved here, but don’t worry, we didn’t rob a bank! The answer is it’s a shared ownership property – we own a 40% share, and a housing association owns the rest. Renting a one bedroom flat around here would be around £1000 a month, but it actually works out a lot cheaper for us to have a mortgage on 40% and pay rent and service charge on the remaining 60%, so we are much better off going down this route.

I love our little flat and since we’ve moved out and have our own place, Berkay is a lot more settled. He’s settled more in this past 3 weeks than he has in the last 4.5 months. Previously, we lived with family, which we were very grateful for, but it’s just not the same as having your own place, especially as we already lived together for 3 years, so moving back home was like taking a step back for a while. It also means more space for the two of us so we’re not cramped up in one room and annoying each other 24/7!

When we lived in Turkey together we never really had anything of our own, no furniture, no personal touches, no real belongings or house decor, the longest we lived in one apartment was 2.5 years but we didn’t make it our own and it was always very clear that we were living in someone else’s house, it never felt like ours, so buying things and planning for this flat was really exciting.

 
Our flat is only one bedroom, but it’s a really good sized room, and Berkay has already mentioned to everyone he speaks to that one day he could split the room into two and make space for a nursery ( I think he knows something I don’t! ha ha). It has a bathroom with a bath, something we also never had in Turkey, along with hot water without relying on solar panels, another luxury…but the best room in the whole place is the livingroom/kitchen area. It has huge, floor length, wall to wall windows which provide stunning views across the area, although fitting the blinds to the windows was a nightmare, I have a new-found respect for people who have blinds, now I know how long they take to perfect. I absolutely love the windows and having a balcony is something I’ve always wanted too, as that reminds me of our Turkey days! The only thing that is missing is the BBQ outside! My other favourite thing in the house, and the most expensive thing I’ve ever bought, apart from the flat itself, is our corner sofa, it’s massive with plenty of space for us both to lay out end to end and not even touch each other! 😉 You may also notice I have a giant teddy in the corner, he’s over 6ft tall and bigger than me, I’m such a big kid! I guess I have to balance the grown-upness of mortgages, solicitors and bills, with my inner-child somehow!

 
 
There are a few little references to Turkey in our house, including wedding photos all over the place, a family shot of us and our lovely dog Boncuk, some word art given to us as a wedding present by our friend, a glittery map of Turkey and of course a couple of Turkish eyes.
   
    
It still doesn’t feel real that we have our own little place and it’s so cosy and homely already, I actually think I’m going to miss it and get a bit homesick when we’re out in Turkey in a few weeks time!

If any of my readers are in the position we were in this time last year, when we were just about to get married and then be forced apart after just 3 days of married life, to go through the whole struggle of visas and all of the uncertainty, I urge you to please not give up, it will all work out, although I know the patience is hard to find. ❤

2016 – a year in photos

So, as the clock stuck midnight last night we bid 2016 a fond goodbye. While many people were glad to see the back of the year, on a personal level it was a good one for us, and definitely the most eventful of our lives! Berkay finished the army, we planned a wedding, got married, had TWO weddings, applied for Berkay’s visa, he moved to the UK and we spent our first Christmas as husband and wife together. For the past 3 years I’ve done ‘a year in photo’s’ recap posts, so here is this years!

January 2016
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On 18th January Berkay completed his 12 month army service, which was a huge relief. It was like a huge weight lifted. His army service had kept us apart for most of 2015 so the start of 2016 when we knew the end was imminent was very exciting. A week after he finished his service I travelled to Turkey to meet him, it was the first time we’d seen each other since April 2015 – 9 months, the longest we’d ever spent apart. I spent 10 days in Calis/Fethiye with him and love these photos from those few days – all bring back lovely memories.  Of course I had to watch a few sunsets while I was there, and take part in our favourite past time – playing backgammon and drinking tea in seafront cafes! The weather was unusually warm too, it was definitely interesting to spend a January day on the beach fishing in a vest top!

February 2016   
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By February I was back in England, but we had celebrating to do – after I got back we decided we’d get married that year, and I started planning things with my family. Me and mum went wedding dress shopping, which was the most bizarre experience, I wasn’t at all intending on getting a big, white, wedding dress but after trying one on, that is exactly what happened, and we celebrated with champagne cocktails!

March 2016
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After only having been back in England for 5 weeks, I found myself boarding another flight to Turkey mid-March, this time only for 4 days. They were a very busy 4 days, spent running around offices to hand in our marriage paperwork and book a date. Berkay even had to have a blood test, but once it was all handed in we had the date confirmed – 27th April. Amongst the 4 days of rushing around, we managed to enjoy a bit of time together.

April 2016
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April was obviously the best month! At the beginning of the month things became to feel real when I had my hen ‘party’ afternoon tea. A few weeks later, I flew to Turkey with a suitcase full of wedding-related things, met Berkay, and started to prepare mentally for the week ahead! Slowly over the week other members of my family flew out to join us – my nan, grandad, dad, stepmum, brother, sister, mum and step dad. Just having all of us in the same county was lovely, especially with it being Turkey, as that was the place that I called home for so long, yet some of them had never been to, or hadn’t been to for a long time, and never ever all at the same time! Having everyone there, being able to show them things and places and for them to meet some of our friends and Berkay’s family was nice. On the day of the wedding, 27th april, we first drove around Fethiye, Calis, Kayakoy and Yaniklar for a pre-wedding photoshoot. At 6.30pm, My dad and little sister bridesmaid, walked me down the aisle where I was greeted by a crowd of our friends and family, and my mum bawling her eyes out!

May 2016
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Unforuately, just 4 days after getting married, on 1st May I was on a plane back to England. It was tough getting back to reality, but I had plenty to keep myself busy with!

June/July/August/September
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The summer months were the most boring, I just worked, worked, worked, and when I wasn’t working I was sitting at home gathering piles and piles of paperwork ready for the visa application. I remember sitting at home every night watching the Olympics on tv while writing visa letters and scrolling through 5 years worth of Facebook messages trying to collect and organise them as proof of our relationship! Eventually, it was all ready for the application.

October 2016
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1st October, bright and early, I flew to Dalaman again. The first day was spent driving 4 hours away to Berkay’s village in Beyagac, Denizli where we had our 2nd wedding party. Over 5000 people invited, with well over 1000 actually turning up. It was an experience, that’s for sure, and pretty traumatic for a shy girl like me! The best thing was that I was reunited with Boncuk, albeit temporarily. I hadn’t seen her for 18 months and thought she may have forgotten me but she hadn’t at all, she was so happy to see me and smothered me in kisses! Towards the end of the week, we drove to Antalya to apply for Berkay’s visa. Handing in the application was a huge relief and we anxiously awaited the result, our fate in their hands. To relax a little, we checked into the 5* Titanic Lara Beach resort hotel for a night and absolutely loved it – I’d never been in a 5* hotel before and it was definitely exactly what I needed after a week of stress!

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The last week of October deserves it’s own little section – after nearly 3 weeks of frantically checking the tracking website, finally the ‘decision made’ box turned green and Berkay got his passport back in the post – we opened it on Facetime together, and inside was a great big shiny visa! What we’d been working towards for years was finally a reality! As it happened, me and mum had booked into a spa the weekend after, so we used that as an opportunity to celebrate.

November 2016
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After what felt like a very long month, 18th November finally came around and Berkay arrived at Gatwick airport, greeted by balloons, banners and a lot of my family. Such a surreal moment, knowing he didn’t have to go back.

December 2016
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Always a month for fun and festivities, Decemeber didn’t dissapoint. I’d spent the previous two Christmas’ and New Year’s without Berkay, so having him here to help celebrate our first as husband and wife was lovely, even if he doesn’t totally understand the madness of Christmas, Santa and all that goes with it. Last night as Big Ben rang out, me, Berkay, my dad, stepmum, sister, brother and his girlfriend all spent the evening together, celebrating the end of the year but also the start of 2017.

Berkay is still adjusting to life here in the UK but we’re working on it.
Who knows what 2017 holds but I hope it’s kind to us all. I hope all my friends, family and blog readers all have a happy, healthy new year.

Hos Geldin 2017.

Our Traditional Turkish Village wedding – the evening.

“Just take a deep breath” – those words were running through my head as I stepped out of the car. A few days prior to the big Turkish wedding party I had been discussing how worried I was and my stepmum’s very useful words of wisdom were ‘take deep breaths’ – I must have thought about that conversation and replayed those few words in my head 100 times that day!

There was already music playing, which they stopped when Berkay’s brother gave us the signal to start walking towards the empty space in the middle of the floor. There was a make shift aisle between rows of chairs, and when the DJ introduced us, hundreds of heads turned to face me. My instinct was to burst into tears and it took all my effort not to do so! The photographer captured this moment perfectly – lips tightly together, dread in my eyes…  
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As soon as we entered the middle of the make-shift dancefloor and started our slow dance (after Berkay’s cousin taught us how to during the day….) Berkay’s brothers laid out some giant sparkler fireworks around us in a circle and fired some confetti at us, which looked great for the photos but made me jump at the time! Slowly, other couples and family members joined in the slow dancing – including Berkays dad, much to the amusement of his family who had never seen him dance before despite attending hundreds of weddings!
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Berkay’s dad wasnt the only family member joining in the fun – Berkay’s uncle grabbed one of the traditional giant drums that always take pride of place at a village wedding, and started bashing it – apparently he had never played one before but one glass of raki later and he was playing it so confidently you’d think he was an expert! To accompany the very, very loud drum, the DJ was playing a keyboard and singing. I can’t even explain how loud it was!
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After the slow dance, it was time for the real madness to begin – the traditional, loud, Turkish music that reminds me of a swarm of angry bees buzzing – if you’ve heard this kind of music you’ll know exactly what I mean. I don’t do dancing, so I was dreading this, especially because as the bride, all eyes were on me. I’d only ever done Turkish dancing once before and that was on our actual wedding day back in April, and only for a couple of minutes – I should definitely have practiced more! Basically, it involves standing around in a circle, wriggling your shoulders, clicking your fingers and shuffling to the beat of the massive drum – at least that’s what I tried to do. It was really entertaining watching everyone else dance, a lot of them really got into it and were obviously having great fun. I tried to stay with Berkay as much as possible but he disappeared off a few times and I was left in a circle of women. Bless Berkay’s cousins really tried to look after me and made sure I was dancing in their ‘circle’, but I’ve only met them a few times so I was still nervous. After a while some of our friends from Fethiye joined in the dancing. They are much older than us and are almost like second parents to Berkay when he’s in Fethiye. They said they made the journey all the way to Denizli just so that I had someone I knew there which was so sweet. My face definitely did light up when I saw them dancing amongst the sea of people I’d never met before – I navigated towards them and just standing next to them made me feel so much better, although of course I was still searching for Berkay in the crowd!
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There were so many people from far and wide – everyone really makes an effort to turn up. September-November is wedding season in Turkey and this fairly small village can have up to 10 weddings per week, but apparently everyone was commenting how many people had turned up to our one and how they’d never seen one like that before! Berkay was especially pleased that two of his best friends from his army days made the journey, he keeps in regular contact to them via whatsapp and Facebook and they spent almost 10 months together day and night in the army so it was nice for him that they wanted to come.

After a few dances and a very quick sit down it was time to pin the money. I spoke about this in my blog post about our actual wedding in April, as it was a tradition that I wanted to make sure we did then too. It’s tradition in Turkey to pin money on to the bride and groom, rather than give gifts. In English weddings you end up with toasters, slowcookers and kettles, whereas in Turkey you end up with lots of paper notes, much more useful, and looks great in the wedding photos too. At first, people formed a fairly orderly queue, got a pin from Berkays cousin and then pinned the money to us before shaking our hands and double kissing our cheeks, but the neat queue quickly turned into chaos and I had people grabbing me, kissing my face and rushing at me with money in their hands from all angles – very overwhelming. We had anything between 1 dollar and 100 lira notes pinned to us, along with some small gold coins, another Turkish tradition. These small, gold coins are worth different amounts depending on their weight and are often given at special occasions like weddings, births of babies etc. We got around 12 gold coins pinned to us, but we only got to keep the 7 given to us by family – the others were kept by Berkays family.

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After the money had all been pinned to us, the photographer asked people to come up for photographs with us – notice the outfits, it’s normal for guests to not dress up at all, although a lot of the closer family members did. There is certainly no upstaging the bride so that’s one less thing to worry about, everyone just goes along to join the celebrations and have a boogie which is lovely.

After the photos, the DJ dropped the bombshell that he would be bringing a chair out for us to do a solo dance around. Berkay had the unfortunate job of breaking this news to me and translating and I believe my reaction was ‘I hate you’ – I’m disappointed the photographer didn’t get a photo of my face when he told me because I bet it would have been absolutely hilarious. Berkay apparently didn’t know about this before, it’s a good job I didn’t know because I’d have been worrying all day! It was literally my worst nightmare, actually even worse than I could have imagined, but with hundreds of pairs of eyes watching I had no choice. First of all, I took my seat in the chair, the DJ played music, the drummer played, Berkay’s shoulders started shuffling and he danced around me in a circle. After a couple of minutes, the music stopped, the DJ shouted ‘did you like it?’ I answered ‘yes’ but I couldn’t possibly type what I was actually thinking as it involves many, many swearwords. Now it was my turn, Berkay sat down on the chair and I danced around him in a circle. I have no idea what was going through my head but I know that it felt like the longest few minutes of my life! We caught the whole thing on video and watching it back does really make me laugh, even though I hated it it is definitely something to look back on and smile about. So many people who know me commented how they couldn’t believe I had done it as they’ve known me for a long time and know how shy I am.
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The night carried on and we carried on dancing, my feet were aching, my fingers hurting, and I was very tired after being up since 4am and travelling, but we weren’t allowed to sit down and just had to keep on going. Everyone was enjoying themselves and eventually as the dance floor started to empty a bit, I managed to sneak off and sit down, leaving Berkay, his brothers and their friends dancing around like loons but having lots of fun.
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By the end of the night, I had blisters all over my fingers from all the clicking whilst dancing, I suppose that’s a sign of a good party – injuries from dancing!

Overall, it was a very interesting experience but one I definitely will never, ever be repeating! Clearly, it meant a lot to Berkay and his family and they did go to a lot of effort to organise the whole thing – it’s important to take part in the traditions and embrace the culture on both sides and I’m glad I was brave enough to do it, it’s definitely a story to tell everyone!
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Our Traditional Turkish Village Wedding – the Day

Traditional Turkish village weddings can go on for 2-3 days. Time restrictions meant our’s only lasted one day, and I skipped the traditional henna night. Since we had a long way to travel, we woke up at 4.30am on the Sunday morning and drove the 3 hours from Fethiye to Berkay’s family’s village in Beyağaç, Denizli.We arrived there just before 8am, bright and early, and preparations for the day’s events were already well underway. When we got to the house, everyone was out at the local marketplace (where the wedding was being held) taking the delivery of the tables and chairs and getting the food started. After a brief reunion with our dog Boncuk, we jumped back in the car and went down to join the others in the town centre.

At this point, things were calm, everything was fairly relaxed. I greeted Berkay’s mum, dad and brothers and then our attention was drawn to a small gathering of 4 women by the side of the road. They were cooking some of the food for the wedding. When you have 5000 guests invited, you have to do everything on a larger scale… and they certainly did. They had 4 huge pots (rather like cauldrons..) full of various things, one of which was keşkek. Keşkek is a very traditional part of Turkish weddings and they take great pride in cooking it. It’s a weird food, served at special occasions, weddings, funerals, religious celebrations etc. A lot of people are involved in the preparing and cooking. It’s made from wheat, locally produced from the villages in most cases, and ground meat, and is lovingly and slowly cooked in these huge cauldrons. It’s a hard job to mix it with the huge wooden spoon as it is so thick, it’s definitely a good arm workout! It’s reminds me of porridge… but porridge mixed with ground meat, butter, and lots of oil… once it’s ready it’s often slopped in a bowl and covered in spicy pepper sauce. It certainly doesn’t look, or sound very appealing but it doesn’t taste as bad as you think and it’s a good, hearty food that definitely feels like it’s been lovingly homemade by your grandma.
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Aside from keşkek, there were various other dishes being cooked up by paid chefs in the market place – rice, beans, cacik, a meat stew, brain soup (yes… BRAIN soup) and hundreds of loaves of bread. We were the first ones to try the food at around 9.30 am, just before the official 10am start time of the day part of the wedding.

After sitting down with some members of his family to eat the food, Berkay left me to go and help the men of the family carry on laying out the tables and chairs. 100 tables, 500 chairs, huge rolls of tissue tablecloths, hundreds of packets of napkins, jugs of water… it was certainly a mammoth task to get everything ready.

At 10am the steady flow of people started arriving. Most of them I’d never seen before, only a handful would even recognise me in a lineup, and thankfully I didn’t need to wear my wedding dress until the evening, so I could blend in a little. We didn’t greet everyone who attended, as there literally were not enough hours in the day, but we did get called over every now and then to greet important guests, the older generation, old family friends or those who have a higher standing in the village. I must say, in the most polite way possible, that it was very much more of a thing for show. Berkay’s dad has his own business and is very well known in the village and nearby areas – he sells animal feed, and since everyone owns a farm there, he clearly has a good client base! As a result, he spent most of the time standing greeting people and talking to his friends, gesturing for us to go over and say hello every now and then. It was much less of a celebration of our marriage, and more of a ‘look, I’m such a wonderful dad doing this huge wedding for my son’ kinda thing, and if you’ve read my previous posts about Berkay’s childhood you’ll know why that leaves a bit of a bitter taste.
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Anyway, as the day went on and lunchtime approached, the marketplace became very busy, with hundreds of people coming to join in and eat. Berkay’s brothers, younger cousins and family friends were running around like headless chickens trying to make sure everyone who arrived got their tray full of small silver dishes, filled with the different foods from the kitchen. It’s normal in Turkey for 5-6 people to share from one bowl, although everyone has their own spoon, so that helped minimise the washing up! As you can imagine, it took a lot of work to make sure the bread was restocked, fresh tablecloths were placed on the tables after each group of people left, the water jugs were refilled, the empty plates and trays were taken away, washing up was done in a little washing up station behind the kitchen area, chairs were rearranged, tables cleared, tea glasses filled and delivered, making sure the elders and the important people were greeted as a sign of respect… It was a lot of work for them, and really very overwhelming for me. At this point I was sitting alone with Berkay’s aunts and female cousins who were really trying to do a good job of looking after me, they could definitely sense the panic in my eyes! Berkay was rushing around helping but I was told to sit down and drink tea..

I’m not entirely sure just how many people turned up during the day for the food giving, but I can say with some certainty that it was over 2500 people. Just to put it into perspective, Berkay’s family slaughtered one of their cows, which provided 60kg of meat, they also had another 30kg of beef gifted to them so that makes a total of 90kg. Half way through the day, all 90kgs of beef had been eaten in the meat stew and they had to rush out and buy another 12 chickens to cook!! 90kgs of red meat, all gone, and we’re not talking about whole steaks for each person that came, we’re talking a few small cubes of meat in a bowl of stew shared between 5-6 people at a time over a period of about 7 hours, so that should give you an idea of just how many people came to enjoy the food!

Each family that came gave Berkay’s parents a small envelope with money in, to help cover the costs. I’ve spoken to a lot of people about this, and some say that it’s normal, other’s say that it’s not normal at all and that any money given should be for the bride and groom, and not for the family. It seems that each village has it’s own customs and traditions, and this is one of theirs. Over 13,000tl was given to Berkay’s family throughout the day, again emphasising just how many guests actually attended!

Thankfully, Berkay’s family’s house was only a 5-10 minute drive away from the marketplace and we were able to go back to the house a couple of times for around half an hour just to sit with no eyes watching, use the wifi, speak to my family, play with Boncuk and most importantly, breathe.

Initially, we were sent back to the house to retrieve ‘my’ gold.  I say ‘my’, but effectively we just rented it. As I have already mentioned, the whole day really felt more about ‘keeping up with apperances’ rather than really being a celebration, and this tradition of the bride wearing gold is another which really made this clear. It’s normal for the groom and his family to give the bride gold, and lots of it. Unfortunately gold is very expensive at the moment, and we are not rich! The day before the wedding we stopped at Ortaca, near Dalaman, and went to the nearest gold shop, where Berkay purchased five 22 karat gold bangles which cost the best part of £1000 – even then, I had to convince Berkay that that was enough, and he would have happily got into a lot of debt and bought more just so my arm looked a little more decorated! Clearly after the wedding we would have no use for £1000 worth of gold bangles, so we planned to sell them straight back the day after, and we were prepared to lose a little money in the process. (As it happened, when we did sell them back we would have only lost around 90tl but I decided to keep 2 of the bangles as I liked them so much!) I’m not a person for expensive jewellery or designer items, so I had never worn anything worth so much as all this gold. Berkay’s mum let me borrow her gold necklace, and her sash, which was covered in cloves and gold coins, but we forgot to wear this! It’s apparently tradition in this village to wear it across the body which I had never heard of before. We did genuinely forget about it until it was too late, but I’m quite glad because the clove smell reminded me of the dentist, and I am terrified of the dentist so it didn’t help to calm my nerves!
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After going back to the marketplace in the afternoon and greeting more guests, it was time to head off to the hairdresser to get ready. Berkay dropped me off at the ‘salon’ (a concrete basement with a sink in the corner, a mirror and a chair) with his cousins and aunt while he went off to get changed, go to the barber and get the car covered in ribbons.

Despite not being able to communicate much, the 4 hours I was sat in that salon room were quite enjoyable. It appears that this is the only hair salon in the whole village and she was very busy.She started with Berkay’s cousins hair, then the children, then his aunt, and eventually it was my turn. The whole time I was in there people were wandering in and out, and lots of little girls coming in and out waiting their turn too. I could sense people’s excitement. A young girl sat next to me completely fascinated, she kept staring at me and edging closer and closer, almost sitting on my lap and kept nudging my arm. Another little girl came in and spotted my dress hanging up on the back of the door and her eyes lit up – I guess every little girl loves the thought of being a bride and Turkish little girls are no different. After what seemed like a lifetime of curling and pinning my hair, the hairdresser then started on my makeup. “Sade”, Berkay had told her when he dropped me off, which means plain. I knew from friends who have had their own village weddings that I wasn’t getting out of that salon without bright blue eyeshadow, thick black eyeliner and bright red lipstick, I’m not sure what the significance is between blue eyeshadow and brides, but apparently the two go hand in hand! As predicted, I ended up wearing more makeup than I’ve ever worn in my life, which was the furthest thing from ‘plain’, but I actually liked it as it made me feel different, I guess almost like a mask, which I definitely needed to help with my confidence to get me through the evening – I even asked for extra glitter which was then sprinkled all over my hair and chest.

Next was the part which I had been dreading the most – putting on my dress. Thankfully, it was a corset dress so it allowed for a few extra lbs that I’d gained since the last time I wore it in April, but it was very difficult to do up. Berkay’s cousin and aunt were in charge of lacing me in, although I knew it didn’t feel quite right, so the hairdresser done some final tweaks to make sure it was done properly. I was so concious of my wedding dress as most of the villagers are very, very traditional and even having shoulders on display is a no-no. I had come prepared with shrugs and shalls to cover up but everyone reassured me that it looked fine – a lot of the guests had never even met an English girl before so I didn’t want to give off the wrong impression, it was definitely a lot of pressure!
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Finally, after 4 hours of being beautified, I was reunited with Berkay, who was now dressed in his suit, freshly shaved and covered in hair glitter which looked a lot like sparkly dandruff…interesting. With a lot of help, he got me and my dress up the stairs and into the car which had been decorated with ribbons, flowers and fancy number plates, letting everyone know that we were the bride and groom, just in case the outfits didn’t give it away! We went back to his house, I mustered up the courage to have a last minute pee, which was very difficult in my dress and definitely a two-person job, thank God they have a ‘normal’ sitting toilet and not just a hole in the floor, otherwise that could have gone very, very wrong.

Eventually, about 7.45pm it was time to get back into the car and make our grand entrance.. We pulled up outside the marketplace and Berkay jumped out to speak to his brother’s about the plan of action.. I was sat in the car hyperventilating and lots of little girls came running over to the car door. ‘Gelin! Gelin! Bak, gelin!’ – ‘Bride, Bride, look, Bride!’ they shouted out to each other and to their mums. They were so excited to see me and my dress and it was weird having so much attention and excitement directed at little old me!

Once Berkay had had his instructions, it was time to get out, take a deep breath and make our entrance together, with all eyes on me, the ‘yabancı gelin’ – foreign bride…

Submitting the visa application…

img_6518-1For those who don’t follow my Facebook page – I have just come back from 8 days in Turkey! Amongst many other things during the very, very busy week (including our big village wedding party…) a major event happened – we applied for Berkay’s visa!

This has been a very, very long time coming. Ever since I came back to the UK in December 2014 this visa has been the end goal, but it has been the main obstacle in our relationship since day one. The whole time Berkay was in the army I was working hard to find a job earning the minimum income requirement, then once I found that 18 months ago, I began slowly ticking the other things off the list of visa requirements.

Since July I have spent every waking moment after work gathering paperwork as evidence and organising it all – hundreds of pieces of paper, constantly writing letters, perfecting them, making sure everything was explained, printing, reprinting, proof-reading, triple-checking everything, getting paperwork from outside sources to prove everything, collecting wage slips, bank statements and saving enough money to apply. Then, a few weeks ago we finally had everything ready, paid the extortionate total £2500 visa fee and booked our appointment to submit the papers in Antalya on 6th October.

So, while I was there last week (after a couple of late nights on the terrace having a final run through of the paperwork) on Thursday morning we woke up bright and early at 5am and made the 2.5 hour journey to Antalya. Actually finding the visa application centre was a mission in itself – thank goodness we had GPS on Berkay’s phone, although him trying to drive on the massive, extremely busy Antalya city centre roads was rather scary too, nothing like the Fethiye roads we’re used to which are tiny in comparison! There was so much pollution too, the whole city area was all smoggy. We arrived in plenty of time so we stopped for some breakfast – delicious meat borek and a glass of cay.
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We eventually did find the visa application centre, which was in a big multi-purpose community centre with a lot of different rooms and security scanners on the doors. It was very modern looking and had a lovely big water fountain outside. Berkay had to register in a small room and I was allowed to sit in there with him while a man rummaged through the paperwork. Seeing him reorder the paperwork that I had painstakingly ordered and labelled according to my contents page was hard to watch, that paperwork has been my treasured possession for months, I felt like snatching it all back! After the intital registration, we had to wait outside another room – there seemed to be at least 5 other people there with the same appointment time as Berkay, and there was no order to people being called into the room, it just seemed to be whoever managed to make eye contact with the man on the door first! He eventually got seen 30 minutes after his appointment, I wasn’t allowed in so I had to sit outside but I could see him through a section of glass in the door and was trying not to make him laugh when he realised I could see him. They took the paperwork, shoved it all in an envelope, took Berkay’s fingerprints and a photo and then that was that.
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It was a relief that it was all over – I had gone over the paperwork so many times and was happy with it, I was confident that we had done all we could and shown all we could possibly show, but I always ended up second guessing myself and trying to add more, so having it finally sent off and knowing I could do nothing else was like a huge weight lifted off my shoulders instantly.

The decision usually takes 12 weeks, but we paid £450 to prioritise the application which means a decision should be made within 3 weeks – a huge difference and well worth the extra money. There is an online tracking system that tells us exactly where in the process the application is currently at – it’s so addictive, we keep logging in to check, even at completely random times of day when we know the office is shut, even at weekends. Berkay wakes up during the day and checks it then goes back to sleep, I check several times a day when I wake up, during work, when I come home… The day when it changes to ‘decision made’ I think our hearts will stop beating for a second!! Unfortunately, the decision won’t be known until they send it back in the post and Berkay opens the envelope and searches through the passport for visa or a refusal letter.

Our whole future is in someone else’s hands at the moment… please keep your fingers crossed for us!

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6 years together..

Yesterday, 8th July, was our 6 year anniversary. Back on 2nd July 2010 I flew to Turkey with my friend and stayed in a small hotel in Calis, Fethiye. Little did I know that during that week I’d meet Berkay, one of the staff at the hotel, towards the end of the holiday we got speaking, went out one night and the rest is history.

Who would have thought that now, 6 years later, we’d be married? Proof that a ‘holiday romance’ can work out!
We have spoken to each other every day since 8th July 2010,  we lived together in Turkey for 3 years, he visited the UK 6 times, we survived 9 months without seeing each other during his 12 month army service and managed with just a 1 minute phonecall as our only contact everyday for a year. We haven’t seen each other since a few days after we got married back in April, but hopefully we’ll be together permanently before the end of the year and then we can start a whole new chapter!

In order to apply for Berkay’s spouse visa to live in the UK, we have to provide a lot of paperwork and proof of our relationship so I have been going through old photos to show as evidence – since they were handy and saved into a folder on my computer I thought I’d share some here, Danni & Berkay through the years!
 
This was the first photo we had together, and the only one for months! I think it was taken right before I left to go back to Dalaman airport. It’s really funny looking back at this photo as when it was taken I never for 1 second thought we’d end up having wedding photos taken together 6 years later! The 2nd photo was taken in October 2010, when I went back to Turkey for a week alone, to get to know Berkay better. Before that week we’d only spent a couple of hours together, but after talking to each other every day for hours on MSN for 3 months, it felt like we’d known each other forever.
 
In January 2011 I flew back to Turkey for a week and spent more time with Berkay. This photo was taken at aksazlar koyu in Fethiye, the first time I’d ever been there. Today it’s our favourite spot to go to for a BBQ! The 2nd photo was taken on our 1st anniversary in July 2011, by this point I had been living in Turkey for 2 months having only actually spent 2 full weeks with Berkay before moving. 
In December 2011, after 2 attempts, Berkay got his visit visa to the UK granted and we went to the UK together for Christmas, followed by another 2 years living in Turkey together..
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In 2013, I made plans to move back to the UK, but not before a little weekend getaway in Bodrum, where we had some fun dressing up as sultans!
 
I moved back to England for 8 months, and Berkay came to visit for Christmas and for my mums wedding – it was during this time I realised how hard it was to be apart and how much I didn’t want to live in the UK without him while we still had the choice, so I moved back to Turkey for 6 months in 2014. The 2nd photo is taken on Berkay’s birthday in December 2014, the day before I moved back to England once again.

2015 was without a doubt the most testing year for us, as Berkay had to do his 12 month national service which I ranted, cried and moaned my way through. In April 2015 we were reunited for a week during his army leave and the rest of the year was very tough with Berkay being sent to Diyarbakir and not being able to take any of the remaining leave. This meant I didn’t see him again until January 2016.
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fter 8 very long months without seeing each other, the longest we’d ever spent apart, I spent 10 days back in Fethiye with Berkay in January. It felt like I’d never been away, and like we’d never been apart. In April 2016, we got married. Unfortunately I had to fly back to the UK just 4 days after… and we haven’t seen each other since.

I’m hoping to go back to visit in September, and then we’ll apply for Berkay’s spouse visa around then. I hope that by the end of this year we will be able to settle, rather than be backwards and forwards between both countries, or having long periods of time apart. The last 6 years certainly haven’t been easy or without obstacles, and it’s so funny looking back on old photos and thinking how different things were back then.

We’re a little older, fatter and bolder, but still just as happy… even though we act like an old married couple most of the time! We have come a long way in 6 years, here’s to the next 60… 
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Our Turkish wedding Part 3.

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Our wedding was always going to be a little ‘different’ as we tried to incorporate both cultures. The theme for the whole day was red and white, to signify both the English flag and the Turkish flag. We were conscious that for the Turkish guests this was going to be a slightly more boring wedding than they were used to as traditional village weddings are massive with hundreds, or thousands, of guests and have things such as loud drummers, gun shots and loud Turkish music all night long. One of the most traditional things we done was the pinning on of the money. We didn’t actually plan to do this until a couple of days before the wedding, after we went to collect my flowers and they asked if we needed ribbon for the money to be pinned to, only then I realised I actually really wanted to do it and have photos of something more traditional for our photo album.

So, after we had group photos taken on the beach we asked people to gather around and make a line to pin the money on us. I always thought this was a bit cheeky, but I guess it’s really no different to having guests bring wedding presents, and since we currently live in separate countries, the typical ‘British’ wedding presents like toasters, kettles etc would be pretty pointless. Its tradition that the guests line up in front of the bride and groom, collect a pin and one by one pin lira notes or gold coins onto a sash that is tied around the bride and grooms necks. It’s also usual for the bride to receive gold bracelets or coins from the groom’s family, but I didn’t receive any. With a bit of help from Berkay’s uncle and cousin, our guests greeted us one by one and pinned the money on us, it was really windy at this point and the money was close to blowing away, but it was really fun and I’m so glad we decided to include this part in our day as Berkay’s family loved it. His uncle was posting photos on Facebook all day and when it came to this part he proudly shared photos under the heading ‘Now time for the Turkish part’ which made me smile.
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As part of the table favours, I had ordered personalised cards with our photos on with the words ‘let love sparkle’ and a little sparkler for each guest to light. Obviously I couldn’t travel with the sparklers as fireworks aren’t allowed in the suitcase, so I had to hunt around to find some suitable in Fethiye – we eventually found them in Oludeniz Azda and bought 100 of them! I’d seen lots of photos of other weddings using sparklers as the ‘send off’ idea for the end of the night when the bride and groom leave the venue, but we decided just to use them right in the middle of the evening, just after sunset. 3 men from my family (Dad, brother and step-dad) and 3 from Berkay’s family (his 2 brothers and uncle) lit the sparklers and held them up either side of us and it proved to be a lot more easier said than done as they had trouble lighting all 6 sparklers at the same time in the wind! Along with the sparklers I also made other table favours – a little box filled with Turkish delight and a heart shaped Cadbury chocolate which I’d spent the previous day melting, making and filling, and a small bag containing a pebble which we had picked off Calis beach, written our names and date on, and a small Turkish eye pin. I loved the pebble idea the most and I have my own one sat at home in my bedroom, a little piece of Calis Beach in my house to remind me of that day.
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After the sparklers, I was reluctantly pulled to the dancefloor and persuaded to have a first dance. I’ve never danced before and can’t dance at all, we really should have practiced first! I do love these photos though.
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By this point we were really hungry, and so were the guests, so when the restaurant declared the buffet open we were very excited! Here another part of Turkish tradition popped up, a part I’d never heard of before. Apparently it’s normal that the staff serving the food won’t do so unless the groom tips them. The chef who was responsible for opening the buffet counter refused to lift the food covers until Berkay had tipped him, after the first 50tl note he opened the lid a tiny bit then closed it again, and after a further 10tl he opened it fully – much to the amusement of Berkay and my dad! The food was all made by Guven’s restaurant and it was delicious, an open buffet of chicken and meatballs, rice, salad, mushrooms, potatoes, yogurt, bread and a few other Turkish meze dishes. We also had free sprite, cola and fanta on the tables and it all just cost roughly 40tl per person, which is amazing. They done such a good job.
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After our belly’s and glasses were full my dad made a speech, followed by Berkay. My dad also read out a poem one of my friends had written and given to him which was really sweet:
For Danni and Berkay on this special day,
I wrote this poem, just to say,
We wish you both the very best,

In love and trust and happiness.
You’re meant to be, it’s fair to say,
You suit one another in every way.
You’re married now, man and wife,
and so begins your married life.
Be kind, be patient, honest too,
We really hope the best for you.
The time has come, so it would seem,
To start living your Turkish dream.
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One of the cutest moments of the whole evening was my little sister and Berkay’s little cousin dancing. They’re both 5 years old, although Berkay’s cousin is 7 months older than Abbie. I told Abbie to go and dance with her and the two held hands and danced around, despite not being able to communicate a single word with each other. Abbie also made friends with Berkay’s family and friends, many of them picked her up for a cuddle and a dance which was so cute, Abbie was loving all the attention. It just shows that the language barrier and culture difference means nothing to children, so lovely to see. Abbie still talks about Berkay’s little cousin now.

Later in the evening, after complaining that it was far too quiet for his liking, one of Berkay’s friends took control of the music and started blasting out Turkish songs. All the Turkish people suddenly got up on the dance floor, and were giving my family members some Turkish dancing lessons. I refused to take part until very late in the night, where I was persuaded by Berkay, I’d never even done Turkish dancing before. I think my nan and grandad win the award for best effort in the Turkish dancing, their shoulders were rocking and their fingers clicking all over the place!
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By 12.30am we were all danced out and everyone was heading ‘home’. By this point I could not wait to get my wedding dress off as I’d had it on since 11am that morning with only one ‘pee-break’. The corset was done so tight I had blisters from the bones of the dress and I was definitely ready to take it off and breathe out!
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I have to say a huge thanks to Carole and Guven of Guven’s restaurant, it was the first wedding they’d ever held but they made it so special. I know they went to a lot of effort in the days leading up to it, especially Carole and her helpers making all the decorations and designing the drapes, chairs, tables etc. They put it so much effort to make it such a lovely day and I totally recommend them to anyone, it looked beautiful, the food was lovely and they are just such a lovely couple in general. Also very thankful to all of my family and friends for coming and making the day so perfect.

The only sad part was knowing we only had 3 more days of married life together before I headed back to the UK, but we definitely made the most of every moment and have lots of lovely memories and photos to treasure.
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Click here to read part 1 of our wedding, and click here for part 2.

Our Turkish wedding Part 2.

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After an afternoon of driving around Fethiye for our wedding photoshoot, at 5.30pm we arrived back in Calis and back to our apartment. Berkay left and went to the wedding venue while I met my nan, Mum, step-mum and sister in our apartment for a quick re-tighten of my dress and a toilet break, which was hilariously awkward and dignity depriving!

After some final tweaks and best wishes, they left me and my sister/bridesmaid, Abbie, alone in the apartment and headed to the venue themselves, while we waited for my dad to knock on the door and collect us. Dad hadn’t seen my wedding dress at all before the moment he walked into the apartment, so it was an emotional moment for him when he did knock on the door and see me I think, he definitely had a few tears in his eyes! At this point it was around 6.15, and we were expecting to be at the venue by 6.30, however the registrar lady had rang Berkay and hold him she’d be late as she was lost… I have many friends who have also been married by this lady and being late seems to be her trademark!

As it got closer to 6.30 we decided to start walking towards the venue – Guven’s restaurant, which was less than a 10 minute walk from where we were staying. On the way two very lovely Welsh ladies who read my blog, and happened to be staying in the same apartments as us, stopped me to say how lovely me and my sister both looked and snapped the below photo, which I love. I hate being the centre of attention so walking down a fairly busy road on the way to the restaurant was quite embarrassing, Turkish and English people sat in the bars and walking past us were all saying ‘awww look’, and shouting that we looked lovely, one person even said ‘aww are you getting married today?’ erm, no, this is just my usual evening wear! D’oh.
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When we arrived at Guven’s the registrar still hadn’t arrived but shortly after we saw Berkay running down to meet her from the bus. Once they had gotten into position, Carole (owner of Guven’s) started playing the traditional ‘here comes the bride’ music over the speakers, Dad took my arm, I took my little sister’s hand and along we walked, down the long makeshift aisle of Turkish rugs. At this point, my poor mum was crying hysterically much to the bemusement of our Turkish guests. It wasn’t a little sob, or a silent tear in her eye, it was a loud, wailing cry, which really made me laugh, a welcome distraction from the realisation that everyone had their eyes on me! I love the photo of Mum crying and the smiley faces of Berkay’s family in the background as they saw me walking towards them.
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After dad handed me over to Berkay, we took our seats in the beautifully decorated area just meters from the beach. The ceremony was very quick, and with the help of my lovely bilingual friend, we had a translation of the service read out in English too.
“You have declared your wish to marry. According to the documents you have submitted, there is no objection to your declaration. Now, in the presence of the witnesses and in our presence, will you please tell us once more:
Dear Danni, under no obligation and with your own will do you wish to marry Berkay? – Yes.
Dear Berkay, under to obligation and with your own will do you wish to marry Danni? – Yes.”
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“You have heard Miss Danni Smith & Mr Berkay Degirmenci wish to marry. Do you bear witness to the marriage? – Yes.
In the presence of myself and the witnesses, you have declared your wish to marry. As there is no objection, your marriage agreement is now made. With the authority vested in me by the Turkish Civil Law, I now pronounce you husband and wife, congratulations and best wishes.
The main aspect of a marriage is that the family union is protected with an eternal peace and happiness. A long lasting marriage is bound together by mutual love and understanding. You must support and help one another on your bad days and difficult times with as much love and understanding as on your good days. Your support for each other will also form the foundations of the happiness of your children. I wish you both health and happiness, you can now kiss your wife!
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Our two witnesses were Berkay’s brother and my step-dad. After the registrar had completed the paperwork and we had signed all the right places, she handed us our official red marriage book, the Turkish alternative to a marriage certificate. My brother gave us our wedding rings which were tied together with red ribbon to signify us being bound together, he then cut the ribbon straight through the middle once the rings were on our fingers. This is traditionally done in Turkey at engagement ceremonies rather than weddings, but we really wanted to incorporate that into our day and I think my brother really enjoyed being a part of the ceremony and having that role.

It’s also tradition in Turkey that whoever stamps on the other persons foot first after reading the vows and being confirmed as husband and wife, is the boss of the marriage. Berkay will tell you I’m always in charge anyway, in fact he sometimes lovingly refers to me as ‘boss’, but it was nice to be able to make a statement to confirm that. I’m glad the photographer captured the moment, perhaps we should get this framed and put in every room as a small reminder…
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After a round of applause by our guests, it was time to greet everyone, starting with our families. My mum was crying again at this point but I love the photo of us hugging, and of Berkay and my dad too. Slightly more traditional was the way I greeted Berkay’s parents, with his stepmum and dad putting their hands out for me to take, kiss and raise to my forehead as a sign of respect. I really dislike doing this, but it’s a cultural thing that I know is important to them, so I have to embrace it.
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My family had never met Berkay’s family until this day, so I was nervous about what their opinions of each other would be, the two backgrounds are very different and neither side really knew what to expect. Berkay introduced everyone to each other and although they were unable to communicate with each other, both families joined in the hugs and handshakes and were united in their happiness for us both which is all that really matters.

After the greetings, it was time to step down onto the beach for photographs, much to the annoyance of my poor little sister who cried her eyes out when she felt the stones and sand in her shoes, so we didn’t manage to get any good group photos with her as our bridesmaid.
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Me and Dad, and us with my mum and dad.
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Us with my brother, and my grandparents.
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Us with Berkay’s dad, step-mum and brothers.
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Us with Berkay’s aunt’s and cousin, and with his uncle, aunt and younger cousin.
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Back on dry, flat, non-sandy land with my sister, our little princess bridesmaid.

One of the main reasons we wanted this particular venue, and at such a late time of day, was to ensure we got some sunset photos on the beach together. Anyone who has read my blog will know just know much I love sitting in Calis and admiring the sunset, so getting these photos taken was something we both really wanted, and the photographer didn’t disappoint. He had us pulling all sorts of poses and it was rather embarrassing as everyone else was standing and watching, it had also started to get very windy and a bit chilly, my veil was blowing all over the place which actually made some of the photos even better!
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By the time we had finished the sunset photos it was time to cut the cake. A very, very lovely lady made this cake for us and I’m so pleased with how it came out, it was exactly as I’d asked for it. The cake had two layers, one was chocolate sponge with chocolate chip cream filling, the other was lemon sponge with lemon curd filling and it was delicious! I spent days and weeks looking online for ideas and knew I wanted something relatively simple, then settled on this design with red hearts flowing down one side, both the Turkish and England flags at the bottom along with the bride, groom and of course our lovely Boncuk dog! She done such a great job, especially on little Boncuk! Guven’s restaurant had arranged for little fireworks around the cake which looked brilliant at the time, and in the photos, but not so good when I realised one of the sparks from the firework had hit my dress and burnt a small hole. I was trying to figure out what caused it then saw the culprit caught on camera, as you can see below – honestly with the amount of hairspray I had on I’m just glad the spark didn’t touch my hair, it would have gone up in flames!
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In the lead up to the wedding I’d been so worried about being centre of attention and how nervous I’d be but after the initial ‘Oh shit, everyone is looking at me’ thought faded, I really enjoyed it and started to relax. It was so lovely having my close family and Berkay’s family together. I know some family members were annoyed or sad about not being invited or about the fact we had the wedding in Turkey, making it nearly impossible for them to come, but honestly I’m so glad we did it this way.  A wedding in England would have meant none of Berkays family would be able to come, and even Berkay himself would never have got a visit visa at this point in time! Berkay’s family wanted a village wedding with 500+ local people invited but that’s not me either, and having the wedding in Calis, the place that is such a huge part of our lives, was definitely the best choice. 
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Dad, stepmum, Berkay & I, Mum and Stepdad, and Berkay with his immediate family.
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After all the slightly cheesy but very lovely photographs were taken, it was time to sit down, enjoy the buffet, drink and dance, but not before the traditional Turkish practice of ‘pinning the money’ on the bride and groom…

Part 3 coming soon.

Click HERE for part 1.

Our Turkish Wedding Part 1.

Back on the morning of the 27th April I woke up in our apartment to the sound of the waves on the beach, with Berkay in bed beside me. It was our wedding day! Traditionally I know the bride and groom aren’t supposed to see each other the night before, or the morning of the wedding, but quite a lot of our wedding day was a bit backwards!

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and the forecast rain for the previous day had fallen and cleared ready for our day! Berkay and dad took me, mum, my stepmum and my little sister to the hairdresser in Fethiye around 10am. I had been worrying about how well this would work out since we booked her as she doesn’t speak any English, but she’s the wife of one of Berkay’s work friends so we got a good deal and she was really friendly, despite the rather large language barrier. Dad and Berkay left and went back to Calis and all the ‘boys’ had a shave and massage together, but not before Berkay gave instructions to the hairdresser about how NOT to do my hair and makeup, I did not want to have blue eyeliner and be orange! The lady done my makeup first, and other than some bright pink lipstick initially, it looked really nice, even if I do say so myself! Next was the hair, I came prepared with a photo of how I wanted it and she did that really well too.

Next, the hairdresser started on my little sisters hair while I went into a corner of the salon behind a screen and started putting on my dress. I was worried about the dress fitting right and not showing too much boobage (!) It was a little odd getting dressed in a tiny corner of a hot salon on the 2rd floor of a building in Fethiye town centre, but apparently this is the done thing in Turkey, and most brides do get ready in the salon with their friends/family. After a lot of pulling, tightening and lacing the ribbon by my mum and stepmum, we managed to get my dress on and looking exactly how I wanted it. A quick 10 minutes back in hairdressers chair and my veil was in and hair finished, complete with ALOT of pins keeping it in place, ouch.
 
At around 11.45 Berkay arrived back at the salon, now clean shaven and fully dressed in his wedding suit, to pick me up. Now, this is the backwards part of the day! While usually the bride and groom get ready separately and don’t see each other until the ceremony, we were spending the entire day together having a wedding photoshoot before our service at 6.30pm in the evening. This is normal in Turkey, sometimes they even have their wedding photos taken on a different day to their ceremony and wear their wedding outfits, do their hair and makeup etc twice, sometimes days, weeks or even months apart!

Berkay had already seen photos of me in my dress as I couldn’t resist showing him, but it was still very exciting and surreal when we were stood face to face with each other in the salon fully dressed in our wedding attire. A couple of minutes later and we were walking downstairs and through Fethiye town centre towards the car with the photographer behind us, leaving my family back at the salon.

I think my family found it quite hard to comprehend how, and why, we would spend all afternoon driving around in our wedding clothes and squashing my dress in the back of a boiling hot car. I must admit, when I first got to the car and realised how much of a struggle and how uncomfortable it would be to sit in my ridiculously tight corsetted dress squashed in the back seat, I did wonder ‘what the hell am I doing?’ but when I thought about the beautiful photos we’d get as a result, I realised it would be worth it and I certainly wasn’t disappointed!

Our photographer knew all the best places to go for photos. Berkay was driving and the photographer gave him directions. We ended up driving through Kayakoy and onto the road towards Gemiler Island. In the middle of the road high up on a cliff side, the photographer instructed Berkay to pull the car over and with a bit of help I struggled out of the car and scrambled across the dusty road and rocks to the side of the cliff. The photographer climbed up a few rocks, knelt down and snapped some photos, shouting at us what poses to do. These two photos are some of my favourites because I love how blue the sea looks in the background, it captures the true beauty of the whole Fethiye area and looks almost too perfect, like we were photoshopped in! I can 100% say we were not and actually none of these photos have been at all edited or photoshopped as we collected the CD the day after and they didn’t have time to edit them.
 
On the way to Gemiler the photographer had spotted a perfect photo opportunity in a field, so he made sure we stopped there on the way back. There’s a funny photo he captured of me and Berkay walking through these plants and me with a look of pure disgust on my face because of the amount of bees that were buzzing around my feet and all the other wildlife in the flowers that I was trying to avoid getting stung or bitten by! ‘Just sit down in the middle’ the photographer said, easier said than done with my dress on, so I settled for a half kneel-half sitting pose, but it still came out really pretty.
 
Next stop was Kayakoy, but not before parking the car next to a pancake house for a lunchbreak and a glass of tea. Yes, local people and tourists were sat in the shady pancake house enjoying a spot of lunch when in we strolled, dressed up in our wedding outfits looking totally out of place. So many people walking past wished us well and said ‘may God make you happy’ etc in Turkish (Allah mutlu etsin / hayirli olsun) but I felt really silly sitting struggling to eat a pancake with my big white dress on with everyone staring! It was a lovely sunny day without a cloud in the sky, but thankfully not unbearably hot so wandering through Kayakoy after our little detour was quite pleasant, if a little difficult because I was holding my dress up making sure it didn’t get caught on any sticking up stones or rocks. The first few photos were very posed, and reminded me of something you’d see in a catalogue. He had us doing all sorts of poses which had me in fits of giggles because they were so ridiculous! He had me staring into a stone window at  a random person and pretend sniffing flowers at one point.
  
 
I really love the individual photos of me and the full length shots of my dress, the photographer definitely captured the surroundings well as well with the green trees and ruins in the distance. I’m not usually that much of a fan of Kayakoy but it’s nice to have a bit of Turkish history in our wedding photos.
 
 
 
After having a lot of snapshots taken at Kayakoy we headed back towards Fethiye where I requested we stop at Asiklar Tepesi (lovers hill) as that is my favourite place to get beautiful panoramic views of Fethiye. Each time I visit Turkey we always drive up there and sit down with a drink and an icecream or something similar and admire the view so I’m glad we managed to have some of our wedding photos there.
 
By this point it was around 2.45pm and the photographer suggested we drive to Gunluklu bay, via Calis. On driving through Calis, he decided it would be a good idea to stop at the infamous half finished, multicoloured houses by the canal. Rumor has it that these old houses were owned by someone in the Turkish mafia who was either killed or put in prison and the wife/s argued over what should happen to them afterwards, so they’ve remained unfinished, unused and left to be ruined by weather and old age. Whatever the truth about these buildings is, it’s a real shame as they would have been lovely properties in a nice location and keeping them there with no plans to use them is a waste of good space. We accidentally walked around the area once and got told we weren’t allowed to be there, so when the photographer told us to get out of the car, enter one of the buildings and walk up the the top floor I was a little worried, especially with the potential ‘mafia’ link!! Regardless, we did as he said and walked inside the house, through piles of rubbish and a lot of broken glass, mindful of my dress all the time, and up the stairs to the first floor. The photographer did manage to get some nice shots but it was still a very random, slightly scary location!
 
The next stop was Gunluklu bay, the other side of Calis, past Ciftlik and Yaniklar, on the main Fethiye-Dalaman road. They took a small entrance fee and we parked up, got out and stood among the huge trees which provided much welcome shade. The trees in the background made a lovely backdrop and I love all the out of focus green blurs behind us. The only bad thing was that I got absolutely eaten alive by mosquitoes and covered in bites that swelled up, I had 3 elbows on one arm at one point and had to make an emergency stop at the chemist on the way back to Fethiye.
     
One final stop was a tiny beach that I’d never been to before, I didn’t even know it existed and I’ve forgotten the name now but I hope to go there again and find out next time I visit Turkey. It was down a long road near Yaniklar and it was really beautiful and empty.

At this point it was 4.30pm and time to go back to Fethiye, Berkay walked back to get the car and I stood waiting in among the trees for him and the photographer to come back. I think this photo perfectly captures my mood at that moment, hot, bored, stressing about the wedding that was due to take place in a couple of hours time, covered in itchy mozzie bites and worn out from lifting my dress everywhere. 

Right after these photos were taken we headed back to Fethiye and back to the hairdresser who done a quick touch up of my hair and makeup and then we set off on our way to our wedding ceremony and celebration in Calis.

Despite doing things backwards that day, and having our photos taken before actually being married, seeing each other before the ceremony, I’m so glad we did it that way. All the wandering through fields, getting a bee stuck in my veil(!!), climbing over rocks, through dusty ruins and being squashed in the back of the car with my big white dress for hours was all worth it and having these photos of all the beautiful places around Fethiye as our wedding pictures to look back on forever is just the best feeling – we certainly wouldn’t have got those lovely photos from a wedding in England, would we?