Monday, July 12, 2010

Planning a Wedding in Corfu

When we landed in Corfu last week, daughter Eleni was off and running to get her wedding plans together. She had informed us, about two weeks earlier, that she planned to marry Emilio in Corfu, Greece, on Oct 10 (10/10/10!) and she had already cleared the date with the church she had always dreamed of –the little peach-colored Church of Panayia Mandrakina at the base of the Fortress in Corfu Town. (That’s Eleni looking at the church above.)

She arrived with a list, which included checking out the reception site, priests, florists, DJs, musicians, cake-bakers, transportation (including horse-drawn carriages and boats) and the venues for the various nights’ activities.

Her sister Marina had already designed the logo that will mark the paperwork, (intertwined E’s for "Emilio" and "Eleni") as well as the invitations, response cards and thank-you notes, and had also assembled spread sheets of guest lists and addresses.

Within four days, everything pretty much got nailed down. I don’t want to give away all the surprises, but can tell the general plan. On Friday night, Oct 8, there will be the decorating of the wedding bed—in a fortress-view suite at the top of a small Italian mansion—now a boutique hotel-- in the old city. (Most of the guests at the wedding will be staying in garden rooms at the Corfu Palace, overlooking the harbor below.)

Traditionally for a Greek wedding the women decorate the nuptial bed with flowers and gold coins, while singing songs sure to bring tears of nostalgia to Eleni’s aunts.

Saturday, the welcome dinner–hosted by the groom and his family—will be held on a magical small island called Vidos. A boat covers the ten-minute ride from the Old Port every hour, and the captain plans to decorate his boat to honor the bride and groom. He can’t wait. Every Greek loves a wedding!

That includes Menios, the wisecracking owner of the taverna on the island, who had strong opinions about the traditional Corfiote dishes he will prepare and the singers who will provide the music for Saturday night. We should leave everything in his hands, he said.

Eleni asked for a meatless main-dish alternative for vegetarians—perhaps tomatoes and peppers stuffed with a herbed rice mixture. Menios retorted that upon tasting meatless yemista, the guests would throw the tomatoes and peppers at his head. He had a reputation to uphold! In the end, Eleni and the vegetarians won, I think.

The island of Vidos is like something out of a fairy tale. It’s completely overrun with rabbits and hares as well as pheasants—all of whom have become tame and will walk right up to you. Every night about sunset Menios makes a ritual of throwing feed to the hundreds of animals who drop by for dinner.

Sunday—the wedding day—will include two weddings—one in the Catholic Church (the Duomo) in the picturesque square which includes the Town Hall and the Opera House, followed by a parade with troubadours toward the Greek Orthodox Church for a second ceremony. (Guests who want to take a break or can’t fit into the churches are encouraged to sit at an outdoor café nearby with a celebratory drink.)

[To avert bringing on the Evil Eye, Eleni wants me to qualify all this by adding the words “weather permitting.” And I should spit a couple of times and keep a clove of garlic in my pocket.]

After the ceremonies finish and photographs are taken, everyone will file across the bridge over the moat into the old fortress and through the winding cobblestone paths down to the Corfu Sailing Club on the water’s edge, where sailboats and yachts are anchored and the lights from above shimmer in the water.

At the Sailing Club there will be music, toasts, delicious food and several surprises, but I promised not to tell.

When meeting with vendors, I learned that the Mother of the Bride has only one important job and that is “Don’t say anything and don’t engage anyone in conversation.” Eleni and her cousin Areti, a Corfu native who will be the maid of honor and koumbara of the wedding—have their own system for interviewing and negotiating, and it was clear that I could seriously mess things up by expressing an opinion or showing interest in anything.

Being a MOB is no easy task.

My husband likes to quote a friend who commented after one festive weekend: “The average Greek has more fun at a wedding than the average WASP has in a lifetime.”

I’m a life-long WASP, now transformed into a Greek MOB, and I suspect that on 10/10/10 I’ll find out if that’s true.


CJ said...

This sounds so exciting! Such a beautiful location.

lactmama said...

we shall all be carrying pieces of garlic in our pockets with prayers for great weather. Eleni is good at anything she does. I am looking forward to seeing photos of the wedding;I will be visualizing this from Italy on Oct. 10th. We are talking about some heavy magic.

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Cynthia said...

Everything sounds wonderful and you know that we will all be saying prayers from here. Your a great MOB!!! Wishing the beautiful Eleni and Emilio much happiness.