Sunday, September 12, 2010

Our Big Fat Greek Engagement Party

(Click on the photos to make them bigger.)

(The mathematical formula Eleni worked out for the wedding is: E squared plus 10 cubed equals double happiness.)

On Friday Sept. 3, the Taylor Rental guys brought the tent (20 by 60 feet long) and assembled it in our back field just as other citizens of Massachusetts were boarding up their windows in preparation for the arrival of Hurricane Earl. Dan, who does our mowing, had spent a week cutting down blackberry bushes and chopping limbs off trees to make room for it.

Because daughter Eleni will be marrying her fiancé Emilio on the Greek island of Corfu on 10-10-10, we wanted to throw an engagement party over the Labor Day weekend at our home to share the joy with family and friends who couldn’t travel to Greece in October.

We invited about 200 people, suspecting that many would be away for the holiday weekend, but by the time the tent was going up, 176 people had told us they were coming from as far away as Arizona, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Miami and lots from New York.

A million things could have gone wrong, including the hurricane, but they didn’t. I forgot to put floating candles in the pool and tiny blue flowers around the cake, but it didn’t matter . Everyone has been e-mailing for a week, posting photos on Facebook and saying how they loved the party because it was authentically Greek and so full of joy.

Eleni wanted a celebration (and a wedding) that was not grand but put together by her family and friends, saying “It takes a village to plan a wedding.” And that’s what happened.

Her sister Marina designed the intertwined E’s (for Eleni and Emilio) that became the logo, written on everything from the invitations (also designed and printed by Marina) to the cake and the favors (boubonnieres in Greek)—filled with Jordan almonds.

Marina managed to get the logo embroidered on handkerchiefs and then Big Eleni labored many days and nights turning the handkerchiefs, ribbons and candy into 200 favors which awaited the guests on the tables under the tent.

Eleni and Emilio chose a blue and white wedding because those are the colors of both the Greek and the Nicaraguan flags. (Emilio is from Nicaragua.) I assembled the centerpieces of hydrangeas (and flags) on the morning of the party and criss-crossed the 17 tables under the tent with ribbons.

As people drove up, one of Eleni’s cousins, Nick, and his son, Evan directed the parking. In the pool area, the wait staff were ready with welcome drinks, including the “Blissini” that Eleni chose-- prosecco, orange and pomegranate juice, and two pomegranate seeds each (because, as my husband, Nick, pointed out, in Greece pomegranates symbolize good luck and fruitfulness.)

Under our grape arbor was a small table holding the wedding bands and an icon of Christ. Our priest, Father Dean, aided by Father Greg, spoke the prayers for the blessing of the rings, then the couple exchanged the bands, putting them on their left hands. (On the wedding day, they will switch them to the right as is done in Greece.) Governor Mike Dukakis and Kitty were among the guests watching the blessing.

After Nick, the Father of the Bride, made some remarks honoring the young couple, he invited everyone to sit in the tent outside in the field. Nearby, the 24-foot-long buffet table was loaded with Greek dishes prepared by the catering staff of Aliki and Anastasios Benisis, owners of Ciao Bella restaurant.

There was a separate table groaning with lavishly decorated trays of sweets brought by many of the Greek ladies—baklava, kataifi, revenni. When the party was over everyone went home clutching high-calorie “goodie bags”. Below, the Big Eleni is giving a box of sweets to Mike and Kitty Dukakis.

On the dessert table was a cake with the intertwined E’s made—at Eleni’s request—by Evie, the Cake Lady who works in a red barn down the road, and who has made just about every birthday cake we’ve served.

After comments by me (the M.O.B.) and the groom, the DJ, George Regan, played “You’re just too good to be true”—the Frankie Valli song that will be the couple’s first dance in Corfu. They showed us the steps they’ve learned so far, then the DJ changed to Greek music and the crowd launched into line-dancing worthy of Zorba the Greek. Eleni’s Aunt Kanta led the dance, looking lovely in a blue dress she wore exactly 40 years ago when Nick and I were wed.

I remember our big fat Greek wedding in Worcester 40 years ago, which was attended by eight Presbyterian WASPs (from my Minnesota family) and about 300 Greeks. It went on for three days, but Eleni and Emilio’s wedding will be three celebrations spread over two continents and six weeks.

Part two will happen on Oct. 6, when the hardiest of the Corfu-bent wedding guests will party in the inn in Nick’s mountaintop village of Lia in Northern Greece.)

It will all culminate, God willing, on Corfu on 10-10-10 at the foot of the Crusader castle overlooking the harbor.

I think what made the engagement party so memorable was all the love for Eleni and Emilio that was gathered under that tent, from their friends, family and the members of the community who worked so hard to make it wonderful.

As Eleni said, it takes village to plan a wedding.


lactmama said...

terrific as usual, you covered all of the emotional bases, past and present. this is such a wonderful celebration, packed with meaning and memories of those who are no longer with us

AND how many of us could wear a dress that we wore to the parents of the bride's wedding 40 yrs ago? Gotta say something about those girls from Lia.

benilhalk said...

I truly enjoyed watching photos from your Big Fat Greek Engagement Party. The event looks so fun and interesting. My cousin recently got engaged and she also threw a DIY family party to share her special ay with loved ones. She hosted this bash at some rental LA venues.

benilhalk said...

I truly enjoyed watching photos from your Big Fat Greek Engagement Party. The event looks so fun and interesting. My cousin recently got engaged and she also threw a DIY family party to share her special ay with loved ones. She hosted this bash at some rental LA venues.