Friday, October 15, 2010

The Wedding-- 10-10-10—Part 1—Bourbon for the Weather Gods

(Please click on the photos to make them bigger)

In Corfu, Greece, last Sunday, the day of my daughter’s wedding began with a threatening black cloud looming over the island, but two days earlier we had buried a bottle of bourbon upside down in the dirt at the Corfu Sailing Club— on the advice of my friend Kay from New Orleans, who promised that this would ward off bad weather. Predictions for 10-10-10, which I had been nervously monitoring for a month, ranged from “heavy rain” to “full sun”.

The biggest Greek newspaper, To Vima, called Eleni at the Corfu Palace for an article about people in Greece who were getting married on 10-10-10 for good luck. She told them that the Catholic priest (who was conducting Eleni and Emilio’s first wedding ceremony of two on that Sunday) said he was doing four "10-10-10" weddings—including a couple who wanted to get married at ten in the morning, but he had a liturgy at that hour.

By the time the hairdresser arrived to put Eleni’s hair in an up-do with a rhinestone clasp, the sky was a brilliant blue with only two tiny clouds. Female cousins and aunties arrived to sing the traditional wedding songs while Eleni finished dressing, helped by her sister Marina, who practiced bustling the wedding dress with its train of lace, and her cousin Frosso.

Shortly after three o’clock we watched from the lawn outside our garden room as Emilio, the groom, his mother, Carmen, and the two young flower girls, Maria Agustina and her sister Ana Isabel (both from Nicaragua) came out of the hotel, serenaded by musicians playing the violin, guitar and accordion, and flanked by singing troubadours in Corfiot native costume.

As soon as the carriage deposited the groom’s family at the nearby Catholic Duomo, it came back to collect the bride. The carriage (provided, like the musicians and troubadours, by Eleni’s Corfiote cousins), was decorated with flowers and tulle. On the back was the intertwined “E” logo that Marina designed for the occasion. (Those double “E”s were on everything from the invitations to the menus to the embroidered handkerchiefs filled with Jordan almonds and tied with ribbon and a silver sailboat to make the wedding favors.)

Eleni descended the hotel’s red staircase to enter the carriage, joined by her parents (Nick and me) and her honorary second mother—the “Big E”—Eleni Nikolaides. But first she posed on the stairs with some of her girlfriends.

The horse, named Danae, pulled the carriage up the harbor-view road to the central square and made a tour around, past the famous arcaded street of cafes, the Liston, as pedestrians applauded and Eleni waved, looking like Princess Grace of Monaco. The troubadours and costumed singers managed to keep up behind us, despite Danae’s eagerness to break into a trot.

The door of the Catholic Duomo was decorated with long persimmon-colored calla lilies that matched the smaller lilies in the bride’s bouquet. Emilio escorted his mother, Carmen, and Eleni entered on the arm of her father. Her friend Leslie began to sing the Ave Maria, bringing tears to many eyes. The service, which the priest celebrated in English, included readings from Eleni’s maid of honor, her cousin Areti Vraka, and Emilio’s best man, his uncle Jose Oyanguren.

When it was over, the newlyweds led a procession of their guests, walking from “Town Hall Square” through the Liston, past the Royal Palace and to the opposite side of the square where the little apricot-colored church of the Panayia Mandrakina sits below the Venetian fortress that dominates the harbor.

The procession arrived early for the 5:30 Greek Orthodox ceremony, so we posed for photos in the small park nearby and Eleni and Emilio joined in a Greek line dance of celebration.

Not everyone could fit into the tiny church with its beautiful Italianate icons, but most of the guests crowded in. There were no pews, so we stood close to the couple as they participated in the Orthodox wedding ceremony, which involved chanting (including a guest-star participation as cantor by former Minister Yianni Paleocrassas), the trading of the rings back and forth, sipping wine (which had been brought all the way from Cana in Israel by Areti, who was the koumbara—the sponsor of the wedding), and, finally, the switching of the wedding crowns, linked by a ribbon, three times, alternating between the bride and groom.

When the priest, holding the Bible, led the couple three times around the altar in the “Dance of Isaiah” the crowd erupted in cheers and a storm of tossed rice and flower petals. This set off so much excitement, especially among the children, that the priest had to calm the congregation before he could conclude the ceremony.

Outside the church the families formed a reception line. Then the bride followed another Greek tradition—throwing the decorated loaf of sweet bread—the bougatia—over her head to her unmarried female friends gathered behind her.

Her friend Catherine Mailloux, who had come all the way from Worceter, MA, caught it with blocking skills worthy of a fullback. Everyone cheered and the guests began to wend their way across the bridge over the moat and into the fortress where they would follow the “Double E” signs through the cobblestone streets and down the steps to the Corfu Sailing Club, nestled between the base of the fortress wall and the covey of small sailboats anchored in the sea. There, when family photos were finished and the twice-married couple arrived, the celebration of Eleni and Emilo’s Greek wedding would begin.

Next: Fires, food, fancy footwork and a launch onto the sea of matrimony.


lactmama said...

All I can think of is - can you not just die of happiness? How perfect, wonderful, and anything else you care to add on. Photos and description are so vivid (Joanie style). Looking forward to the rest of the story of the day. Nothing like some joy to pep up our lives. thx

CJ said...

What a beautiful bride!