I cannot believe I’m in Greece. I’m with Doc, my bike, which is a huge thing. Even more, I will celebrate the marriage of my good friend Pan and his beautiful bride Brittany in a small village in the rugged mountains of the Peloponnese.
At the Huge B&P wedding Part 1 outside Vancouver Canada, I figured, was the warmup. Today we dig our toes into the sands of the Aegean and prepare not only for witnessing the union of two people in a traditional Greek Orthodox Church and ceremony but also for the party, in a true Greek style, after the ceremony.
Here in Greece, I’m part of a small contingent of Canadians who also witnessed Part 1. Beyond the close families of Pan and Britt, a handful of friends also made the trek across the Atlantic to be here. They include Jimbo (aka Jamie) who runs the sound for our TV show, and his girlfriend Terra, then there’s Rob and his girlfriend Chelsea, and Matt a close friend of Jimbo and Pan. Over the past few years, and during many trips between California and Vancouver—and beyond those borders—I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know these young Canadians. I’m fired up to spend time with them in yet another country.
With the church ceremony scheduled for 7pm, and the reception party just after, I took advantage of the late start by sleeping in and then meeting the Canadian contingency, Pan and his father for some sweet and savory baked goods at the local bakery.
Kiveri is nestled into a hillside about twenty minutes south of Nafplio, the first capital of Greece after its independence from the Ottomans in 1821. The bakery, on the main drag and one of only a few streets that traverse the hillside above Kiveri Beach, offers a staggering amount of sweet and savory treats for this small town.
The small lane that hugs the beach stretches about a mile is lined with bars and restaurants, many offering beach-side service under palapa like umbrellas. It’s peaceful, quaint and somewhat idyllic. That is, until a couple of the bars test the limits of speakers and sound systems on summer weekends. During the week, it’s tranquil.
I’m staying at a small guest house at the far south end of the beach.
I take advantage of the late start by regrouping my packing. I left Athens in haste, without taking the time to organize my “kit”. After, I take a quick nap but am alarmed when I wake just a few minutes after six. Part of the Greek tradition is family and friends meet at the home of the groom.
Frantically I get ready and after a sweaty fifteen-minute walk to Pan’s late grandfather’s home, I wade through the crowd and get to the doorway just as a “barber” finishes shaving the groom, a Greek wedding day tradition.
After some drinks, sweet snacks and conversation, everyone follows the groom to the church where we line up along the path to the doorway where Pan awaits his bride to arrive—friends and family of the bride to the right, and friends and family of the groom to the left.
Minutes later, Brittany shows up with her parents in a white horse-drawn carriage, carrying a dainty white umbrella to shield her from the hot sun. Stepping down with the aid of her father, she walks down the path to meet Pan and they walk into the church together, stepping up to the altar where the priest awaits.
The ceremony starts before everyone is seated, and the entire service is in Greek, leaving me to guess most of what happens. There are no reading of vows in a Greek Orthodox wedding. instead, the robed priest reads and recites from the Bible, oversized and covered in metal relief while another man, in street clothes, sings or chants, what I assume are hymns from a lectern just to the right of the altar.
The sound of the two men reverberates off the walls and tall ceilings of the church, many in attendance mouth the words of prayer and even the songs. At one point the best man places two rings, like halos, connected by a thick thread on Pan and Britt—joining them in marriage, and then the priest leads the newly married couple around the altar, circling it three times, in recognition of the Holy Trinity and to signify that the first walk the couple has as husband and wife is in the house of God.
Outside the church after the ceremony, everyone receives a small bag or rice which we throw on the couple as they shield their eyes from the flying grains before hopping back onto the horse-drawn carriage and ride off into the sunset—well, sort of—they ride back to the house and catch a traditional “carriage” to the reception.
Just a few miles outside of town, surrounded by olive trees and with views overlooking the Aegean Sea and mountains beyond, the setting for the reception was perfect. tables and chairs all draped in white set outdoors on a large grassy area in front of a large fountain. The head table set facing the group and in front a circular dance floor, stone hardscape set into the lawn.
Some twenty minutes after the crowd makes their way to the tables, rock music roars through the speakers and the newlyweds stroll down a carpeted runway lined with shooting sparklers, in a red carpet dramatic entrance. They bopped to the driving beat in the middle of the circular dance floor and then cut the cake, which was set on a table on the dance floor and tastefully fed each other a bite. The wedding coordinator then pops a bottle of champagne so the bride and groom could toast and take their first drink together before launching into their first dance, to a cover of Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love,” performed by a Canadian pop star—the same song they danced to at the Wedding Part I, in Vancouver.
It didn’t take long until the great Greek food showed up at the tables. An incredible medley of tasty food starts with two kinds of cheeses, a feat and a semi-hard, then a mousaka-like eggplant dish, two different salads, chicken, lamb, more chicken, and incredible seductive creamy cake for dessert. Libations included plentiful amounts of the ubiquitous Alpha beer, and carafes of wine, a white which was a tad sweet, but good, and an almost blush rosé, which they called the “red wine”.
It doesn’t take long for the crowd hit the dance floor, mixed Greek classics by a DJ, old songs with modern production value—all in Greek and everyone except the Canadian contingent and me knew all the words. One song I am told was about catching a rooster, while another about romantic love—more diversity in the classics!
Soon we all joined in the traditional dance where everyone holds hands and dances one direction in a circle, pausing to put one foot in front, then one behind, with a skip, and then move the circle around for a few seconds, repeating the footwork. Every song sounded the same to these ears.
Then some younger guys joined and did the “shoe slap” dance—kicking their feet high in the air then slapping their shoes. Then one guy gripping a towel held by another guy, bends over backward at his knees, arching his back while on the tips of his toes, lowers himself parallel to, and just a few inches off the ground. He then turns his head to the ground and with the palm of his hand slaps it, before being pulled back up by the guy still gripping the towel in hand.
Now we’re deep into the part and the traditional Greek way of celebrating. Several guys form a circle while they toss the petals of flowers in the middle, each guy taking a chance to dance, jump, and slap. Close by another guy with a broom swept away the flowers making sure nobody slipped on the flowers while performing these acrobatic moves.
Then glasses of beer, one at a time are set in the middle of the circle and the guys egg each other on to see who dances next, around the glass of beer, then drinking it before smashing it in the middle of the circle.
I’m told that this dance originated in Crete, where ages ago soldiers adorned in full armor and swords would dance before battle.
Around 2AM the music switched to more recognizable American and British pop. The part lasted to about 4AM, surprisingly most everyone seemed fresh and ready for the beach the following day.