Monday, September 12, 2011

A Greek Wedding

Saturday, 03 September

Upon our arrival here, we found, among many papers that had been slipped under our door, a note from Nikos and Olympia. They live most of the year in Richmond and we know them from church. Nick is a barber and he cuts Demetrios’ hair. Used to own his own shop, which Olympia ran for him (the business end) but now he’s retired, he works part-time at the same place I go to have my hair done.

Anyway, the note invited us to the wedding of Olympia’s grand-niece. (You may suppose it strange that anyone other than the bride’s or groom’s parents would issue an invitation, but I should note that the mother of the bride was also along when this note was delivered.)

The wedding was Saturday night, up in the “upper city”, called St. Paul because that is where the Saint’s route through Greece (to Berea) lay. In fact, the wedding was to be in St. Paul’s Church.

We left home half an hour later than we had planned to but still arrived at the church 15 minutes before the wedding was to begin – to find all sorts of dressed-up folks leaving the church! I remembered how Mena had once told me that at popular churches on Saturday evenings, the weddings are one after the other, continuously, but it still unnerved us, especially as no guests seemed to be arriving. We were the only ones, as seven o’clock approached. A videographer did set up his equipment, so that was encouraging, but where were all the people?

We soon found out: on the stroke of seven, to no musical accompaniment, the bride and groom entered, followed by the best man (Olympia’s and Nick’s son Chris), then the parents of the bride, then the bridal party, then the rest of the family and guests. In other words, it was the exact opposite of a typical American wedding, in which people enter and are seated in the inverse order: ordinary guests first, then parents, then the wedding party, and the bride last. It took several longish moments for everyone to get into position, and then the ceremony began.

The reception was one of those affairs in which the bridal couple arrives very late, as in more than an hour after the other guests. Olympia drove us all there. Turns out she grew up here in Thessaloniki, in fact, only two blocks from where we live, so she knows all the streets and that’s why she was doing the driving.

She and Nick had to sit at the family table; right next to the bride, in fact, so they showed us to a table in the very back of the room and bade us sit there.

We didn’t sit there long. A tall, handsome man who seemed to be more or less in charge came by and, seeing us all alone, said that wouldn't do and suggested we sit at a table he pointed out, where there were two empty places, so we did.

We had already been served the starter course and the salad by time the bride and groom arrived, to our applause.

The first thing they did was cut the wedding cake. Come to think of it, I never saw any of it served, but they did cut it.

It was a very fun party! We did a little Greek dancing, but the most fun was watching others do it, dancing with all their hearts. One hefty woman, shaking her enormous breasts, which moved as if liquid, caused Demetrios to laugh aloud. He couldn’t stop staring – and laughing, his face a bright shade of pink. She noticed him being so entertained; and encouraged thereby, redoubled her efforts.

The dancing, I noticed, also served as a showcase for all the nubile young women to display their skill and their personalities.

At one point, the bride and groom thanked everyone for coming and she announced, for those who didn’t already know, that the family just established would soon increase to three. I had already noticed people patting her tummy, and that she drank no champagne at her own wedding.

We met several of Olympia’s relatives: her sister (the grandmother of the bride), her niece (mother of the bride), her koumbara, a lovely woman with shoulder-length blonde hair and a lovely daughter, 16, plus another woman I’m not sure who she was. But she, along with a couple of others, seemed very eager to further their acquaintance with Demetrios, so we gave them all our telephone number. “Let’s get together tomorrow,” said one of them. Tomorrow we would be busy, said Demetrios. (Oh, yes? I hadn’t heard of it.) Day after tomorrow then, they said. They would call us.

The only bad part about the reception was the music. It was traditional Greek music, no problem there. The problem was, the band was aware of the recently-documented principle that most people don’t find maximum pleasure in the music until it reaches at least 90 decibels. That’s so loud you literally have to shout and may still not be heard; it absolutely kills conversation. It also damages the ears. Really, there is something seriously wrong with people who need so great a stimulus to find pleasure in it. We took turns wearing the one pair of earplugs I had brought in my purse. (I’ve formed the habit of carrying them for i case of bad sermons!) Finally, about half past midnight, we decided we had to leave. Our ears and our throats had been abused too much. We both had resolved to avoid such receptions in future, meaning to leave very early next time we are subjected to such loudness.

The tall, handsome, kind man who had found us better seats also called us a cab. Nick and Olympia were sorry, because they had planned to drive us home, but we really wanted to leave and of course they couldn’t until the very end. So home we went, feeling as if our ears were full of cotton, and as if we were coming down with strep throat.

Which, as it turned out, I really was! Coming down with strep, that is. Or something else, at least, that included sore throat. Sunday morning I just attributed it to a whole night of shouting, so straggled along to church, but by afternoon my symptoms included a terrible cough, a runny nose, and itchy eyes. Plus exhaustion. I went to bed.

And I stayed there in the evening, too, when “our” plans were to go to Leonidas and Ianna in the early evening, then to Kostas and Mena in the later evening. Leonidas is feeling very unwell; he has atrial fibrillation. (Ianna, glory to God, is very well following her bout with breast cancer last year.) I was happy to let Demetrios go by himself and not expose our dear friends to this bug. I told Leonidas by phone that I, too, have a-fib, and look at me; I have no symptoms; it’s all under control, and his soon will be, as well.


Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...

The wedding description was fascinating !

I do hope your sore throat imprves very quickly, and that Leonidas' AF is brought under control. ...