Eleni (the gorgeous bride in this photo) is a primary school friend of mine. We go way back to grade three together and I vividly remember how envious I was of Eleni and her sticker book. She had the best stickers any eight year old girl could ever imagine. Detailed and perfectly organised pages and pages of stickers. The kind that no one else had. The kind that every girl wanted. Twenty-something years on, Eleni is still a lover of beautiful things and she has an amazing attention to detail.
Eleni and her handsome hubby Ross had two ceremonies on their wedding day. Eleni is Greek Orthodox and Ross is Italian Catholic. Rather than choosing one religion, the beautiful couple decided to get married in two different Churches. I was very excited to learn more about their unique wedding story, so I asked Eleni for an interview. Here is what she said:
Sia: Hi Eleni, thank you so much for sharing your wedding story on the Greek Weddings and Traditions Blog!!
Eleni: No worries! I’m up for anything to represent Greek (and Italian) weddings!!
Sia: I’ve heard that Ross is a bit of a romantic… tell us how he popped the question?
Eleni: Ross and I had planned a trip to Hawaii for my Birthday. The whole trip, Ross was not quite acting himself. We went to a resort for my birthday and he was being quite secretive at the reception desk and taking odd phone calls during the day. I was completely oblivious to what was going on around me and kept assuming Ross was just organising our stay. On my birthday, Ross surprised me with a helicopter ride and a romantic dinner. Everything then clicked, that all these secret phone calls and conversations Ross had were for my birthday. Ross then said he had one surprise left and a cake was bought out with the words ‘Will you Marry me?’ Needless to say I said yes!!!
Sia: Wow! Ross will surely get a couple of gambro points for that. (Boys, take notes!) What is Ross from? Which part of Italy?
Eleni: Ross’ family is from Sicily, Catania.
Sia: And your family is from Rhodes… like my family, right?
Eleni: Yes my mum’s family is originally from Asklipio and Laerma villages in Rhodes. But my dad’s family is from Athens.
Sia: Did you follow any Greek traditions at your wedding?
Eleni: Yes, of course! Among many traditions that we included in the lead up and on our wedding day, one of my favourite traditions was getting sung to. A family tradition is to be sung to as the last thing you do before you leave to go off to the church. The song is ‘Simera Gamos Ginete’ (There’s a wedding today). Many Greeks share this tradition; the song is sung to you by your family and friends. The words in the song are later changed to be about you and your family. All family members sing the song with everyone joining in and chanting the lyrics back. A clarinet and saxophone is even used. This was the most special and emotional for me as I’ve grown up singing this song for all my cousins on their wedding day and to now have my turn was really special.
I admire how the Greek Church ceremony is very symbolic and traditional. My favourite part of the ceremony is when the stefana crowns are placed on the bride and grooms heads to symbolise being joined together in their new family. Also, when we walk around in a circle three times to symbolise our first steps as a married couple.
Sia: Did you follow any Italian traditions at your wedding?
Eleni: Ross’s family did not have any big traditions in their family that they had to follow. There was one Italian (Sicilian) tradition that we discovered which was for the Mother to walk the Groom down the aisle. We did not follow this tradition as it was not a practice for their family.
I loved how different the Catholic ceremony was. I hadn’t been to too many Catholic Ceremonies before. We got a chance to sit and look out to the guests and even to pick our readings and prayers to make it all the more personal. I also loved saying our vows, which was a bit nerve racking, however made the day more intimate.
Sia: Why did you get married in two Churches?
Eleni: When we were planning our wedding, we didn’t even discuss the option of having only one church. Our religion was so important to the both of us, to have the marriage ceremony recognised in both churches that we just naturally planned for the two churches from the beginning. It also helped that a cousin of mine married an Italian years ago, so I used them as my inspiration to plan the day.
Sia: Which Church did you pick as the ‘first’ ceremony?
Eleni: Luckily enough we didn’t have the luxury of choosing which church was first, it was purely head over heart (fortunately/unfortunately for us). It was a blessing in disguise that the churches were heavily booked out for the day, so we used the time slots available to guide our day. However, we did consider parking, travel times and the reception venue to help plan our day. We wanted to make it easy for our guests to travel and park at the venues, without making our big day even longer and more complicated. Having the two churches really helped to pick the reception venue. We decided to choose the Greek Club to minimize travel time to a third venue.
Sia: Did you still get butterflies walking down the aisle the second time?
Eleni: Of course! It was even more nerve racking the second time round as the Greek Church was second and more familiar to me. Seeing family and friends walk down the Greek Church’s aisle before and then having my turn was really special. I also had a bit of a ‘dress change’ too, so to make the second time around a bit different.
Sia: Is there any advice you would like to share with other brides who are also planning to have two ceremonies?
Eleni: Yes, book early! As ‘unromantic’ as that sounds, it really helped us to plan our day in a practical way rather then get caught up in the ‘politics’ of it all. As soon as you can, ring the churches and venues and make a tentative booking until you get your head around planning your day. We had a church, followed by photos for the bridal party in between, the second church and then the reception. We tried to accommodate our guests as best as we could, especially to ensure they weren’t waiting around too long in between and after the church ceremonies. We provided a morning tea in between the churches also for those who wanted to go straight to the second church and reception venue.
Another consideration was the sunset time. We got married in autumn so we were told to check the sunset times, to maximise day light time for photos. We had to have our photos early as the sunset quite early so we back tracked from there. Ross and I did end up going (quickly) for sunset photos on our own (without the bridal party), after the second church at a local place to attempt to get more photos taken in our busy day.
Lastly, I found putting a ‘timeline’ card in our invitations very helpful for our guests. I had seen an example of this before on pinterest and knew it would be perfect, especially having a ‘different’ day with people possibly skimming over the many details of the day on the invitation. Using this, I was able to simplify the day for our guests and ensure venues and times weren’t confused.
Vendors that Eleni & Ross recommend:
Relative posts you might love:
- A Greek Wedding in Cyprus – Ekaterina Botziou Shares her Story
- Niki & Billy’s Greek Wedding
- Interview with Anna: Her Love Story and her Choice to Become Greek Orthodox
- Sia Aristidou is fascinated by the rituals and traditions celebrated in Greek culture. She writes about love, marriage, family and tradition and sells beautiful handmade wedding gifts at the Greek Wedding Shop.
- Connect with Sia on Facebook or say hello on Twitter. You may also like to subscribe to the Greek Weddings & Traditions blog or join the Greek Cooking Challenge.