THE WEDDING DAZE
Updated: Jan 28
Just when I finally came to the point of writing an article about our wedding, I realized that there is way too much that happens before that I cannot skip. It is like talking about the birth of a baby without mentioning the nine long months preceding to the big day. The place, the dress, the organization, the food, the drinks... - this wedding list seems long already when you organize it "at home", but when you do it abroad, at times it seemed to us almost unmanageable. But we did it!
Xerocampos, Xerokampos or Xerocambos
First of all, the place. I have already mentioned before why we decided to get married in Crete, but for those who have missed this article, here is why a French and a Russian decided to get married in Greece:
1) We were looking for a neutral territory, neither Russian, nor French - a place where both of us would feel equally "abroad".
2) I was the one who insisted to have an Orthodox wedding so Greece was a perfect country as there is no lack of churches there.
3) We were looking for a place perfectly in the middle and fairly easily accessible for our guests from different countries.
4) We didn't want to worry about the weather - in Crete sea and sun are guaranteed every day, or at least so we thought...
4) And last but not least, we really wanted to spend some time with our guests, and not just 5 minutes that you manage to find during the wedding evening for a formal small talk. What we wanted was to have long chats at the dinner, a good laugh at the beach and to enjoy nature together while hiking - basically spending holidays together.
Apart from this very logical reasoning, there was obviously a perfectly irrational explanation: we simply fell in love with this place during our trip to Crete with The Chef's parents where they invited their three children with their plus ones for their 30th wedding anniversary a year ago. It was also just after the civil wedding of The Chef's sister, so one can say that we went to Crete on a family honeymoon. I prefer to think that all these circumstances make our venue slot very symbolical. Well, at least it explains why we chose this place called Xerokampos (or any of the other existing spellings of this name) lost in the middle of nowhere about 3 hours drive from Heraklion, the capital of Crete.
I can talk for a long time about the meaning of religion for me, but in resume it is easy: half-Tatar (Muslim ethnicity of Mongol descendants in Russia), half-Russian, I was not baptized at birth and only chose between the two religions last year when The Chef proposed to me. I thought it was a sign and a good excuse to stop asking myself endless existential questions and to finally get baptised in an Orthodox church because that is where finally I feel the most "at home" (considering that the Church is the home of God). It was totally normal to me that The Chef's parents wanted us to get married in a church, but I was utterly surprised to hear the same kind of wish from MY father. Just so that it is clear, I have never seen my dad in a church and both his wives (his first wife and my mother) were Muslims... Well, considering that the religious ceremony was making everyone happy apart from The Chef, he didn't have much choice but to succumb. But even up to the big day he didn't stop complaining about the length of the ceremony, especially considering that it was in Greek!
For those who are not acquainted to an Orthodox wedding ritual, it is quite different from the Catholic and Protestant ones. Without getting into too many details, here are a few peculiarities:
- Normally (at least in a Russian Orthodox Church and in Greece as well when the ceremony takes place outside, as it was in our case) all the guests are standing during the whole ceremony, there are no benches;
- The priest doesn't make a speech for the newly weds - he sings and the text of the religious songs is exactly the same at any Orthodox wedding around the world;
- The priest (in a Greek Orthodox Church at least) doesn't ask the couple if they wish to get married. If they came together to the altar, they DO want it, right?;
- The role of the witnesses is very important. It is them who put the rings on the fingers of the couple for example. The couple can only have one witness from each side, at least one of them has to be Orthodox and ideally they have to be married (that was not our case);
- There are 4 parts in the Wedding ritual: putting on the rings, putting on the crowns that symbolize the crown of thorns that the couple have to wear from now on (oh yes, conjugal life is not always like a honeymoon), drinking red wine together from the same glass, which symbolizes Jesus's first miracle of transforming water into wine during a wedding in Cana, and finally a march of the newly weds along with their witnesses around a table with a Cross and a Bible;
- Every action in the Orthodox ritual is done three times, which is considered to be a lucky number symbolizing the Holy Trinity.
This is a sacred subject for any bride. This is the dress that has the highest cost by hour ratio, but you are ready to invest because your wedding is probably the only day in your life when the whole world will be turning around YOU so you have to be impeccable - slim, tanned, well-shaped, sexy, but not vulgar, modest but not boring, classy and, although everyone wears a white long dress, you have to stay original. Your wedding dress is the ultimate reflection of your personality and your taste that your friends and family will remember you for till the rest of your life.
As I told you before, from the very beginning, we started looking for a venue abroad and one of our first options was Crete. In one of the wedding magazines there was a story about another international couple married in Crete. The bride on the photos was wearing a divine dress called Cleopatra. It was glamorous but light at the same time, very atypical, almost to the point that it was not a real wedding dress, and what is more, there was something of a Greek goddess in its fluidity and rich embroidery. There were however 3 problems with it: its price (about 10 thousand EUR... hmmm yes the wedding dress is important, but not as much as to pay almost 28 EUR for a minute of wearing it!), it was only sold in Australia, USA and some other countries but not France, and finally, it had a completely naked back... Not that I have something against partial nudity, or that I find it vulgar, but I've got boobs babe, so something in a dress has to hold my melons and I can't just leave them in a free fall unless I want to look like a cow with a sexy back. So I already gave up the whole idea when by chance, while on vacations in Russia, I came across an Instagram account of a couturier Anna Chudova. A young woman, full of style and grace, she knew very well herself what it meant to be a bride and was a master of light fluid dresses in natural fabrics, but what finally convinced me in her favor was that she had this rare know-how of hand embroidery. The minute I saw her blog, I knew she could do MY dress.
I only had 2 fittings with her in Moscow as I couldn't afford to jump on the plane just for that and the third time I came to Russia, I picked up the dress. Not only did she make a close copy of the dress of my dreams, but actually and, what is best, it was NOT a copy because it was really the dress tailor-made for me. She slightly lifted up the back in order to help a sewn bra hold my treasures securely. At the same time, it didn't spoil the geometry of the necklaces hanging over my back and the bra was completely invisible. The embroidery was a surprise for me as we didn't have time to approve the design of the pattern, but fortunately, our tastes were similar and it was just perfect - a beautiful Art Deco pattern without being too rich at the same time. My little Anna made a miracle - she made a Greek goddess out of me for my Greek wedding.
Organize, don't agonize
Coming back to the point of the venue for our wedding, we used to get a lot of questions about the organization of our wedding at a distance in a village without a wedding planner. To be honest, in the beginning I thought myself that this would never be possible. I'm quite of a control freak on a personal level and moreover my job was to organize events. I know all too well that small details make a big difference and that someone has to constantly keep an eye on these details. And no way, this was not going to be on my wedding day. This is why this day would have never happened like it did without the help of our local Greek friends. In fact, even though in the beginning they were just a local guest house and taverna owners for us, they got to become our friends. There was also a decorator (a Greek lady with a lot of experience and her French speaking daughter who was a perfect interpreter) who literally transformed the taverna of our wedding party for us. And of course they knew the right people who could help (DJ, pâtissier, hairdresser, etc.). We were somewhat like Beyonce and Jay-Z during this wedding daze: we would come to a shop in a neighboring village in our white cabriolet and the owner would already know what were our names and where we were getting married.
All these people were managing their part of the full picture, I was managing them and The Chef was trying to manage me. I am saying "trying" because these attempts usually never end well. Typically I would brief a decorator and he would then tell me what and how I should have told to pass better the message... I will spare you from my reaction, but you can imagine... At the same time, somewhere he was right - it was not always that easy to find a common language with our Greek friends because most of them were helping us more than working for us. It is almost like having business with a friend, considering that you have cultural differences, different working processes and understanding of the final result. But considering that the business is taking place in the country of your business partner (and friend), you need to learn to trust him. At the end of the day, he knows better how his country works. For example we tried to get the quotation from the decorator 6 months before the wedding to understand whether it would be cheaper for us to buy decoration locally or to buy it online from China and bring it to Crete. All our emails and calls didn't move us an inch closer to the answer. For the Greeks everything was easy - you come a couple of months maximum in advance and we decide. And indeed, when Thibault's parents came in April, we started getting answers. Our trip one month later was decisive to organize the details and those couple of days before the wedding were crucial to make sure things actually happen.
To have a wedding planner or not to have... that is the question!
But just till the day of the wedding, because after that it is too late. Definitely, when you have a wedding planner, you don't worry any more about the timing of the ceremony or if the cake has been put in the fridge, but at the end of the day the little imperfections that would inevitably happen if you are managing your own wedding yourself, nobody would notice apart from you, and the perfectionism of the wedding planner costs extra few thousands of euros. Moreover, I actually take a certain pride in saying that we did it ourselves. There are loads of small things like tying up ribbons, glueing paper cones or making vodka bar signs that we prepared before the wedding. We could have done even more, but at some point the cost of your extra kilos on the plane become higher than buying a ready-made decoration locally. And then obviously we were not really alone: our families from both sides were cutting, printing, glueing, sewing, doing the planning and the shopping with us. The active phase of the preparation lasted for at least nine months. It's almost like to give birth to a baby, except that it is all just pleasure... provided you enjoy Pinterest ideas hunting and all this creative hassle. If not, my advice - take a wedding planner to save yourself loads of time and nerves.
Now that you know the context, you should be totally prepared to read a report next time about the Big Day... or rather the Big Week!