Saturday, August 6, 2011

Family Wedding -- Part II

At some point last winter or during the spring, plans for Li'l Bro and Bridie's wedding began firming up. It would be at Phil and Mili's – the civil ceremony in the formal seating area at the front and the feast on the spacious back lawn. Guests would be only immediate family and very few close friends. There would be no catering: decoration, food, and drink would all be taken care of 'in-house' – Sil would look to the tables and flowers, Mili would cook, Best Beloved was to provide champagne, and I was to make enough cheesecake for 'about thirty people'...

Every detail came under the microscope, was disected and discussed. “Do nothing without consulting us,” Li'l Bro and Bridie repeated, mantra-like. When Mili wanted to add pasticcio to the menu she was told firmly “We don't like it, we don't want it!”

Mili and Sil preparing vegetarian koupepia -- stuffed vine leaves.

“But the others...” she began.

“What others?” interrupted Lil Bro. “This is our wedding and we'll have what we want. I don't care about the others – there'll be plenty of other dishes for them to choose from.”

Ten days before the ceremony Bridie's family arrived from Belgium. Her father, mother, three sisters, and one sister's partner and child were to stay in a rented house not far from the village, and wanted to combine the wedding with a two-week holiday on the island. Five days before the ceremony we had a dinner on the lawn 'dress rehearsal' so that everyone could get acquainted before the big day. The food was wonderful, and Phil's skill at public relations ensured that nearly everyone was dancing before the evening ended. Our diverse families seemed to blend swimmingly – little Diego, Bridie's nephew, kicking a football around with Zenon and Leo and conversations in French, Spanish, Greek, and English erupting apace around the long tables on the grass.

The Day drew closer. Stress mounted. I steered pretty clear. I had my orders – cheesecake for thirty, and the photography. I stood by ready to help where needed, stocked up on Philadelphia cream cheese, checked that my camera batteries were charged, and watched the show. Although both Li'l Bro and Bridie had said that they would prefer no wedding gifts, I went by Lemba Pottery – source of all gifts for the last fifteen years – and picked out some nice stoneware for the Happy Couple.

On Tuesday, Bridie and I took ourselves off to the spa at the Columbia Beach Resort for an afternoon of relaxation, reflexology, and pedicure – a chance for some sisterly bonding and the perfect escape from last minute pre-nuptial stress. Tuesday evening I made the cheesecake, but “I had to do it in one big dish,” I told Li'l Bro and Bridie with trepidation. “People will have to scoop out their portions as I don't trust it not to fall apart, freestanding...” They assured me that scooping rather than neat separate slices would not be a problem. “It's family and best friends, Asproulla, they said. “No-one will care if the cheesecake's not in perfect slices...”

All was in place for Wednesday. Last minute spats about who was making what on the menu were smoothed over. I found smart, casual (clean and ironed!) clothes for the Little Ones, discouraged the Big Ones from wearing black, tried and rejected several sets of clothes myself – had to be smart, but not too restrictive for the photography, and arrived next door just as the first guests – lifelong friends of Li'l Bro drew up at the door.

Sil preparing the tables.

Phil preparing the souvla.

Phil greets Bridie's family.

 Right on time the ladies from the municipality arrived to conduct the ceremony. Not only were the setting and the weather perfect, but both the preamble and the vows were much more elegant than those of the old formula.

“You (names of bride and groom) know that by your simultaneous consent which is given publicly and formally in my presence and in the presence of the persons now here, accept each other as your lawful spouse and with the confirmation of that fact by your signature you contract a lawful marriage...”

After receiving a short warning against committing bigamy, Li'l Bro and Bridie repeated their vows – LB solemnly, Bridie with some humorous ripostes: “I call upon all persons here present to witness that I accept you as my lawful spouse to love and to share with you as from this day, moments of joy and sorrow, wealth and poverty, happiness and unhappiness, throughout our life until death do separate us.”

“As from this moment,” Katerina-the-official intoned. “I pronounce you man and wife. You are joined together by your free consent in matrimony, and you owe each other love, fidelity, and respect throughout your life. This marriage constitutes the fulfillment of your life and links your destinies on good and rainy days, in happiness and unhappiness, in wealth and poverty until death do separate you.

Vows exchanged...

Diego plays...

Kisses and applause...

“On the basis of equality you should face together all the problems and all the difficulties of life. Together you should shoulder all the burdens of marriage, each one according to your capabilities. You have both the right and obligation to take care of the upbringing and education of your children so that they may become useful and good citizens and free personalities.”

Their marriage was that simple, and that beautiful. Rings and kisses were exchanged, champagne corks popped, Diego played an air on his violin, and we all ajourned to feast around the beautifully appointed tables, finding our seats by the hand-lettered stones that marked each place.

I missed the speeches (can you believe it?) having chosen just that moment to run home for the cheesecake in its glass dish and the jug of raspberry sauce. But they were that pithy that by the time I returned a scant five minutes later, toasts had been drunk and the serious business of eating and drinking was well underway.

Bridie and her father.

The buffet...

The toasts...

The setting...

The feast...

The cake...

Dancing followed dessert – the bride and groom first on the 'raised dance floor' of the back patio, then a blend of boogies and Greek dances until Bridie's parents – her father is in poor health – wrapped it up and left at 11.30, and the other guests – with the drive to Nicosia before them – left as well. “I never imagined it could be done this way!” the Best Man told LB as he was taking his leave. “If only I'd have known, do you think we would have had the usual wedding?” All those miles of hand-shakes, the hours of standing could not be compared to something as simple and beautiful as this.

The dancing...

I saw no tears at this wedding – though there may have been a few shed from happiness – but the smiles? There were more than enough to spread around.

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