Beauty is about finding the right fit, the most natural fit – Rick Riordan.
You know when you’ve been waiting for something for such a long time – I’m talking years here – and it finally comes around, and then it’s gone like a poof of smoke in such an instant that you wonder if it ever happened at all? That’s how I feel about the wedding I attended just over a fortnight ago. There was a time that I was even more excited about it whilst I was travelling Australia – I do love a good wedding, and one in Cyprus had to be something pretty spectacular.
And it was.
THE LOVE STORY
Without going into too many details, as this is their love story and not my own. My second cousin’s family moved over to the RAF base in Akrortiri when she was in her early teens. Her now-husband fell in love with her the second he saw her, saying to his father I’m going to marry that girl. Hopeless romantics, I hear you swoon; rock-hearted people, that has to awaken the Disney-loving child in you somewhere! It was all very old school as the dating years started – you wouldn’t get chivalry like it now in the UK. This love story is pure romance and I am only too happy to hear it over and over again. Three years later, the engagement, and two years after that, the wedding – one of which, everyone has been planning for beyond those two years of engagement. We’re a very positive, exciteable family.
Akrortiri is home to both the bride and the groom as well as the groom’s family. It is a quaint village with beautiful houses and cute play areas for the local children to play. Small taverns decorate some corners whilst it is George’s Fish & Chip Bar that is the first port of call, or the last one, when entering or leaving this part of the island. In the distance, if you’re lucky enough to have a rooftop view, you can see the blue, blue ocean dazzling in the distance. Close to Akrortiri RAF base, it is hardly a quiet place, with plenty of people toing and froing within the community. What makes this place even more special is that balloons and sashes were tied all the way down the road to lead the wedding party to the first port of call – a complete sense of family and community hails within these streets.
HOME OF THE GROOM’S PARENTS
If us British lot had to pick a favourite part of the day, I reckon the majority would pick our first destination: the home of George’s parents. The Bridal family arrived with a bang on a huge coach and each of us was greeted by the fathers of the bride and groom: an extremely warm welcome was given as we were shown through to the garden to meet the elders of George’s family. A lot of nods and abbreviated hellos because that’s what British people do when there’s a language barrier as well as massive hugs, kisses and handholding because that’s what the Smith family does when meeting new people.
The garden itself was incredible. There was a pool – who doesn’t love a pool? – as well as a huge garden area, a decking area, an incredible canopy and a sheltered area with two fully stocked fridges and four silver food trays. Oh, and there was also an outdoor bar. I’d happily have the shed and lounge in the garden all day and night.
The atmosphere was cosy, fun, relaxed, familiar and buzzed with an excited happiness as so many of us had waited for this day. It was also very, very warm. Thank God for the mini fans that were given out.
Traditions abroad always seem to trump our own English traditions. Maybe it is the simple fact that they are not our own and so they feel so much more exotic and unique, a once in a lifetime chance to witness such an occasion that is completely different.
Traditionally, it would be the home to the bride’s parents; however, on this occasion it was the groom’s because Shaniece’s parents live in the UK. First up, it is the groom who is centre of attention. He arrives in just his vest. His best man is the one who dresses him in his shirt and jacket, as is tradition. The best man also shaves the groom’s beard, tends to his cufflinks and is the first to bless him. All of this is done to a couple of men on guitars, singing traditional song which is incredibly joyful and like something out of a Greek movie.
Once the groom has been blessed, he is whisked off to the church to wait for the bride, and in turn the bride arrives for her traditional pre-ceremony blessing. Shaniece’s dress was just how I imagined it: gloriously stunning. A sweeping fishtail with beautiful lace and beading sewn into every ounce. She sat on the same chair her fiancé had whilst her best woman began the traditional blessing. Again, the musical duo tapped their feet to build the melodic beat for their guitar strings. The bride’s tradition is to have her perfume sprayed, her earrings put in, her veil and shoes put on.
Religion is a huge importance in Cypriot culture, so much so that both husband and wife must be christened in the correct doctorate church before they can be married. It is the catalyst that is forever there in the lives of Cypriot homes, their families and their heart. It goes without question that part of the blessing ceremony for both husband and wife, is a chance for the entire family on both sides to bless them a happy journey for the day – and their lives – ahead. Live music continues to play as each person blesses; you can imagine the long ceremony that was had at the garden. Both George and Shaniece belong to big families.
A short journey to Kolossi was made as that was where Shaniece and George had chosen to be wed officially in front of their family and friends. Kolossi is in the south of Cyprus and is home to the famous Kolossi Castle – which we had the pleasure of seeing as our wedding breakfast view!
Churches in Cyprus are grand buildings, sandy coloured to melt into the golden hues of sunshine. The church we attended in Kolossi was stunning and huge, more like a modern cathedral than church. Inside, the grandeur didn’t stop; a long aisle segregated rows and rows of wooden chairs which had flowers hanging from some of them, welcoming George and Shaniece to their vows and religious home. Colourful stained glass windows let the light shine through onto the alter, as a glass window in the shape of Jesus looked down upon us from the ceiling above. And the chandelier… it was exquisite.
In retrospect, we should have stayed outside as that is where the bride is handed over to the groom, whilst the groom gives the bride her bouquet of flowers. Already, it is a completely different tradition from the typical English wedding where the bride is walked up the aisle first. In Cyprus, they enter as one and leave as one, which has a beautiful meaning if you think about it.
The priest was kind enough to repeat everything in English for the group of tourists sitting in the pews on the right, which is why the normally short church service took twice as long. There were lots of “offspring” mentioned so family is definitely the primary focus of Cypriot and married life. It was like watching Big Fat Greek Wedding (2) as the flowered wreaths were placed onto Shaniece and George’s heads; they were led (three times) around the table, symbolising the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. A pledge to both sets of parents was made, and vows were exchanged before the ceremony ended.
Outside, it was the throwing of the confetti – a tradition that Shaniece had to have – from us English lot, whilst Cypriots threw rice over the newlyweds. I definitely prefer confetti because rice can get in all sorts of places that you have to wriggle out in order to be comfortable again! And confetti is prettier. Shaniece also threw her flowers which her big sister, Shelby, caught. Smiles all round in the beating late afternoon sun before heading off for even more food and a stunning venue!
A PRIVATE VILLA
You know it’s a fabulous wedding when the newlyweds have hired a private villa to welcome their guests to. Located a tumble away from the famous Kolossi Castle, we all piled in and sat around gorgeous tables with beautiful, simple, flowers decorating them. The tables were a mere indication of how many people were expected to join for the evening. Plenty of people turned up to eat and celebrate the wedding by the illuminated swimming pool and under the dangling lights that shone more so than the stars. Trees were bathed in luminescent pinks and purples whilst strobe lights twirled and turned across the dance floor.
Again, the food was incredible. My mouth is salivating just thinking of the spare ribs, feta salads, cheesy lasagnes, porks, bread, and practically everything under the classic Cypriot food spectrum. I wish I had a bigger belly because I would have loved to fit more food in. English food is home but that food was something else.
The entire evening was magical, beginning with a three-song first dance that ended in whooshing sparklers/fireworks as George twirled Shaniece around the dancefloor. Simply beautiful. I can’t say there wasn’t a dry eye on my face, for sure.
Greek music cascaded the speakers with intermittent blasts of English music. It was a music off between the two nationalities, and when both clashed into one, that is a moment I’ll never forget, and I don’t think my dad will either! Or the rest of the Smith family for that matter. Watching the Cypriots dance traditionally was mesmerising: the daughters danced for their fathers, the entire family danced in a circle, the brothers danced together, and so on.
As the night dwindled into the small hours, it was a blast of English party music that swept us onto the dancefloor. It is suffice to say that each and every one of us earned those minutes of napping on the coach back to Aphrodite Sands Apartments.
WEDDING GUEST OUTFIT
My dress for the day spent its first three months of bought life stuffed inside a backpack in Australia which I then had to cart around with me from Melbourne to Adelaide, back again, and all along the west coast. I first fell in love with this dress the very first time I stepped foot into the famous H&M (yes, H&M! aka my most favourite shop, ever) on Bourke Street Mall in Melbourne City. I sent a photo to Mum and said, “I love this dress for Shaniece’s wedding.” As funds went, I couldn’t afford the dress, but kept an eye out for it every time I just so happened to wander into that shop, which was a lot – I worked a couple of stores down practically every day for two months straight. Eventually, I tried a dress on that was a few sizes too big, and then, luck would have it that there was one left that fit like a glove. Nobody else was going to have that specific dress from H&M Australia, and despite the heaviness of the outfit on a gloriously hot Sunday, I wasn’t going to wear anything else!
The shoes are from H&M (again) Singapore and the bag is from River Island, in London.
Celebrating Shaniece and George’s wedding was one of the best days of my life, something I’ll always cherish and never forget.
Have you been to a wedding abroad? What did you enjoy most about it?
Love, Faye xo