Every wedding day has a story, here’s mine…
Say I do…
A year ago, my husband and I stood side-by-side in the courtyard of a tiny Greek Orthodox church by the sea before a priest, our families and friends, and said I do on the island of Mykonos.
It was just after seven o’clock in the evening on a hot, windless night that felt a lot like the inside of a closed tent under the scorching midday sun. I was wearing a silk and chiffon Delphine Manivet wedding dress, specifically chosen for how elegantly it would move and flow on the infamously windy island. Instead, the garment clung limp and lifeless to my svelte, sweaty body, while the adhesive designed to keep a discreet stick-on bra attached, slowly began to melt.
It was a dangerous miscalculation, to hastily step outside of the privacy of my hotel room and into the spotlight of photographers and videographers ready to document my every move. From the moment I embarked on the 10 minute journey by foot to the church, escorted by an entourage of bridesmaids and musicians, I knew there was no turning back.
Standing there at the start of what would be roughly a 45 minute ceremony, all I could do was focus on willing the bra to stay on, in the hope that this would finally be the moment I discover my telekinetic powers. Desperate to avoid the scene of two flesh-coloured chicken fillets slipping out from the frightfully open sides of my dress and making impact with the floor, in plain sight of the Orthodox priest, cameras and 150 guests, I was entirely oblivious to the steamy, runny excrement from a bird up above that found its target on the shoulder of my groom.
T minus three….
We had arrived a week earlier, in order to finalise the preparations for our destination wedding. In between stealing moments to tan in awkward positions to avoid tan lines, there were meetings, phone calls, emails, invoices, lost items, late items, dry cleaners, priest and post office trips, and then there was tequila, chilli margarita, and lots of it.
It happened on a Wednesday, just three nights before the wedding. My closest childhood friend had just flown in and, after a busy and stressful day, we invited him and his girlfriend for dinner at Hippie Fish, also the wedding venue. It seemed sensible to avoid the all-night party scene downtown and a good opportunity to make sure everything was in order before the Big Day. After a delicious dinner of seafood pasta, white wine and ice cream desserts, we agreed upon a round of cocktails to see us out.
We were discussing the music with the DJ, making it abundantly clear that yes, we want him to play Lil Wayne and DMX and no, we’re not interested in his classic wedding playlist. Meanwhile, I was drinking an unknown quantity of chilli margaritas, as a very attentive barman topped up my glass each time after I took a sip, which I then drank and he then topped up and on it went.
I should have noticed something was amiss when I started speaking Greek. Oh yes, near-fluent Greek, despite only having studied to Intermediate level. Perhaps another hint came when the staff and I locked hands and, forming a line of six or eight people, started Greek dancing in the empty restaurant. But no. The realisation came much later, at the very moment my head touched the pillow and suddenly the world spun upside down so fast it was as if someone had transplanted my brain inside a washing machine.
You Can Take the Girl Out of Manchester, But You Can’t…
If only I had a penny for all the times I’d been here before. Crouched over the toilet, expelling the contents of my stomach as professionally as a nurse with a stomach pump. So much chilli margarita. Seafood pasta. Ice cream desserts. Back and forth between the bed and the toilet seat with the immediacy of a relay race, if the baton was my vomit and the race was, well, staying alive. Teetering on the very edge of alcohol poisoning, the vomit saga finally ceased roughly 12 hours later.
But you see, my husband-to-be didn’t go to Manchester University. He didn’t grow up in the party town of Cascais, the Beverly Hills of Lisbon. He hadn’t seen a full-grown, highly-educated woman spew her guts up repeatedly for 12 hours before. And so, around 6 hours in, expecting it to be over, he came in to see how I was. But also started explaining tasks and chores that needed doing, things that needed my help with. But I was in no condition. Doubled over and finding speech as complex as four-digit mental math, I flailed my arms around to say no, just leave me, and then, like reaching for a lifeboat, mustered the strength to say, Coca-Cola.
That’s how it happened. I’m not at all proud of it, on the contrary. I felt deeply ashamed and disappointed in myself. It had been years since the last time and all I can say is that the pressure must have got the better of me. Like anyone else in that situation, I vowed not to drink chilli margaritas ever again and apologised to my husband and his family for not being around to help out that day. Obviously I didn’t drink any alcohol that night as we sat down for a family dinner, I just wish I could say the same for the next night.
The Night Before…
In destination weddings, it is customary to throw a welcome party for the guests the night before the wedding. A chance for them to meet and mingle in an informal setting ahead of the Big Day. The idea was that guests would grab a drink and say hello before heading out to dinner.
We designed three cocktails to represent us and where we come from. So we had the Myconian made with Greek mastika, since hubby is an islander, the Norwegian, a refreshing vodka drink, and the Portuguese, a red wine sangria, since I am half-half. We had the party on the terrace and in the garden of our villa, beautifully lit with little lamps and lanterns dotted about, and there was catering with canapés and other bite-sized snacks.
All credit for the incredible party goes to my mother-in-law, who planned and organised everything. However, the party was such a success—the catering and cocktails were truly fantastic, and we had a bar, music, and staff bringing out plate after plate with more delicious treats—that no one left for dinner.
The party remained in full swing until around four in the morning when our guests started trickling out. Despite the chilli margarita mistake, I was in good spirits. Relatively calm and excited to wed the man of my dreams. I was drinking in celebration, not angst. But then I made another costly mistake, I forgot to eat.
As I lay in bed in the early hours of the morning with a few glasses of alcohol burning through my empty, fragile stomach, I began to question my basic intelligence as a human being. Was I incapable of learning the simple equation of alcohol plus no food equals a really bad time?
The Morning of the Big Day…
And that’s how I started my wedding day. Hungry, tired, and lacking the key ingredient of saliva to ingest actual food. Bags under my eyes, clutching (again) a sugary, sticky can of medicinal Coca-Cola, and attempting to eat a single brown bread bun by one thousand nibbles. My sister behind me doing my hair, surrounded by a smattering of bridesmaids nursing hangovers of their own. Gangster rap playing in the background.
That’s basically the scene our photographer and videographer walked into. Although in their photographs, using all manner of lighting and editing trickery, the bridesmaids and I somehow look fresh as daisies. In reality, it was the opposite of that. It was hardcore. Back in Barcelona, I had been the Liam Neeson of hens, and now I was the Rocky of brides, doing all I could to last just one more round in the ring.
Not my best hour, but I was ready. Once we received a text message that the priest had arrived at the church (our cue to leave), I stepped into my dress, whacked on the stick-on bra without thinking of the heat, the weather, or my sweaty hangover, and bowed my head to allow my sister to attach the cathedral-length veil.
Even though it pained me to stand up straight—my stomach, having given up on its digestive life morphed into a rock—I felt an overwhelming sense of happiness and excitement. I looked beautiful. I could have looked better, but in this life, you gotta work with the cards you’re dealt. Ready to go, I turned around to show my friends, and found them all in tears, saying ridiculous things like, the veil, the veil, it’s so beautiful. I can’t believe it, now I believe it, Lara’s getting married.
I had to get out of there. Crying is like yawning, it’s a contagious thing and if I stayed, I would have undone all the make-up that was the only thing making me look half alive. So I bolted, leaving them all behind. Amidst the kerfuffle, I didn’t even notice the bra until I reached the top of the stairs, and felt the first of the gradual unsticking.
Going to the Chapel and We’re…
Outside on the street, a surprisingly large number of people came out to see the bride. Everyone from hotel guests to the people in the supermarket, the wait staff, receptionists and grocery clerks. It was such a surreal moment, some of them were moved to tears, and there was clapping and cheering. I couldn’t understand how this corpse bride was evoking such profound emotion in these strangers. It was as if the melodic Greek music had cast a spell over the town.
Whatever it was, we made it. This was it, my Big Day. It’s a Myconian tradition that the bride is escorted to the church by musicians. We walked behind the two Greek men in traditional dress—one playing a type of guitar and the other a very unusual instrument that looked like a large xylophone hung from his neck—playing the most beautiful song I have ever heard.
On the brink of tears, I focused on hilarious mental images of elderly group sex, more naked people, and anything at all to help lighten the mood. At one point I even shouted out hashtag Miss Portmanteau to the crowds that looked on.
When I finally reached my husband to be, it took everything I had to maintain my composure and not explode with tears of joy. Together, we walked up the steps to the little church where he proposed two years ago, and got married.
Telekinetic powers mastered, I dove inside the little church as soon as the ceremony was over and ditched the bra before popping out to greet the guests one by one, another Greek custom. When my sister came to give us her wishes, I whispered in her ear, inside the church, on the table, you’ll find two chicken fillets, please, take them and put them in your bag before the priest finds them!
A huge thank you to our incredible photographer, Nikos Psathoyiannakis, whose photos I used for this post. I also want to thank our wedding planners, M&A Weddings, Nikos Fragoulis our videographer, everyone at Hippie Fish, Delight Hotel, N’ice Cream, Cycladitiko Aroma, Anastasia, and to all our family and friends who helped make our special day the best day of our lives.