I never wanted a big wedding. A pretty dress and my handsome groom were all I needed to get the deed done. This was my first thought – my very delusional first thought the day I got engaged. Fast-forward 342 days later, and I had quite a different matrimonial experience. Of course, I still got the handsome groom, but the pretty dress turned into a larger-than-life ball gown. Throw in 300 pink peonies, 100 white roses, 190 invitations, 400 guests, 40 centerpieces and 1 pair of the most adorable fuchsia shoes, and you get the biggest, fattest, Greekest wedding this side of the Atlantic.
The day was beautiful, my party was rockin’ till the wee hours of the morning, and every guest left with a sparkly ribbon- and crystal-decorated favor box in their hands and a big smile on their face. But let me tell you, getting 400 smiles is no easy feat. It takes more than a few shots of Ouzo and a circle dance or two. In fact, it took a whole year of stress, sweat, tears, and a touch of that Mediterranean communication skill the rest of the world calls yelling to pull off a day that left everyone – including this bride – happily partied.
Our goal was to have a traditional wedding with a few twists. So we had the typical religious ceremony (which we both wanted), but come reception time we threw nontraditional touches into the mix. We made sure our wedding reflected who we were as a couple in the midst of all the Greek-infused hoopla. So, here’s what we did to make sure the night was a blast for every guest… and that the party reflected our personality as a couple – spunky, spontaneous and semi-traditional.
Bye-Bye Receiving Line!
Everyone hates the dreaded receiving line, and as the bride I hated the thought even more. Imagine planting 400 double-cheek kisses (that’s 800 kisses!) in one night? Plus, I didn’t like the idea of making people line up to hand me my gift like they’re in some sort of production line. So, we killed the receiving line. Another bonus is that this got everyone eating sooner than usual, which eliminated the potential crankiness that would have happened had they been forced to stand in that mile-long gift-deposit waiting line.
Sure, eating is fun, but after five courses of face-stuffing, eating makes you tired. I decided from the get-go that there would be no time for yawns at my wedding. I made sure my guests were thoroughly entertained throughout dinner. First dance to uniquely awesome song? Check! Performance by drop-dead gorgeous belly dancer? Check! Performance by just as beautiful decked-out Brazilian dancers?
Check again! There was no time to be bored, and that’s just what we wanted. It also got the party started earlier than usual, making the dance floor a madhouse from the beginning of the evening – complete with stereotypical plate-breaking.
Keep it Short
Of course everyone at your wedding is happy for you – they wouldn’t be there if they weren’t. But I’ve realized from attending my fair share of weddings that no one cares about the funny things the couple did as children or the best man’s fondest drunken memories of the groom. All you have say is a short thank you to your guests, parents and bridal party, send a specific shout-out to all the out-of-towners for making the trek and maybe say something sweet to your new spouse. Then shut off the mic and let the drinking, eating and dancing resume. At least, that’s what we did, and everyone seemed thankful for it.
Can I get a Volunteer?
In fear of having a room full of bored guests, I did my best to make sure they were all involved in the party. The Brazilian and belly dancers made guests of all ages get up and awkwardly wiggle their hips; the centerpiece giveaway game had guests duking it out over the oversized peony-and-rose-stuffed champagne glass in the middle of each table; and the photo booth had guests donning costumes and making fools of themselves for the camera. There were happy faces at every turn – mission accomplished!
Cocktails and a five-course meal followed by the traditional plate of lamb on each table is definitely not enough for a room full of Greeks. The sweet table was the finishing touch to our night. After our wedding cake had been eaten, long tables that lined four walls of the lobby area were filled with food – from cakes and chocolate fondue to pizza and sausages. Being the foodies that we are, we believe that if you keep people fed, you keep them happy – and we were right.
Be warned: This tip is for all you non-traditional brides out there. My husband and I decided to take to our photos before the actual ceremony. That’s right, we saw each other before the ceremony (oh the horror!). Our logic was that this way our guests would get to head to the reception right after the church and get their party on. If you make people wait a few hours, they get tired and they leave early. Not only did this work out perfectly, but it also had the perk of letting us share a personal moment when we first saw each other without the uncomfortable glare of 400 pairs of eyes. And we were able to capture the precise moment in photo. It’s truly one of my favorite, most romantic memories of the day.
Your own big, fat day
Throwing a big wedding is hard work. You have to balance taking care of hundreds of guests and making sure everything goes off without a hitch. But no matter what your culture or traditions, it’s possible to turn this mega out-of-control party into the single best day of your life.