This week’s blog was written by Cyprus Fellow Sean Wright about his experience attending his first traditional Cypriot wedding and how much fun he had during it.
This past weekend was one of the most interesting, fun, exciting times of my life. I was fortunate enough to celebrate the marriage between Gunnar Hagstrom, PPI’s Chief Program Officer and Cyprus Fellow alumnus, and his fiancé the beautiful Maria Papadopoulou, who being Greek Cypriot meant the wedding was over here in Cyprus. Also, my cousin Rory (Cyprus Fellow alumnus) and his girlfriend Amanda came over for the festivities as well, so I was very excited to BE with them and experience my first traditional Cypriot wedding.
To start things off, being the great cousin that I am, I picked up Rory and Amanda at 3:45 AM on Thursday morning. I definitely scored some points for that. And they came bearing gifts! Franks Red Hot and dryer sheets (for some reason I haven’t been able to find any over here, and my roommate Jess is starting to hide her’s from me – Yes Jess I’m calling you out! ). We got back to the flat and slept a little, and then the three of us went into the Old City to walk around. Rory took us to his favorite spots around the city, where I had my first frappe which I enjoyed.
I took them by the office, which was in a new and better location from what Rory had told me. As we were walking around the Old City, we kept passing by this school with an outdoor court in which Rory proceeded to tell us about the time he had to plan a 100+ tournament by himself. This tournament in his eyes was the most impressive thing he had ever done to that date. It just so happened that we heard about this tournament 10 more times over the next couple days! As much as I joke, it does sound very impressive how he managed to pull this off and how efficient it ran.
Later that night, Rory, Amanda, and myself went to dinner with some of Rory’s favorite people from when he was here. We had a nice Cypriot mezze meal, good conversation, and heard many stories of Rory and his time here. I’m lucky to be cousins with Rory, because at that dinner I could see the impact he had on not only PeacePlayer’s, but more importantly on the lives of these individuals. I hope to be able to have a similar impact during my time here in Cyprus. After the wonderful dinner, the three of us went to an event that was held for the American contingency that made the long trip over from the States. This was a great time, where I got to meet Gunnar’s family who are all so kind and generous.
It was impressive to see so many of Gunnar’s friends and family make the journey over here. It speaks volumes about the type of people Gunnar and his family are, and how they have impacted so many lives.
The next day was wedding day, so we got all dressed up and went to Maria’s parents house for the beginning of the wedding ceremonies. As we got there, Gunnar was in the basement preparing to get dressed. Now, he doesn’t dress himself. He has his groomsman help him out. And the strangest thing I saw was that the best man had to shave Gunnar in front of everyone. It was something so fun to watch. If I was the best man, my nerves would be making me shake all the while trying not to cut the groom because then you have him pissed off at you, but more importantly, the bride would be furious with you and that’s a scary thought! After Gunnar was shaved and dressed, it was time for Maria’s turn.
She looked elegant in her dress, and the dressing was finished by her bridesmaids putting her shoes and vail on. Of course, her Maid of Honor did not have to shave her. From the house, a bus took us to the beautiful wedding ceremony. The church was very old, but the inside was filled with gold looked magnificent. The actual ceremony was difficult to follow, as most was spoken in Greek. I didn’t know when to stand or sit, and as I was sitting down and the other half of the church was standing, everyone started exiting the building. I start thinking “What just happened? Is it over? Did they kiss? Should I stand or sit?” It caught me so off guard, but all in all it was a beautiful ceremony. They held a cocktail hour next to the church, where I saw Gunnar and Maria stand in front of the receiving line and greet people for almost 2 hrs. It was insane the amount of cheeks the both of them kissed. After that, it was time for the main reception at the Chateau Status, a beautiful venue located in the buffer zone. They had traditional Cypriot folk dancers come and perform which was very cool to see. Made me think of how long these traditions have gone on for, and who in the world started them. After that, we had a very delicious meal full of meats, pita, salads, and tasty treats. Once done with that, it was time to boogie.
We started dancing around midnight and didn’t stop until 3 in the morning. A mixture of American tunes with Cypriot ones was the best of both worlds. I got to twist and shout while also rocking out to songs I couldn’t understand. No matter what, if there is a dance floor I’m making my way onto it. To cap the night off, Rory, Amanda, and myself took a stretch Volvo taxi back to my flat which made us look pretty cool.
Sunday came the end of Rory and Amanda’s stay here in Cyprus, so we went to the beach for a few hours before they had to depart for the airport. The weather was great, water was cool, and good times were had. I was so happy to have them here, even if it was only for a few days. Family is very important to me, so any time I get to see them is great.
When I speak about family, it was so noticeable how PeacePlayer’s is one big family. The strong relationships that that have been built through PeacePlayer’s is so important to me. No matter the cultural differences that people may have, PPI breaks those down and brings about friendships that will last forever. That’s what I saw this past weekend. Thank you, Maria and Gunnar, for allowing me to experience such a wonderful time. I wish you both everlasting happiness.