The Rites of Marriage


A wedding should a wondrous occasion for all concerned. The people getting married are heading for a new life together, engaging in a bond that may or may not end in divorce, the parents can look forward to soon becoming grandparents, and the guests can look forward to sharing in the couple’s happiness and to getting drunk and eating lots of greasy food in the company of similarly drunk friends.


Here in Cyprus, Saturdays and Sundays are wedding days, and everybody in Cyprus attends a number of wedding receptions on each of those days, apart from the people getting married who only have to attend their own.


In case you have never attended a modern Cypriot wedding or have just arrived from overseas or another planet, our weddings begin with a church ceremony, where the priest gets the bride and groom, the best man and the bridesmaid to go around a table in a conga line, before announcing that the couple are man and wife.


Actually, weddings begin at the planning stage- a date is set, the church is booked, the catering arranged, the flowers are ordered, the costs are calculated and the couple’s parents realise they might have to sell a kidney to pay for it.


After the church ceremony, everyone attends the reception (and by everyone, I mean the thousands of guests who have been invited or have responded to the newspaper ads announcing the wedding). Here the newlyweds and their parents stand in a procession line while an angry and disorderly queue forms. These are the guests, each holding a little envelope with cash. Small envelopes of cash are considered appropriate wedding gifts in this part of the world. The several thousand guests slowly file towards the bride, groom and their parents, who are obliged to shake several thousand hands and say several thousand thankyous. Every now and then the inlaws will call for someone to fetch them “something strong”, so that by the end of the night they will be legless in more ways than one.


After they have shaken the hands of the couple and their parents, which by the end of the night are as limp as week-old lettuce, the guests will begin mingling, flitting from buffet table to buffet table and picking up glasses of bubbly from the waiters trays. This is when they get their money’s worth.


At the end of the night, the married couple go to their private suite to “consummate their marriage” and the parents go home to count the bills. By the time the kids come back from their honeymoon in Thailand or Cancun, their fathers are trying to decide which kidney to sell.


Traditional weddings, which are still common, are different. The whole community will descend upon a muddy field for a banquet that includes things like souvla and resi, which is a wheaty, meaty concoction that, thankfully, tastes better than it looks. Then the couple are serenaded by musicians playing fiddles, lutes and other instruments you don’t see much on MTV and the guests pin £10 notes directly on the brides dress; no envelopes are necessary.


To conclude, I must say that I have attended many weddings, and it has given me an idea of how I want to hold my own. First, I have to find someone willing to marry me, of course. I want a small wedding with close friends and relatives. Then, after the reception, I want to set off on a dream cruise with the love of my life. Hopefully, this will also be my wife.


I will also encourage my children to have a small wedding with only a few people. After all, I only have two kidneys.


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