Rhodes Destination Wedding – Georgios and Anthoula
Do you remember these two lovely people? I had the pleasure of working with them one very chilly morning this winter on Rannoch Moor, just south of Glencoe in the beautiful Scottish Highlands. Well, Georgios and Anthoula are both originally from the Greek islands of Chios and Rhodes respectively, although they now live in Glasgow where we first met. It turns out that they were heading back to the Aegean sea for their Rhodes destination wedding, and they didn’t have a wedding photographer. As both a photographer and keen traveller it sounded like a dream job and it didn’t take me very long to offer my services. So, on the 1st May I was flying south east on an aeroplane, wishing that my trusty Billingham camera bag wasn’t quite so heavy.
This is going to be a longer, but hopefully pretty interesting, blog post so make yourself comfortable and learn a little bit about the crazy world of a Greek Orthodox wedding ceremony with extra traditions that are very specific to Rhodes weddings. It also took two days of shooting so there are quite a few wedding photographs to look through…
My day began with a visit to the beautiful hotel Dimitra Sun in the small town of Archangelos along the eastern side of Rhodes. At a wedding on Rhodes it is traditional for the groom’s friends and family first to dress him, one sock at a time, starting from just a pair of underpants. This took a little while and I just kept taking photographs, slightly bemused by this new spectacle. Things then got even stranger as the freshly dressed Georgios was then seated in front of everyone and shaved by several people in turn. Worried about losing any of his carefully crafted beard and sculpted good looks Georgios managed to just scrape by with minimal shaving – apparently it is normal for the whole lot to be whipped off. I should add that Georgios managed to bring along some whiskey and thistle cuff-links from his adopted home of Scotland (he’d also made a great projected slideshow with the pictures from our pre-wedding shoot in Glencoe).
Stage one of the day was over and already I’d seen, and photographed, loads of new things. Stage two then started and things didn’t get any less crazy. Everyone who was in Georgios’ room (including the groom himself) walked across the town together to the house of Anthoula’s grandparents. Her 93 year old grandfather was the priest for the day and also handily had a nice little traditional home for the wedding part to use. For me the emphasis was on the word ‘little’ – what seemed like the entire population of the island squeezed into a single room to take part in the ceremony. A band turned up to play (loud) traditional Greek songs while Anthoula disrobed in a corner, her privacy maintained by a well-chosen screen of girlfriends, and then got dressed into her wedding dress while Georgios sat opposite receiving gifts from family and friends. There were gifts galore, and a variety of tasty snacks that I felt compelled to sample to feel the full Greek effect. Anthoula then joined her husband-to-be Georgios and they were given a few more gifts, more snacks were passed around along with shots of Mastica (from Georgios’ home island of Chios) and the band continued to play.
Eventually it was time to leave, but this wasn’t just a case of jumping into a wedding car. That would be far too easy and you would miss the opportunity for more music. Georgios dashed off to the church but the bride Anthoula, and everyone else, walked all the way back through the town led by the band who were still playing. There was a temporary snack break though and I began to realise that there are only so many sesame seed cakes one man can eat.
The beautiful Agios Rafail church, only slightly larger than the last room we were all in, was the next destination. However, there was obviously a space for some more merriment so a large circular dance began outside, and continued for about 20 minutes. There was some food if you needed any of course. When Georgios’ feet were bleeding the band let them stop dancing and the ceremony could begin. I squeezed in and found a good spot. Photography and videography of the ceremony is actively encouraged in Greece and I managed to grab a great spot just a couple of meters from the bride and groom so I could get a good view of the proceedings. The Greek Orthodox ceremony was an amazing spectacle to witness and was presided over by Anthoula’s Grandfather who was himself a priest. I didn’t really understand much of what was going on but I could still spot the key moments throughout the ceremony that I knew were important. Funnily enough, although the whole ceremony was conducted in the Greek language I could still pick put the odd word here and there – relics of the origins of our own language I guess.
As it was, by now, getting quite late in the day we decided to take a few pictures back at the Dimitra Sun hotel by the pool before I headed off to the reception venue perched on a cliff-top in the little fishing village of Stegna. The rest of the evening consisted of a lot of eating, drinking and endless dancing with the same band that was there right from the start of the day. It was, for me at least, a very long and tiring day but extremely enjoyable and I felt priveldiged to be able to be given a wonderful view into a completely different wedding culture to the one I am familiar with here in Scotland.
With all the eating and dancing on the wedding day itself there was very little time for any photographs of Georgios and Anthoula so there was an intricately planned photoshoot two days later. In a little procession of cars we drove through the hot and sunny olive groves down to the picture-postcard village of Lindos for some pictures on the jetty and also in one of the cooler side streets. Then it was up to the capital of Rhodes, helpfully also called Rhodes, where we meandered through the ancient Old Town and finally, just a few hours before our flight back to Scotland, we finished up on a beach overlooking the coastline of neighbouring Turkey just as the sun was setting. I’ll remember that light forever! I’ll also remember all the Glaswegians flying home in shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops, despite the fact that it was freezing in Glasgow – why do people do that?
If you are thinking of having your own Rhodes destination wedding, or are looking for a destination wedding photographer for another country, let me know! I absolutely love travelling and am happy to go anywhere.