Simple sophistication: a wedding with caldera view
written by Bianca Ghikas 2010/2020
“The making of a wedding in the most romantic island of the Aegean Sea: Santorini”
I have never actually seen a complete traditional wedding in Santorini, at best I have seen the bride, escorted by the groom arriving on a donkey at the “Nixteri” gourmet restaurant at Kamari beach in Santorini. Last week a friend asked me to accompany him to a hotel near Fira; he had been asked to assist designing and using his trademark paper boats on a wire as part of the wedding theme. I jumped at the opportunity!!
When I arrived at the hotel the only thing, I could see was a Greek flag, a white building with white French doors and the paving stone roadway that led to the doors. A simple black and silver sign read “San Antonio Suites” bearing the trademark “Small Luxury Hotels of the World”. To my amazement entering the foyer I discovered that it was a tunnel leading to the cliffs. In a very luxurious and simple setting of white with black accents rest a myriad of rooms which are caves, most have their own private hot tub overlooking the caldera. We walked towards the restaurant, needless to say quite a few stairs to go everywhere lol.. Of course in on the cliff!; a nice swimming pool overlooking the caldera, I could just imagine swimming there under the stars..; a further walk and then this awesome outdoors restaurant serving extraordinary tasting food (we had lunch there). I could not resist I had to see the spa, another awesome cave mostly black with sauna, a big hot tub with black tiles all around, his and hers massage tables, etc in one word a perfect spa just for two. How romantic!! I felt like “Wilma”, experiencing firsthand the art of living in a luxurious “Flintstones” era.
The following is a step by step recount of the events that took place, which I found fascinating.
The wedding planner, joined us just before lunch and together with my friend began discussing where would the boats be placed and the rest of the design, the planner wanted lemons and limes and requested a table to be set with fresh lemonade besides the Wine and Alcohol table. My friend suggested putting some of the paper boats in fishbowls floating on the pool and I suggested that perhaps it would be interesting if some of the fishbowls would contain votives floating alongside the boats. Eureka, she decided to adopt my idea as well it felt great. During lunch I found out that a British television crew, from the RDFmedia group, was filming the wedding as part of a television series they were doing on Santorini, umm I thought great idea! Right then and there I requested permission to cover the event. Permission granted but on the condition of being in disguise. Could not get any more interesting I loved it instantly! The wedding ceremony was to take place on the next Sunday morning and the reception would follow in the afternoon.
I arrived at 11:00am and the television crew was taping the venue for the actual wedding ceremony. I began my own photo shoot in disguise heheh.
The amicable and skilled hotel manager informed me that this was the third wedding taking place at the hotel since its opening two years ago.
My first stop was to see the wedding menu the food and beverage manager, was extremely cooperative and introduced me to the chef. As it turned out the menu sounded delicious as it eventually looked!!
Puff pastries filled with feta cheese, slow cooked tomatoes, honey and thyme flavoured oil.
Salad greens with walnuts, orange filet, parmesan flakes with honey oil dressing
Sauté bream with fava Santorini and lemon sauce
Brownies with mascarpone cream, wild berries and strawberry coulis
Coffee and tea
Next step was to interview a few of the guests before the ceremony under the pretext of being part of the hotel’s customer satisfaction office Of course! At the end of the evening I told the guests and the bride and groom who I really was and told them this article will be written they were very happy about it and posed for a few of the photos.
Let’s meet the bride and groom and their guests
The first person I encountered was the bride’s mother Barbara Swoops, a tall majestic woman with shinning eyes elegantly clad in a shimmering long cream gown, I noticed how emotive she was and asked whereas the bride was as beautiful as the mother and with a lot of pride she said “thousand times more beautiful”; I then asked her if everything was to her liking and she replied: “I loved everything so far”.
The Best Man, George flowers, said that “He loves to be a best man in Santorini”
A family friend from New York City, USA, the very good-looking and funny Michael Staton was incredibly happy to be part of the bride and groom’s most treasured memory
The Bride, Karyn Swoopes, a gorgeous black girl with eyes shining like stars was getting ready being helped by her Maid of Honour, Sara Flowers, and a best friend in her suite, outside the group “Ta Idonakia”, a father and sons trio performing Santorinian folklore, began to play while two girls clad in folkloric attire were dancing, concomitantly the whole scene was being filmed by the British TV crew; one of the wedding planners, opened the doors and the musicians and TV crew went into the bridal suite, I was keeping my distance not to interfere with the filming they called me to join them. Karyn, the bride was wearing her white bathrobe throughout the musical and filming invasion, the Santorinian girls adorned the bed with tulle, white almond candies, “confetti”, rose petals, two circles made of dead branches symbolizing the “stefana”(wedding crowns worn in a traditional Greek wedding) and gave Karyn a spoon of “coufeto” (a traditional wedding sweet made of almonds and honey). We all left the suite to allow the bride to prepare herself for the ceremony assisted by her two best friends. For some strange reason i was the last person out … and the bride required a pair of scissors to cut the tags of her wedding dress, of course they asked me and i advised them to call reception, the scissors arrived and low and behold i was one of the first to see the bride in the wedding dress, she looked absolutely stunning, classy and very sophisticated in her cream coloured wedding gown with ruffles. I felt I was marrying my daughter and my son all over again, the same pride and joy filled my heart. More memories to cherish!!
The guest are now being ushered to where the ceremony will take place, an open terrace overlooking the caldera arranged with a table for the minister of peace to perform the ceremony, dressed with a bouquet made of the paper boats on wire and tulle, each guest seat was also adorned with the paper boats as well as the wall leading to the terrace, the display was marvelous. The groom, Michael McConnell and his usher, both wearing cream coloured suits, than very handsome groom wearing a pastel blue necktie, were led as it is traditionally done in Santorini were coming to pick up the bride; the only thing missing was the donkey to carry the bride!! For those of you that saw the movie “Mamma Mia” you must remember the bride being carried away on a donkey.
The groom entered the suite to get his bride and when they were coming out the musician began to play and led the way followed by the two Santorinian girls, then Karyn and Michael, who by the way had tears of joy in his eyes, and the usher holding the bridal train. The couple was led to the ceremonial site by the musicians at all this I was shooting photos and the TV crew was filming. The minister of peace, Mr. Xrhstos Kafouros, performed a beautiful, simple and emotional ceremony with a touch of humour and Karyn and Michael sealed their vows with a very tender kiss. I could not help but noticing that Michael was lifting the hair of his bride’s face during the ceremony, and i thought “True love is ever-present today”. The whole event so far was under a glorious blue sky and warm weather while having the caldera view on the background.
I asked Karyn what made them choose Santorini for their wedding and she said: “We have friends that come on vacations often to this island and while looking at their photos Michael said that’s where we should get married and that was it”.
After the wedding ceremony the newlyweds and their guests descended to the reception level and were greeted with fresh lemonade, Greek desserts and Santorinian wines. Dinner followed later in the afternoon at the open air restaurant; unfortunately the blue sky did not last until the evening and a light shower fell on the island, however it did not last long and the cheerful atmosphere was kept throughout regardless.
An amazing day, a wonderful couple and amazing guest coupled with the skills of Stella and Evangelia and the experienced and friendly staff of San Antonio Suites contributed to a very classy, simple and sophisticated event. In one sentence “A blissful wedding experience”. As I told some guest in the bridal table the showers will guarantee the growth of their love.