My TV pal, the hilarious @Jennipulos from Bravo’s FLIPPING OUT got married over the weekend to a great Chicago Greek. My fiance @YeniAlvarez and I were what ever is the Athenian world for ‘thrilled” to be in attendance at the church and at the joyful, well-provisioned and Bangin’ Bash at the Chicago Radisson Blu immediately following.
The ceremony took place in a gorgeous Greek Orthodox church off Lake Shore Drive. I’d never been to an ORTHODOX Greek wedding, and I LOVE Feta cheese – so I woke up reveling in my imminent cultural immersion.
Growing up Italian, my only intersection with the Greek Orthodox brand of Christianity was through an old Woody Allen movie, so I expected long, white beards, foreboding lighting and intense incense. But the strongest whiff I caught all night was Jeff Lewis’ Eau du Toilet.
Ornate and gilded in Gold and translucent colors, the altar was lit like a portal to a Fantasy Universe where everyone hums, but only tunes that don’t irritate you, and strawberries never go bad in your fridge. A Utopia where bacon cures cancer and the Cubs haven’t LOST a World Series since 1908 – except for 2003. Not even perfect Universes are THAT perfect.
The imposing, yet welcoming, stone and tile fortress was filled with hundreds of family and friends… and nearly as many Priests.
Growing up attending Roman Catholic schools in Chicagoland, I’d only ever seen one priest per wedding. Later in life, I learned that was because they don’t share their tips.
In my experience, Roman Catholic weddings are lifeless oratory – less compelling than Ben Stein reading Ikea instructions.
Roman Catholic weddings open with fire and brimstone – can’t leave out the hits, segue quickly through good-intentioned prayers into scientifically accurate DIY instructions on making Woman from a spare rib. Kinda sexist, huh? You should see the look on the female priest’s faces when they read THAT one!
Some ‘progressive’ pastors often include the parable where Jesus turns water into wine at a wedding.
But where’s the miracle there? You’ve got to do something splashy when you RSVP as a “+ 12.” It’s not an Act of God… it’s common courtesy.
A miracle would be the idiot in your rearview with HIS BRIGHTS ON letting you cut in front of him to make your lane change. God forbid he arrives at his botox session :12 seconds less-soon.
The Philosophical centerpiece of the Roman Catholic ceremony is the sermon or Homily, the ‘improv’ part of the show. The faithful are spellbound as a celibate man, dressed to impress in flashy, colorful robes and jangly jewels, lectures the young and smiling nuptualants on the ‘keys’ to a healthy marriage. Those nuggets of valuable real-life experience are why you videotape.
Then there’s the Greeks!
The Greeks LIVE LIFE! There were four, or five or maybe six Priests officiating Jenni and Jonathan’s wedding. The exact number is hard to tell, since they all kept shuffling back and forth, trading off prayers, speeches, blessings and ‘moves’ around the glowing couple.
And not just choreography, there was singing too! Not the raspy moaning that passes for Roman Catholic singing. The Greek Priests were working a melody, calling back riffs from earlier in the mass, harmonizing. All while leading a circular wedding party dance, symbolizing, I think, the un-ending unity and indivisibility of the newly minted Dr. and Mrs.
And why not – the Altar was the most vibrant and joyful I’d ever seen. Were they not deeply religious events but only pieces of Theater – the Greeks are “Hairspray!” – Catholics, “The Crucible.”
The entire ceremony was rich and loving and really wonderful. The newlyweds charged out the front doors to a shower of white rose petals to start their new lives.
At the reception, after the delicious dinner but before the Bride spooled a live Rap with Styx’ Tommy Shaw on rockin’ tambourine, as sweaty, danced-out guests chowed on their own personal Malnatti’s pizzas, Yeni & I presented the young, Greek couple one essential gift. The solitary elixir unsurpassed in the calming of Life’s inevitable turbulence: