~ My attention was drawn to an article in the Adelaide Advertiser published on February 17. It detailed the enormous costs associated with getting married in Australia in 2008. I believe the original source for the data published in the paper came from an online poll conducted by Bride to Be last year.
Here are a few Australian dollar figures for you to think about if you are contemplating taking that fateful step.
• The average cost of getting married in Australia is $50,000
• One couple reported spending more than $62,000 on their wedding!
• The average cost of wedding receptions is almost $10,500 (approx: $110.00 per head)…
• …which means the average number of guests is around a 100
• Even wedding cakes cost a small fortune these days – an average of $387.00
All of this got me thinking about the four weddings I attended last year during my stay on the Greek island of Ikaria.
The first wedding I went to had upwards of a 1000 guests!
No, that number is not a typo – it is correct, although not precise. The exact number of guest is unknown, because although the couple getting married issue invitations to family and friends in the traditional manner, the invited guests are not expected to RSVP their intentions to attend. Both families concerned just assume that everyone invited will be there, and that if they don’t, others will make up the numbers!
By the way, at one of the other weddings I attended they were expecting 1200-1300 hundred guests! The numbers fell well short of that (again around a 1000 or so), because there were two other weddings taking place on the island at the same time, and many families would have received invitations to at least two, if not all three events.
Here is a seven minute video I put together of the wedding and the party that followed. I call it a party, because essentially that’s what it is – a huge party celebrating the marriage of the bride and groom, and the ‘marriage’ of two island families. The first couple of minutes set the scene, but once the ‘reception’ starts, the party really begins.
One could write a book about island weddings, but I have to keep this as short as practicable, so let me highlight some of the logistics of the wedding you see in the film.
The church where the marriage took place was tiny, as are most island churches. Since it was barely big enough to hold the families of the bride and groom, most people who attended the wedding itself, hung around outside chatting, and waited for the ceremony to end.
The assembled throng then walked several hundred yards to the village centre where the reception was taking place. Seated on benches, ranged along trestle tables, the wedding guests waited to be served the tradition wedding meal – a dish of rice and goat meat. There were salads and lots of mezes (Greek finger food), and plenty of red wine sourced from the island itself or from local islands.
I know what you’re thinking: How on earth do you feed a thousand people?
Well, apart from the paid ‘professionals’ working on the day, the musicians; the Wedding Rice cooks; and the photographers, virtually all other work is carried out on a voluntary basis by extended family, friends, and acquaintances of the bride and groom.
The video shows some of these people serving guests. The huge two person serving tray you see (at around the six minute mark), holds upwards of 30 plates of food, and helps distribute meals quickly and efficiently.
Since the wedding will go right through to the early morning hours (and in many cases through until late morning), the volunteers serving the meals don’t have to worry about missing out on all the fun. Once everyone has been fed, a process that might take a several hours, they still have 10-12 hours of partying ahead of them.
There are no dull speeches; no embarrassing roasting of the bride and groom; no official toasting, even. Just lots of food, wine, music, and good fellowship. Oh, and hours of constant dancing.
You will also notice that children are everywhere. Asking parents to leave their children at home would be as unthinkable as having a wedding without dancing. Greek island weddings are huge community events which involve pretty much everyone - and that includes children.
At some point convenient to the newly weds, they will each take a glass of wine and circulate among the guests clinking glasses with as many of them as they can; all the while accepting the good wishes the guests bestow upon them for a long and happy marriage (you catch a glimpse of that at the two minute mark in the film).
I can’t tell you what the typical budget for a Greek island wedding might be, but I’m sure it is a fraction of the cost of Australian weddings. Since they are held in the open air, there are no hall hire fees, no waiters to pay, no extravagantly decorated tables and chairs, no stretch limos, and no wedding planner.
The main meal, as I said, consists of rice and meat (cooked in huge cauldrons). It probably required no more than 80-100 kilograms of rice to feed everyone present, and a good quantity of meat. Rice is cheap, and while the meat is less so, you can be sure that every guest was fed for far less than the average Australian price of $110 per person.
The contrast between a typical Australian wedding and a Greek island wedding could not be more pronounced. I haven’t attended weddings in other parts of Greece or on other islands, so I don’t know how they compare with those that take place on Ikaria, but Ikarian weddings are monumental events that are a wonder to behold, and a joy to be part of.