The only type of wedding that compares culturally to a Jewish wedding is, of course, a big fat Greek wedding. So, as you can imagine, a combination of the two makes for a pretty epic Mediterranean family-centric celebration!
Christina and Oryan tied the knot on the beach in beautiful Crete, owing to both the bride and groom’s Greek and Greek-Cypriot backgrounds, and the convenient short hop from Israel, where Oryan has family ties.
We adore the laid-back feel of this gorgeous destination wedding, with the bride making her grand entrance on donkey-back, the couple exchanging vows barefoot on the beach (with one notable moment as an exception) and Greek / Israeli food and dancing.
The pair kept things simple, with no bridal party and ensuring that everything had a natural, organic feel to it. We LOVE the simplicity of the wooden Chuppah with its delicate floral arrangements perfectly framing the view of the sea. Stunning.
Family played a huge role in the ceremony, with both of the bride and groom’s sisters being given a significant part to play.
Oh, and Christina’s Catherine Deane dress was simply perfect — elegant, bridal, flattering and beach-wedding beautiful.
Christina and Oryan wrote up the story of their real wedding together as a couple, and we’re delighted to hear the story from both of their perspectives, so we’ll hand over to them now to tell us more…
How we met
Christina and Oryan, the bride and groom: We met through mutual friends in NYC. We had both moved to New York in 2010 and had mutual friends in common through which we were introduced. We remained friends for several years before starting to date in 2014.
A big fat Greek Jewish wedding with a surprising bridal entrance
The decision to have our wedding in Crete was rooted in the fact that Christina’s dad is a Greek Cypriot and Oryan’s grandparents are Greek Jewish decedents.
In addition, Christina’s family had planned a trip to Crete that never took place, and so it happened that we got married in the Greek island of Crete. The proximity to Israel made it easy for all of Oryan’s family and friends to attend.
We wanted to combine Oryan’s Israeli and Jewish culture with Christina’s Greek and American one. We didn’t understand it right away, but with the help of our two wonderful wedding planners who we cannot recommend more Crete for Love we basically invented our own ceremony.
To illustrate: the bride arrived on a donkey named Tasia and the groom shattered the wine glass wearing only one blue Dolce and Gabbana shoe. We wrote the entire ceremony ourselves and were able to include all of our friends and family in different parts which made it all very personal.
Our theme was olive branches so all of the flowers were light colours accented with olive leaves.
Keeping the invitations casual
Most of the wedding guests received a direct WhatsApp message as an invite. For some of our older generation folks, Christina found hand painted Greek invitations from an artist in Australia.
A classic Catherine Deane dress
Christina’s dress was Catherine Deane, an up-and-coming Irish designer. A friend had recommended her to Christina and they had just opened a boutique in NYC where Christina and Oryan live. Christina loved the style of Catherine Deane dresses because they are simple, classic, yet feminine. It’s the only place she went to look for a dress and decided on the spot.
Christina did not wear any jewelry because Oryan has a weird hatred of earrings and necklaces so we agreed to keep it very simple and clean. We both wore flower Stefanas (olive branches crowns) on our head that were placed during the ceremony (a Greek tradition) and which we kept on throughout the rest of the evening.
A barefoot bride and a single Dolce & Gabbana shoe presented on a pillow
As the wedding ceremony was on the beach, steps from the water, we both wanted to be barefoot, to feel the slight warm sand under our feet at this life event. But at the end of the ceremony Oryan put on one light blue-grey Dolce & Gabbana shoe which, for laughs, was brought to him on a pillow by his Italian friend Corrado, so he could smash the glass.
For the reception that took place in the villa, Christina had a pair of deep blue Stuart Weitzman swede heels which she only wore until her feet started to hurt, then it was back to being barefoot!
The groom wore D&G
Since Oryan used to live in Italy and has Italian friends in the fashion industry, on a recent trip to Milan he had a couple of friends (including Corrado who works at Dolce & Gabbana) help him find the outfit. He wore aqua light blue pants with a white shirt and suspenders. The light blue-grey D&G shoes were the highlight.
A natural, wooden chuppah
Since the ceremony was on the beach, we wanted something simple and natural looking for the Chuppah. It was made of wood and decorated with flowers.
A family-centric, multicultural ceremony
Christina’s sister was the officiant at the ceremony. We wanted to involve all of our close friends and family in the ceremony so we had our friends read the seven traditional Jewish Blessings, each friend in their native language which included Hebrew, Italian, Greek, and English.
Christina also had her cousin and a close friend read a passage from the Bible and a special poem. Another one of Christina’s cousins placed the stefana (olive branches crowns) on their heads and close friends threw rice as they walked around the alter three times, signifying our past, present, and future together as a married couple.
We also had each of our parents hold the four corners of Oryan’s talit (the one from the Bar-Mitzvah!) above our heads while Oryan’s brother in law read the blessing in Hebrew. Oryan read his vows to Christina in Hebrew and Christina read hers in Greek.
An honourable mention for Tasia the donkey
Our favorite part of the ceremony was the special guest, Tasia the donkey. It’s an old Greek village tradition that the bride arrives to the wedding on a donkey. After the ceremony, everyone enjoyed getting pictures with Tasia.
Traditional Greek music
Oryan’s sister played the flute as Christina arrived on the donkey and walked down the aisle. At the reception, we had live Greek musicians playing bouzouki and classic Greek songs. We wanted it to feel like we were just at a local taverna. There was no formal entrance song or first dance.
We had the reception at the villa we had rented for the week in Crete. The dinner table and musicians were set up next to the pool so of course once the dancing started and everyone had several drinks in them, everybody jumped into the pool with their clothes on and the dance party continued in the pool for several hours.
In addition to the hora for us, we also lifted the mothers of the bride and groom as well as the fathers. They all enjoyed this so much!
Our fabulous photographer
Andreas Markakis is a local photographer who was recommended to us. We chose not to have videography. He really did an excellent work and we have many beautiful pictures. Super recommended!
A Mediterranean feast
The theme of the dinner was classic Greek/Israeli food. Keeping in line with that, desert was Christina’s favorite Greek sweet called loukoumades which are fried dough balls saturated in honey. There was also fruit and baklava. The caterers were a local company also recommended to us by our wedding planner.
Each place setting was decorated with glass evil eyes that Christina’s sister brought from the States that guests were able to take home.
An Israeli pre-wedding party
A week before the wedding in Crete, we had a big party in Israel that Oryan’s mum planned. She and close friends went to the Church of the Crucifixion in Jerusalem and picked olive branches from the trees there from which she made crowns for all guests to wear at the party. We loved the crowns so much, as well as the meaning behind them, and we brought several with us to Crete the following week. Many guests at the wedding also wore these crowns throughout the evening.
Advice for brides and grooms currently planning their wedding
It would have been less stressful if we had the ceremony planned in advance and if Christina had started getting ready earlier in the day!
In the end, everything came together perfectly although things were a little rushed!