Wedding Album My Jewish Catholic Shinto Greek Wedding
One island ceremony takes mixed marriage to a whole new level
by Konstantin Kakanias
The Day Before
I am so stressed helping my dear friends finalize the plans for their incredibly complicated wedding that I have begun to mumble to myself. Even more frightening, I am answering! What were they thinking? What was I thinking in agreeing? Am I going to be party to a wedding disaster of epic proportions? This is, after all, Greece, where everything is epic.
Dear! The Shinto priest and his sister are stuck at the Athens airport, and they speak only Japanese!
The Catholic priest has been waiting for his flight in Atlanta for 48 hours—there’s a hurricane! He may not come! I am freaking out.
But don’t worry, the rabbi is on the boat. He’s arriving on the island in a few hours, sans baggage, sans robe, sans tzitzis. His luggage is lost.
Darling, do you think the Athens rabbi can lend him his? But he’s coming for sure. I talked to him—there will be a wedding.
We are on the Greek island of Spetses. It’s 30 hours before the wedding of Minos Matsas, a Greek-born, L.A.-based composer, and the Mexican-Japanese filmmaker Amira Lopez, who also lives in L.A. When Minos and Amira made their big decision, there was the eternal problem: In what religion should the ceremony be performed?
The groom: a Sephardic Jew. The bride: a Shinto on her mother’s side and a Catholic on her father’s. Minos wanted to please his traditional Jewish parents, and Amira felt that her parents and their traditions should be respected, too. What to do?
The couple decided to have a three-religion ceremony, because, said Minos, “Religion should unite people, not separate them.” And after all, aren’t all religions one?
There will be only three best men: Kostas, Konstantinos and me, Konstantin—how could I refuse? My wedding gift was to design the invites and decorate the chuppah. As a homosexual man, religion and state still refuse me the right to marry, so my pleasure at the weddings of my friends is double.
Organizing a wedding on a Greek island is already complicated. But trying to find a rabbi, a Catholic priest and a Shinto priest who are willing to travel overseas to perform a spiritual ceremony together is next to impossible.
After phone calls, emails, letters, invitations and pleas, we found a liberal rabbi on the East Coast and an open-minded Catholic priest in California. And yes, they would travel! Finding the Shinto priest was more difficult, as their religion worships nature, and traveling is generally not part of the practice. But then...a miracle! The Shinto priest who founded the only temple in Europe was willing and would bring all the sacred elements needed for the union—a mobile temple, if you will.
The Big Day: 11 a.m., 100 Degrees
Amen. The priests arrive, jet-lagged, and we start the rehearsal.
But, darling, this is just impossible. I can’t breathe. It’s too hot!
The Catholic priest has a heart condition—he’s hyperventilating!
Oh, no, I’m fainting...
The Shinto priest has a history of sunstroke!
Sweetie, I know it’s crazy hot, but what can I do? I mean, this is Greece in the summer.
Why on earth did they decide to do this wedding here and not in, I don’t know, Normandy, Scotland... Alaska? Those are the chic places to have summer weddings.
Aaaah, my chuppah is wilting—the ivy, the ferns, the plumbago! This is not a dry-flower chuppah— it has to be green, not yellow!
The Japanese priest needs fresh fish, eggs and vegetables.
Why? For what?
To bless them, darling, not to cook them. Any fish—fresh, not frozen!
Hysteria, panic attacks and last-minute angst are common before a wedding, but try having a rehearsal under a burning sun in Greek, Japanese, Spanish and English (not to mention the Hebrew, Albanian, Polish and Filipino spoken by the crew), all without a maestro. Is that not a rehearsal for a Mozartian farce or a Wagner opera, or maybe a tragicomedy that has yet to be written? Even the groom’s mother, Roula (who has great directorial gifts), is overwhelmed. The only person who keeps her calm is Keiko, Amira’s mother, who patiently translates everything into Japanese for the Shinto priest—at least any words she can catch through the hysterically heated air.
What a disaster! Is there a God? What are we going to do?! The sun, the sun is burning—I am freaking out again!
The Wedding: 7 p.m.
Amira, now ready and extremely beautiful in Vera Wang, walks through the terraced garden at the side of her father, Alberto. Minos is waiting by the chuppah (kept fresh by frantic spraying), handsome in Paul Smith, nervous and happy.
The Shinto priest invites God to bless the wedding. And like a miracle, God appears from everywhere, covers the sun with a silver-lilac halo. As he asks the wind to blow a light breeze, some puffy clouds fly by to witness this union of love, and the Aegean Sea becomes a mirror of positive energy and eternal beauty. The priest offers God water from three sacred sources in Japan and, in case God is hungry, fruit and vegetables.
Alberto presents Amira to Minos, and for a moment, the birds stop their singing to listen with the guests to the musical piece Minos has composed. This has extra meaning to everyone, since he is a great musician from a family with a great musical tradition—his grandfather founded the first recording company in Greece, and his dad is known as the father of Greek music.
And so the ceremony goes. Is it because God is happy and well fed that everything turns out so magically? Like a well-trained orchestra or a choreographed ballet, the wedding is full of harmony and grace, with no mistakes. Can you believe it? When the Shinto priest finishes his blessings, the rabbi (dressed in neo-pop robes) reads from the Torah, and the Catholic priest prays for love, mercy, compassion, devotion and strength.
Then each one in his turn gives more blessings. We all sign the modernized and reformed ketubah, “to protect and provide for each other,” and Minos breaks the glass. Rings, rice, rose petals, tears, kisses, smiles and laughter are exchanged. This union is the most symbolic I have ever witnessed—perhaps the most beautiful. Everybody is ecstatic, and the Greeks, for once, behave.
The After-After-Party: 11 p.m.
Now it is time for the god Bacchus to take over, making sure that after a delicious Greek dinner, wine and champagne are generously served, to the divine effect of the guests and their kefi. This is an important Greek word, which means “mood,” and without it no party can exist.
The Shinto priest is dancing with the rabbi and Amira, Greek fishermen with beautiful Los Angeles girls, ship owners with young actors. Minos is singing and playing the guitar and the bouzouki. Bacchus is dancing with the moon, the stars with the sea, and we sing and sing until the early morning.
When the pale blue, misty dawn comes, I find I am so happy, looking at my beloved opal-like Greek sea. I fall into bed, exhausted. I realize my heart is full. I am at peace—the ceremony, the traditions, the love around me, have fulfilled me. And then I go to sleep.