« Surrealist CafĂ© Opens! | Main | Baby Bird Update »

Wedding in Elounda Beach, Crete


This weekend we attended the three-day wedding celebration of two friends in the Loire Valley. Marriage ceremony in an eleventh century church, reception at a restored chateau, two parties at family homes. More on that in a later Paris Play, but it set us thinking about weddings. Here's how we were married three times in Elounda Beach, Crete:


Holed up in the Mirabello Bay hotel

the night before our wedding, we ask the gods,

What shall we do for our wedding vows?

When you summon them, how swiftly they speak!


We wake at three a.m., envision

a circle of gods and goddesses around us,

twelve of them, played by our guests

speaking our vows, which we will repeat.



We run to Ayios Nikolaos, find playing cards

with images of the twelve, dash home to write

and paste the words of the vows over the numbers,

diamonds, clubs, spades and hearts.


Crete is the shape of a woman with bare breasts,

belled dress—Ariadne, the Cretan Aphrodite.

We gather in the crook of her neck at the Elounda Beach hotel

at the edge of the Aegean sea.


My parents’ wedding gift: five days in white casitas

with curved walls, woven Greek bedspreads,

rooms open to sapphire water, June sky,

a horseshoe of mountains beyond.


Father, mother, sister, brother, sister, sister.

two nieces, and brother's fiancée.

Married friends of 30 years, their daughter.

Twelve guests are here.


Sister Ann brings the boxes with wedding rings

we’d given them to take from Arizona.

“We lost the gold ones,” she says,

“so we replaced them.”



I open the box. A smaller ring

with a yellow plastic duck, a larger one

with a red and black ladybug,

both lucky charms. We slip them on.


An hour before the ceremony

I sit with arms and feet outstretched

in white lace nightgown, with

lovely young attendants, nieces


who paint my nails, give me

my first pedicure. I feel like a queen.

“Now I must dress,” I say like a queen.

They laugh, “Isn’t this your wedding dress?”


My father comes to the casita, in striped peppermint shirt,

walks me to the chapel. My sandals are delicate,

earth-gold, worthy of Aphrodite, and hurt my feet.

I think of Yeats’s line about women, “we must labour to be beautiful.”


Through purple bougainvillea, shimmering heat,

we walk the path. My father says, “This man

is a treasure, a jewel. Treat him like one.”

I will, Dad. I will.



My father and I stop across the Dionysus courtyard

from Richard. He stands with radiant face

outside the east door of the chapel,

as Greek grooms do.


The hotel pianist noodles romantic tunes.

My father’s face is shining.

We wait. And wait. My brother snaps photos.

Two men dash across the grounds,


one with patriarchal beard and long black robe,

the other in the last madras shirt in the Western world.

Richard consults with them.

The hotel manager translates.


“What is your religion?” asks the priest,

“Catholic or Orthodox?”

“Neither,” says the groom; “we honor

the ancient Greek gods and goddesses.”


Father Ted looks confused.

The manager tries to translate.

“Which of the two are you?” he insists.

Again Richard states our beliefs.



Father Ted slaps his forehead.

Pagans!” he cries. And then,

“I can’t take money for this—

it won’t be a real wedding.”


“That’s okay,” says Richard.

“We were already married legally at city hall.

We simply sought the blessing of a local holy man.”

The good priest grudgingly agrees.



The piano man begins the wedding march.

My father escorts me into the Orthodox chapel.

Saints and angels and whirling circles

are painted along the walls.                                            


My mother wears shell-pink linen,

and a necklace of many-colored beads.

Her face is tender and open. My father

places my hand in my beloved’s.


We tremble before the sermon

Father Ted bellows in Greek.

His madras-shirted cantor translates:

“You were born in sin, and will burn in hell!”


Is this a special Bible treat

especially for pagans? We float out of the chapel 

amazed, shocked by the spiritual violence,

gather in the Dionysus courtyard.


“Where did you find this jacket?” asks Suki,

stroking my sleeve. It is white silk ribbon with a labyrinth

design. “On Mykonos,” I say, remembering

my joy at finding it in the maze of shops. 



“The bride talks too much,”

the hotel manager says.

A proper Greek bride 

should be Orthodox and silent.


We walk to the stone jetty

that juts out into the Aegean sea.

It ends in a circle with canvas wicker chairs,

several hotel guests at the open bar.


A white sail forms a roof,

open to cobalt sea and sky,

and mountains like Arizona beyond.

Our guests form a circle around us.



The gods of water, Poseidon, Dionysus and Artemis to the North;

the gods of air, Hermes, Daedalus and Athena to the East;

the gods of earth, Hestia, Aphrodite and Demeter to the South;

the gods of fire, Ares, Apollo and Zeus to the West.


My mother, Betty, Artemis, opens her envelope, and reads:

I will protect and nurture you.

My niece, Bayu, as Hermes, is next:

I will strive to deeply understand you.


After each, we echo the vows.

My brother, Jon, as Daedalus, says,

I will guard your creative solitude.

 The gods and goddesses weep.



Jon’s fiancée, Leatrice, Athena, says,

All my resources are yours.

I will build a home with you, says Steve,

representing Hestia.


Aphrodite speaks through his daughter, Robin, 

I will walk in beauty with you.

Her mother, Rain, is Demeter:

I will nourish you and protect your health.


I will travel the world with you, says Ares sister, Ann.

Sister Suki, Apollo, says, I will live with you in harmony

and celebration. Sister Jane, as Zeus says:

I will be grateful every day for the gift of you.


Her daughter, Rachel, Poseidon, says,

I will protect your sleep and honor your dreams.

My father, Sam, as Dionysus, ends with:

You are the mate of my soul in life and in death.



Everyone cries except my mother, Artemis,

who dry-eyed says, “This should be a film.”

A young Greek woman approaches from the bar, asks,

“What is this beautiful religion?” “Yours,” we say.


We sit on the banquettes,

gazing around at the mountains and sea.

This is where we wanted to be married,

Ariadne’s island of beauty and love.



We walk in a procession to the Dionysus courtyard

for the feast. Long white-clothed tables form a T.

Red roses in glass vases. A menu of

Aphrodite’s Appetizers. Fillet of Fresh Fish Poseidon.


Lemon Sorbet Artemis. Rack of Lamb Ares.

Fresh Fruit from Demetra’s garden.

Hestia’s homemade chocolate cake.

Coffee a la Hermes. Dionyssos’s digestives.


The air is warm. We sit under the umbrellas of olive trees.

The sculpted white chapel where we were hectored

in sin is behind us. We sit with family and friends,

ablaze with love.




PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (16)

Wonderful! I like where you say "hectored in sin." Hector was the mightiest soldier of Troy, and originated the motto of today's Greek Armed Forces: "One omen is best: defending the fatherland." So, it's an interesting origin of the verb, "hector"--to bully--which has its roots in Troy.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011 at 23:28 | Unregistered CommenterStuart Balcomb


This is fascinating. Isn't it perfect that we were hectored in the country where "Hector-ing" was born? I never would have associated it with the Greek hero. We're endlessly intrigued with word origins, and are glad to know this one. Thank you!


Kaaren & Richard

Thursday, August 4, 2011 at 11:47 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren & Richard

What a fine time was had by all. All those Gods had a good time too, and were so glad to be asked to preside. They had to hustle to dust off their rigs and get pedicures too, since their toenails had grown 50,000 miles long since anyone had asked them to minister at a wedding.

A daze. The whole thing in a daze. Which is

A location where there is no time.

How right.

Love ya,


Thursday, August 4, 2011 at 13:54 | Unregistered CommenterBruce Moody


Your comments made us laugh. Yes, those gods and goddesses DID like being invited back. Aphrodite loved her pedicure, but Artemis and Athena deemed it a waste of time, and declined.

And "daze" is right. We slept little the night before and then were doubly dazed by Father Ted's ferocity. Ironic, since one of the elements that attracted us to Crete was the ancient Cretan culture's absence of weapons, and emphasis on peace. Father Ted belongs to a later warrior culture, in spite of being an Orthodox priest.

But the final daze of a ceremony that placed us all in kairos, eternal time, was the best kind of daze.

Love to you,

Kaaren & Richard

Thursday, August 4, 2011 at 14:04 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren & Richard

Exquisite as usual. love you, and love what you're doing.


Thursday, August 4, 2011 at 15:06 | Unregistered CommenterCarol Cellucci

Carol, song, poem,

Thank you. Loved the photos of you and Connie on Martha's Vineyard, and your tales of teaching.

We love YOU and what you're doing!


Kaaren & Richard

Thursday, August 4, 2011 at 21:01 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren & Richard

Dear Kaaren,

Beautiful! And what grace you and Richard showed in the face of such hostile resistance on your sacred day. And so sad that the Greeks (at least some of them) reject the wisdom of their ancestors - how angry they can become! Then again, I believe one can be Christian or [fill in the blank here with religion of your choice!] and still honor and embrace what the Greek gods and goddesses represent of humankind, and what they can teach us about ourselves.

This was all so moving (including Richard's wonderful photos). I was especially touched by your rendering of your parents here. So lovely. Thank you for sharing this with us.

Much love,

Friday, August 5, 2011 at 4:36 | Unregistered Commenterdawna

Dear Dawna,

Thank you! We're completely in agreement with you: It does seem more spiritually spacious to allow for the full range of beliefs-- religious, pantheistic, animistic, agnostic, atheistic. All spiritual beliefs reflect different varieties of imagination, and Father Ted's was full of hell and brimstone!

I'm glad you liked the portraits of my parents, just a few details, but what a great wedding gift they gave us, the Elounda Beach setting.

Much love,

Kaaren & Richard

Sunday, August 7, 2011 at 22:41 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren

As usual, I want to know where to sign up for your life.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011 at 17:42 | Unregistered CommenterAnna


I already married Richard, and you'd rather live in Rome--with Eric.

But you're funny!



Tuesday, August 9, 2011 at 20:38 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren & Richard

This event is as alive today as the day it happened through your expansive yet concise words -- this posting is such a delicate exposure of your experience and one that has moved me -- although I have enjoyed all of the other marvellous bites you have presented to us since your move to Paris. I am sorry I missed the invitation to the surrealist cafe. I was in Houston on that day which in and of itself is a surrealist experience.

Saturday, August 13, 2011 at 18:32 | Unregistered CommenterVarya

I loved this!! So many photos and stories.. My favorite was the ladybug with the pacifier, waving to the camera....

Thanks for keeping this going...


Love, Liza

Monday, August 15, 2011 at 18:46 | Unregistered CommenterLiza Michaelson


These photos and stories are for your enjoyment!

We always love hearing which photos, which stories interest people. You, being lucky yourself, are drawn to ladybugs!


Kaaren & Richard

Monday, August 15, 2011 at 18:50 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren

Dear Varya,

What a treat to hear from you. If you ever find time in your international lawyer-ing to do that anthology you talked about, "Wedding in Elounda Beach, Crete" is what Richard and I would propose as an entry.

We'll have another Surrealist Cafe, with another theme, so maybe you'll be in Berkeley then and can join in.

Yes, isn't Texas surreal? I was just reading about Gov. Rick Perry's running for the Republican Party presidential nomination, and wincing at his record on just about every issue.

Thank you for your words, and hope to see you soon, here or there.


Kaaren (& Richard)

Monday, August 15, 2011 at 18:51 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren

Oh, Kaaren, how fortunate you are to have been raised by such a loving, nurturing family. Your mother and father just shine throughout your wedding story. And then you married Richard and a life full of love continues. Treasure every minute.


Sunday, June 28, 2015 at 21:34 | Unregistered CommenterRuth Lansford

Darling Ruth,

Thank you for saying this. It brings my parents so vividly before me. Yes, fortunate, indeed. A life of love: why else are we here on earth?

We do treasure our lives.

Kaaren & Richard

Monday, June 29, 2015 at 23:35 | Registered CommenterKaaren Kitchell & Richard Beban

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>