On the last Friday of every month Real Wedding Challenges
introduces you to a real married couple that worked through a challenge (or two, or three) in planning their wedding.
Since these couples are no longer in the midst of planning a wedding,
we think you’ll find their solutions and perspectives refreshing.
As a camera operator, Cheli is literally a behind-the-scenes kind of gal. She’s never been a big fan of being the center of attention, and it’s part of the reason she never saw herself getting married. But, when she married her long-time beau, she not only had to surrender to an unpredictable Greek Island wedding,
but also to being the star of the show, at least for a day.
Cheli, 33, Assistant Camera Operator
Yiannis, 35, Director of Photography
Wedding Date and Location
: May 19, 2001, Greece
How did you meet:
Cheli had just moved to L.A. to start her career in the film business. When her job fell through, a contact told her to get in touch with a guy he knew who was starting a movie. When Cheli contacted the guy he told her that he had just put together the crew and didn’t need anyone else. Cheli begged, pleaded and offered to work for free, just to get experience. The guy said he’d call if anything came up. Fifteen minutes later, the phone rang. The man on the other end told her she seemed like a nice girl and she could come by the location the next day and help with equipment.
Cheli went to the site as instructed, and asked for Yiannis (pronounced Yanni). Cheli was hired for a three-week movie, at the end of it, she and Yiannis were dating.
How did you get engaged?
In December 1999 the country was in the grips of Y2K panic. Cheli and Yiannis decided to spend New Year’s eve in Monument Valley, with their dogs. At midnight, Yiannis surprised Cheli with a ring
and a proposal.
How did you decide to get married in Greece?
Cheli says, “I’d never imagined myself having a big wedding, I was too shy for that. I love to travel and wanted people to have a great experience. Yiannis parents were in their 80s, and had never been out of Greece, so it was easier for my family to travel there. I was nervous about the flight there, my father, mother, two sisters and I have not spent much time together as a family since my parents divorced 20 years ago, but there we were all on an international flight together. It went surprisingly well.
We sent invitations to our friends and family asking them to be there in body or spirit. Those who couldn’t come sent the invitations back with notes. About 30 people from all over the world came to the wedding.
How did the families get along?
Cheli says: Yiannis’ parents hosted a “welcome dinner” at their house. The party was supposed to be for the out of town guests, and their family. But, Yiannis’ family was under the impression that only five people were coming from the States, instead 30 of us showed up. Somehow, it all worked out, food, alcohol and chairs just kept appearing as if by magic.
My father has never had a drink in his life. He’s an army guy and a staunch conservative. The men kept trying to get him to drink. He never did, but by the end of the night he was dancing with the other men. My mother always wants to be friendly and gracious, but of course, she doesn’t speak Greek. So, she just kept asking people to tell Yiannis’ family how much she loved everything.
How did you plan the wedding?
We didn’t! We weren’t even sure on which day we were getting married! We planned on whichever day had the best weather, we would take a boat to the wedding site. It’s a small island, so we weren’t concerned about people not knowing what was going on.
Describe your wedding
Yiannis told me that I should be ready at noon. I thought we were just going to the beach and having a small wedding. I put on my wedding dress,
which no longer fit because I’d lost so much weight from nerves. Then, I heard a loud noise. I look out the window and he’s in a red shirt with cream white pants, flowers, a walking band and a procession of the entire town, and horses!
He gets to where I’m staying, I’m on the second floor, he knocks on the door, and he and my father have a barter conversation. My father had to ask “What are you going to give me?” Yiannis offered him goats, cherry trees, two cases of coke in bottles and a promise to love me. They shook hands and I came out, looked down and saw all those people. He put my sister and me on horses, and the procession continued through town down to the beach.
There were 100 people on the boat! We had an arch built to take with us to the beach because I had an idea of getting married outside, under an arch. Yiannis spent the boat ride decorating the arch with flowers. I spent the ride socializing.
Yiannis had always told me about a special place with caves. He had promised that one day, when the water was smooth, we could go there. Well, the water was like glass that day. We stopped in front of the caves and they formed a beautiful arch. We got married on the boat in front of the caves.
On the boat ride back two dolphins swam in front of us the whole way. When we got to the reception site, we saw the dolphins again! The reception went on all night.
We stayed in Greece for four months. When we got back to L.A. we went to the beach, and there were the dolphins again!
What advice do you have for other couples?
Don’t have big expectations of your wedding, that’s why weddings fall apart because people’s expectations don’t match reality. I never could have planned this wedding, so I didn’t. I just went along for the ride and enjoyed it.
Cheli and Yiannis are happily married and both still working in the film industry. They live in L.A. where Cheli just gave birth to their second child.