Stefanie Paterakis wanted a traditional wedding. And she wasn’t against a traditional Greek wedding. But being a scion of one of Baltimore’s high-profile Greek families, and the first grandchild of its patriarch, John Paterakis, to marry, Stefanie didn’t want the guests to start drawing the inevitable parallels with the farcical flick “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”
That was her dilemma. “I didn’t want it really Greek-y,” she explains. Not that husband-to-be David Foote objected. The Morgan Stanley financial adviser was christened Episcopalian. But Stefanie says he not only welcomed the idea of joining such a large Greek family, but the idea of the Greek wedding, too.
So Stefanie and her mom, Annette Paterakis, began the planning. “I wanted the flavor of the Greek wedding,” says Annette, “but I didn’t want it to take over.”
Stefanie found her invitations at Invitations by Gail: a creamy seven-piece set that used damask to wrap and frame the different elements. To complete the look, calligrapher Karen Schoelkopf addressed each in a courtly script.
But Stefanie’s priority was her dress. Since she works at Gamberdella bridal salon, Stefanie had a pretty good idea of what she wanted. So did Mary Gamberdella, who had a cream satin princess-style strapless gown with Swarovski crystal flower-and-vine patterns hand-sewn over the bodice sent down from Amsale in New York City.
“The moment I put it on, I didn’t want to take it off,” Stefanie raves. That dress – along with a diamond necklace her grandfather gave her for her wedding – made Stefanie feel like Cinderella.
Stefanie had originally wanted a formal black-and-white wedding, with ushers in tails and bridesmaids in black gowns, but her Greek grandmothers nixed the black for the women. “They said it symbolizes mourning,” Annette explains. “One even said she wasn’t coming if they wore black. That’s just the old Greek way.” Simple strapless bridesmaid dresses in a steel blue by Vera Wang filled the bill.
The morning of the wedding was spent on hair and makeup for 12 bridesmaids at Annette’s house. Things progressed smoothly until the house’s propane alarm went off due to all the hairspray in the air in Annette’s bedroom.
“The next thing I remember was the limos coming down the driveway,” says Stefanie. “I saw a storm coming and thought, ‘Just get us to the church before it hits.’”
Safely at the church – downtown’s Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation – Stefanie and David prepared for the traditional Greek ceremony, an hour-long ritual done with neither bride nor groom saying a word. “David was happy that he didn’t have to speak, and I was relieved.”
The high point of the ceremony is the crowning. The flower crowns joined by a white ribbon – “stefana” in Greek – symbolize that the bride and groom are queen and king of their home, and the ribbon that joins them represents unity. “That’s the most special part,” says Stefanie. “After the crowns go on, you are really married.”
The reception followed in the ballroom at the Marriott Waterfront Hotel across town, which her grandfather owns.
The Peabody Jazz Quintet played while guests mingled in the mezzanine lobby for a cocktail hour, partaking of gazpacho, jumbo shrimp cocktail, sushi and Greek baby lamb chops. That’s when mom and daughter took their own private peek at the ballroom. “That was one of my favorite memories,” says Annette. “Our mouths dropped, and Stefanie said, ‘Mom, this is exactly what I wanted.’”
Decorator Mike Blondell had draped tables in ivory damask and lighted them from beneath, creating a soft glow. Floral designer Andrea Stieff had designed centerpieces featuring tall pedestals topped with showers of roses, orchids and hydrangea.
As the dinner got under way, so did the music. Sound Connection provided dance music, and a second band, Emanuel, played traditional Greek tunes.
“It’s a natural thing to get up and dance Greek,” Annette explains. “People who aren’t Greek get up and try. They don’t feel intimidated by it. So what if you kick wrong – it doesn’t matter. No one’s noticing because everyone’s having such a good time.”
The room seemed to rain with green confetti during one Greek dance, as people tossed money at the bride and groom, another tradition. (Later, Stefanie confessed that David was embarrassed taking all the cash to the bank. “There were all these ones and silver dollars,” she says with a laugh. “They thought he was a waiter.”)
After a dinner of filet mignon and crab cakes, guests were treated to miniature versions of the wedding cake with the couple’s monogram swirled atop.
As the guests departed into the night, they were given favors of pewter-and-crystal picture frames with a final Greek tradition attached – white candy-covered almonds wrapped in tulle -known as koufetta. The bittersweet taste of the nut stands for the two aspects of life the couple will share together – the candy-coating is the hope that the couple will experience more of the sweet side of life than the bitter.
If the wedding was any indication, Stefanie and David are off to a very good start.
Invitations Invitations by Gail, 410-356-3340
Calligraphy Karen Schoelkopf, 410-557-6476
Gown Gamberdella, Towson, 410-828-7870
Reception Marriott Waterfront Hotel, 410-385-3000
Decorations Blondell’s Accent On Events, 410-691-2277
Flowers Andrea Stieff Designs, 410-823-3669
Music Peabody Jazz Quintet, 410-484-5200; Sound Connection, 703-255-9270; Emanuel, 410-362-3700