I recently went to the wedding of two friends of mine from University. They had chosen Mount Olympus was their wedding theme and it was the most original ceremony I have ever attended.
I received a simple, but elegant invitation in the post. The text was written on parchment in a Greek-style font. The only odd thing was that it was addressed to Athena, Goddess of Wisdom at my regular postal address. Inside it invited Athena to celebrate the union of Zeus and Hera (Jack and Hannah) at the top of Mount Olympus (actually a water garden venue in the Wiltshire hills). Below I was instructed to dress in proper attire and to prepare a brief and inspirational speech. Lastly I was instructed to arrive at the entrance to the gardens at a certain time and would be conveyed from there to the ceremony. I was obviously extremely intrigued.
I looked at several pictures of sculptures of the Goddess Athena and did a bit of research on the internet. I could have used an old sheet for the major part of the costume, but I decided that since I was already renting the sandals with calf-high straps, the arm plates and the head dress, I might as well push the boat out and also rent an ancient Grecian-style gown. When I looked at myself in the mirror, I couldn't believe it. When I had first read the invitation, I wasn't sure why they had chosen me to be Athena, but at that moment, I was surprised how much I resembled the statutes.
I arrived at the garden entrance on time. A few minutes later a very handsome man in an ancient Greek toga, came down the road riding bareback on a horse. He stopped beside me, held out his hand and said, "Welcome, Athena." I offered him my hand and helped me onto the back of the horse like I weighed nothing. We passed another man and a woman on horses, dressed in ancient Greek clothing who were heading down to get more guests as we rode into the gardens.
At the top of the hill, the handsome man helped me down. The gardens are located on a hilltop which is clear of trees and has a panoramic views of the surrounding valley and rolling countryside. It is a very romantic and picturesque setting. The pond and lakes add to the beauty. Near the centre of the hill there are terraced laws where ten sky chairs had been suspended by black metal frames facing a raised platform covered with a plush burgundy rug. Two enormous greek columns stood at either side of the platform. They looked heavy, but I touched them and found they were hollow. There was also a gauzy canopy over the platform. It billowed in the breeze giving it an ethereal look.
More people arrived on horseback and one of the horsemen announced that the ceremony would begin in about fifteen minutes. When all the guests had been brought up, the riders dismounted and let their horses graze on the grass while they held the reins. All ten guests were dressed as Greek gods and goddesses. I knew most of them, but I didn't recognize all of the deities they were dressed as. A small marquee surrounded by large topiaries had been erected on the lawn next to the amazing backdrop of the waterfountains and pools, filled with giant water lilies and exotic fish. Inside the marquee a table had been set with sliced vegetables, fruits, pita bread and hummus. In the centre of the table there was a fabulously crafted ice sculpture of two lovebirds on a heart. While a harpist played soft music in the background everyone snacked and chatted about which Greek god or goddess they portrayed, and how we came up with our costumes.
One of riders announced the arrival of King and Queen of the deities, Jack and Hannah. The harpist played a beautiful tune as we took our seats. First the Justice of the Peace rode up to the platform. Jack and Hannah rode up on two white horses with fake wings made out of real feathers sewn onto the bareback pads on the horse's backs. They looked truly divine in their flowing, white robes, crowns of silver and gold, arm bands and sandals. A wedding photographer took pictures as they approached the platform. One of the riders came to take their horses as they dismounted and walked hand in hand to the altar.
The Justice of the Peace said a few words and the couple exchanged wedding rings. The Justice of the Peace then called on each of us to speak our inspiring words we had written for the couple. I chose to tell a story, how I, as Athena, overcame obstacles by facing them head on. Every deity chose to tell personal stories. Actually, rather than being predictable, it was like we had become our characters and w Hope you're not mad with me.
The ceremony and stories took a little over forty-five minutes. A couple of the escorts took the horses over to a line tied between two trees and kept watch over them while the others accompanied the harpist with flutes, lyres and small drums. Two waiters dressed as Greek servants brought out more substantial appetizers like, cubed cheeses, ambrosia salad, stuffed grape leaves, chocolates and wine. They also carried out a magnificent, wedding cake, designed in the shape of the temple on Mount Olympus.
Though there was only appetizers, we were all stuffed and a bit tipsy. Everyone danced, joked and became more friendly. There was no bouquet to toss, or garter toss, but each goddess was given head wreath of roses and each god a head wreath of flowering rosemary which came with drying instructions. Everyone also was given a white dove floating candle.
The final part of this unique ceremony was the symbolic release of 50 white doves into the afternoon sky. The wreaths and doves together were symbols of happiness, love and wisdom. Everyone was blessed with good fortune and given a small bag full of grape seeds for sending off the bride and groom.
As the sun was getting low in the sky, the riders mounted their horses and everyone was taken back down to the entrance. We all waited for the bride and groom to ride down on their horses. They thanked us all for coming and we tossed grape seeds at them then rode off down the hill. Chauffeur driven cars had been arranged to take us all home and we laughed, joked and talked about the uniqueness of the wedding all the way.
Since this wedding was very non-traditional, Jack and Hannah were planning a "normal" wedding for family members later in the year, but their official marriage was this ceremony and I was delighted to have been a part of it as one of the 'gods'.