Destination Wedding on the Greek Island of Santorini

Dena and Michael

Photographed by: The Portrait StudioLocation: Irákleion, Crete, Greece

Despite protests from her cousins, Dena Pappathanasi was scheduled to take a break from their annual summer get-together in Maine to attend a wedding in a nearby town. According to Dena, her cousin Elisa finally agreed to let her go on one condition. "She said 'We'll only let you leave if you promise to meet your husband!'" At the wedding, Dena met Mike Trotta, and after hours of getting to know one another, fulfilled her cousin's prophecy. "That night, Mike and I both knew that we would eventually marry each other." Instead of returning to Costa Rica for work at the end of August, Mike remained in the states to be with Dena.

A little over a year later, Mike suggested that he and Dena take a post-lunchtime stroll along Boston Harbor - in the pouring rain. "I didn't have a raincoat, so he let me wear his," remembers the bride. As they were walking, Mike asked her to check the pocket. Inside was a ring box, and as Dena opened it, he dropped to one knee and proposed.

As members of large extended families, Dena and Mike calculated their guest list to be over 400 people - a size they both deemed too overwhelming for the type of celebration they envisioned. As a compromise, they decided to have a smaller destination wedding on the island of Santorini, Greece (in honor of Dena's heritage), and to hold a separate, much larger reception back in Boston when they returned from their honeymoon. They were surprised, however, to discover just how many people were excited to make the overseas trip to witness their nuptials. "We thought sixty to eighty people would come. We had over 120 respond!" With double the amount of people set to attend - and an intimate taverna on hold for the big day - Dena and Mike had to find an alternate reception venue to contain the group. Fortunately, they felt their second option was even more beautiful than the first: The restaurant had 360-degree views of the island, perfect for highlighting the glorious sunset that would coincide with the party.

They chose to hold their wedding on a Thursday, which they believed was best for accommodating guests who would most likely spend a week in Greece, traveling on the weekends. Thursday, June 8th also happened to be the 38th wedding anniversary of Dena's parents, creating yet another reason to celebrate with family and friends. Dena and Mike kicked off their three days of wedding festivities by welcoming the group at a dinner cruise on Wednesday night.

In accordance with Greek tradition, Mike waited for Dena on their wedding day outside the cathedral doors holding her bouquet in his hand. Their guests - as well as some curious tourists - also gathered to watch the bride, her father, the bridesmaids, two musicians, and a donkey make their way toward the church. "When we got to the top of the cliff where the cathedral was, everyone parted and Mike was standing there waiting for me with this enormous grin. It was incredible and by far our most memorable moment," says Dena. Mike gave Dena her bouquet (to symbolize the first flowers exchanged as a married couple), and they entered the church followed by their guests.

The entire Orthodox service was performed in Greek ("My sister had to lean over to let me know that we were married," laughs Dena), and the couple exited the church to find that an even larger crowd was waiting to cheer them on. "There were hundreds of people waiting to take our picture. We sort of felt like movie stars!"

Dena chose to contrast Santorini's natural color scheme of white architecture and blue sea with bright pink and warm coral bridesmaid dresses and reception flowers. Crisp white linens and chair covers allowed for the centerpieces to pop and create a clean yet elegant setting for enjoying the Mediterranean feast. Dinner was followed by a decadent chocolate mousse and whipped cream cake that was decorated with the same fresh roses found in the table arrangements.

After the newlyweds shared their first dance, Dena and Mike surprised her parents by inviting them to share a dance in honor of their anniversary. Everyone soon joined in, including traditional Greek dancers who kept the party going for hours. When guests finally said goodnight, they left with Greek wedding favors called boubounieres - five sugar coated almonds wrapped in tulle to represent health, wealth, happiness, prosperity, and long life.

The next day, everyone was invited to join the couple on a tour of a local winery followed by a farewell cocktail reception - a thank-you for making the long trip to the wedding. Dena and Mike then left for their honeymoon in Italy, a nod to Mike's Italian background. "We thought it would be great to go from Greece to Italy and get the best of both worlds," explains Dena. From start to finish, their celebration was a truly personalized experience. "I think having a three-day wedding in Greece was a huge reflection of both of our personalities. We have both loved to travel since we were kids, and a non-stop party was exactly what we wanted for our guests," says Dena, adding, "And they would not have expected anything less!"

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