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Stories from our Travelers

A Greek Wedding in Venice

Despina at the Palazzo

The Palazzo Mocenigo on the Grand Canal

The trousseau
by Carolyn Clark Beedle

[From Winter 2008]

All weddings mean to include romance and magic. Plan one in Venice, Italy and just imagine what might ensue. A dear friend and her fiancé live in Sussex outside of London; both are architects and planners and have worked and traveled all over the world. When Steven jubilantly convinced Despina to marry him, her Greek family and friends in Athens were ecstatic. When friends from all over the world heard the news, all were delighted and created the demand for a serious celebration. When a friend offered a private palazzo on the Grand Canal in Venice, the venue was set. A weekend there identified resources and logistics, and fifty fortunate guests received their invitations.

The Cast:
The Greek family: mother, aunts, cousins and friends from all over the Peloponnesus.
The British family: father and step mother, children, great friends, neighbors and dear work colleagues.
The Friends: family friends from forever, best friend from birth through high schools, friends from colleges, architecture grad schools and client relationships, from Singapore, London, San Francisco, Rome, Paris, Madrid, Geneva, Oslo, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Minneapolis and more.

The Formal Agenda:
Thursday: Drinks party at the Canal Bar, Hotel Bauer, 10pm
Friday: Drinks/Dinner celebration at Trattoria Antiche Carampane, 7pm
Saturday: Wedding, San Giorgio dei Greci, 5:30pm – reception following at Palazzo Mocenigo

I received the call, the invite and the challenge. Get from Santa Fe, NM to Venice, Italy for a weekend. Groups of guests would stay in different locations and I opted for the Antica Locanda Montin. This quiet, small hotel tucked behind the Accademia boasts one of Venice’s most delicious and popular restaurants, but sadly not the best accommodations. The garden pergola dining is beautiful, and the mosquitoes living there make daily visits to the 14 rooms up the tiny stone staircase. Seven of us hysterically counted our bug bites each morning.

After the water bus ride in from the airport at dusk on Thursday, I stumbled through darkening alleys past sparkling shop windows, over numerous bridges to the Locanda Montin. The owner, who has a dry charming wit and a very rare smile, checked me in and dragged my bag upstairs where a bottle of Prosecco and marzipan cookies had arrived as a gift from bride and groom. One exhausted part of me wanted to sleep, but the wedding guest part rallied and I negotiated walking directions to the Hotel Bauer. When a Venetian tells you to keep turning right and cross four bridges, do not take them literally. The rights might be sharp or oblique and there are always at least 10 bridges. At 10pm though, there are many people out walking so you will never feel alone. Meeting 25 world travelers on a balcony bar overlooking the Grand Canal will wake up even the most jet lagged, and gin & tonics with friends can help. Water taxis home are also highly recommended since those drivers do know where they are going.

Friday offered the chance to wander through the city with old and new friends, and visit Venetian treasures. Every return visitor to Venice has a favorite spot, and what a gift to have those shared. Wander about Venice with a British news writer and a British art dealer and you will learn something new at every corner. The Peggy Guggenheim Collection, café and garden are divine and the surrounding neighborhood is full of upscale glass, jewelry and art/gift shops. It is the 300th anniversary of architect Palladio’s birth, and most Venetian structures are at their very best. Water buses run regularly and easily around the city and provide the most entertaining travel option. The Arsenale (ancient shipyard) is full of global architectural exhibits and the church of San Giorgio de Schiavoni nearby houses 16th century Venetian painter Vittore Carpaccio’s “Life of St. Jerome” series. I was new to Carpaccio, and thought we were heading to a restaurant for appetizers…that joke got old quickly.

Friday evening our Montin gang hired a water taxi to get close to the restaurant, but when the tide is low, secondary canals aren’t navigable and you are dropped “somewhere near” your destination. We met 20 other wedding guests in the dead end alleys “somewhere near” our destination and finally found the trattoria. A gondolier quartet in red striped shirts serenaded 40 guests dining on seafood, drinking great wine and meeting people they had heard about for years. The bride’s mother coerced a few Greek songs from the band and danced with a scarf. We stayed very late, no one broke plates. The tide was higher later; the trattoria staff walked us to our taxis and we were a noisy group of returning guests to Locanda Montin. I wondered if tourists ever bothered the nuns in the convent across the canal.

Weather does not affect the beauty of Venice but when the sun is shining, visual clarity is sharpened and distance views are enhanced. To the delight of all, the sun came out on Saturday. After a lazy day of soaking in atmosphere, beautiful walking, looking, lunching, and chatting, the wedding water taxis arrived. Fifty lucky guests gathered in the courtyard of San Giorgio Dei Greci. The groom paced anxiously as he should, the bride arrived looking like the goddess she should and the Greek Orthodox ceremony inside the magnificent church had enough priests, chanting, incense and ritual to make everyone happy. A parade of water taxis (one for just the bride and groom) delivered us all to the Palazzo Mocenigo reception.

My ancestors lived in little homes in Ireland, New York and California. A palazzo on the Grand Canal in Venice is a very different family heritage. Red carpeting led us from the canal dock up the candlelit stairs to the piano nobile (first floor) with champagne and hors d’ouvres, a string quartet, magnificent white floral arrangements and murals on the ceilings. Still a private home, this was also where Lord Byron lived. Visiting with fascinating people from Despina’s life made the drinks time just fly by.

When the doors opened to the dining salon for dinner, more magic ensued. We enjoyed a sumptuous traditional meal beyond description, more delicious wine, little gifts, a soprano from the Venice opera and beautiful discourses on love and friendship. My immediate dinner partners were a handsome pediatrician from Italy, the college-aged son of a woman from Bagdad, an architect from Oslo and an arts educator from Minneapolis. The celebrity photographer from Los Angeles used his iPhone to snap shots, the Greek university professor from Thessolonica waxed poetic on family generosity and we all wished Despina’s father was still alive to share these moments with his wife and daughter.

No one wanted to leave that weekend, and Sunday was bittersweet. The couple was off to the Italian Lake district and everyone else headed back to our lives. We each left Venice, though, full of gifts: more astounding experiences, memories and dear new friends.

Where we dined, slept and celebrated:
Hotel Bauer,
Trattoria Antiche Carampane,
San Giorgio dei Greci,
Antica Locanda Montin,
Peggy Guggenheim Collection,

Photographs by Mona Malik and Sixto Beltrandy
Carolyn Clark Beedle (CCB) has had the great fortune to live a number of lives in her time on the planet. Her association with Andersen Consulting took CCB to 36 of the 48 countries where the firm had offices, and offered the incredible opportunity to work within the many cultures. She found good friends, open doors and marvelous stories across six continents.CCB now lives in Santa Fe, NM and works avidly as executive director for Assistance Dogs of the West, a non-profit agency teaching student trainers to help prepare service dogs to support people with physical, psychiatric and developmental disabilities. She reads voraciously, wants to continue to learn, travel and visit friends whenever the opportunity presents.

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