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An Evening to Remember - Wedding in Cyprus

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As wedding couples search for the perfect venue to host the most special day of …

As wedding couples search for the perfect venue to host the most special day of
their lives, the pull of Cyprus proves hard to resist - Vasilias Weddings at the green heart of Cyprus - by Forbes MiddleEast Alexander Sophoclis Pieri

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  • 1. 74 FORBES MIDDLE EAST JUNE - JULY 2013 An Evening to Remember As wedding couples search for the perfect venue to host the most special day of their lives, the pull of Cyprus proves hard to resist. By Alexander Sophoclis Pieri O n a sunny spring afternoon on the island of Cyprus, I waited, along with 40 other guests in a stone courtyard amidst olive trees and grape vines, in quiet anticipation for the bride to ar- rive. Though a Cypriot national myself, on this occasion I was guest in my home country—a wedding guest of my closest friends. As loved ones and well-wishers gathered expectantly, Marianne and Olivier Gheysen, both UAE residents, prepared to join the ranks of hundreds of non-Cypriot couples who choose the island as the ideal destination to cul- minate their union. Popular across the Middle East and Europe for its marriage tourism industry, boosted by easy legali- ties and speedy procedures, the island nation is the ideal spot to tie the knot. Both the ceremony and reception were held at the Vasilias Nikoklis Inn, a nearly century-old site located on the west bank of the Dhairizos River. It once served as an ancient hospitable refuge to weary travelers. A 15-minute drive from the coastal city of Paphos, the inn today FORBES MIDDLE EAST LIFE MARRIAGE TOURISM IMAGEFROMSOURCE
  • 2. JUNE - JULY 2013 FORBES MIDDLE EAST 75 is a popular venue for wedding parties and regular guests hoping for a slice of traditional Cypriot life, as well as nature lovers who come to explore the nearby valley that stretches up to the Troodos Mountains and down to the sea. As the usher announced the ar- rival of the bride, idle chatter ceased and heads turned to watch as Marianne passed through the stone archway into the courtyard. Robed in a vibrant rouge floor-length dress, the elegant bride made her way to the altar to stand by her man. Immediately the ceremony be- gan, the couple first adorning each other with loving praise and then proclaiming their vows for all to witness. The cere- mony was presided over by a member of Paphos’ municipality. A testament to the simplicity of legal proceedings on the island, the two were married before the first tear could touch the floor. Following a number of group photos taken in the courtyard, the party moved to the outer terrace on the west side of the inn, overlooking the summer pool and a tent set up for the dancing and live music still to come. All seated at a long dining table, the guests gathered to pay homage to the newlyweds, raising their glasses in salute. Though it was already late April, the chill of winter still lingered as night fell. The biting cold would have proved di- sastrous were it not for the foresight of our hosts, who had two outdoor heat- ers at the ready. But even as the guests needed to warm themselves, so did the heaters; thankfully, just as our hosts had a Plan A, so too did they have a Plan B. Entering stage right, a pair of dancers burst onto the scene, pulling and grab- bing anyone they could on their path to the dance floor. Garbed all in black save for a red sash tied around their waists, the two men began clapping their hands in tempo with their intro song, coaxing the rest of the party onto the dance floor. Leading by example, the duo kicked off their routine with a demonstration of traditional folk dances known as the Antikristos, or ‘face-to-face’. Facing each other, the pair took turns to dance with each changing song. The first was a slow number, the dancer using a ‘dragging’ style to sweep his foot across the floor, punctuated with a tap of his shoe at the end of each move. Increasing the tempo, the dance that followed was fast-paced with high kicks and foot tapping akin in style to the Irish river dance. In a grand finale effort, the duo brought the entire party together to per- form one of the most recognizable danc- es from across the world—the Sirtaki. Made famous by the 1964 film Zorba the Greek and typically performed along- side the Zorbas song, we joined hands in a circle trying to follow the trained steps of our dancing guides. Though the tempo began slow and manageable, the endeavor became more precarious, transforming into a fast and messy af- fair, with people falling out of rhythm and out of place. It was an unforgettable experience. As our dancing instructors bowed out for the evening and the party retired to the dining table, I managed to track down the bride, who was nursing her feet in a quiet corner after a long day. While glad of her decision to choose my country as the venue for her wedding, I had to ask why. “I think the first reason why we picked Cyprus was because the legisla- tion changed in the UAE which meant we could no longer get a civil wedding,” commented the new Mrs. Gheysen. Cyprus’ less stringent regulations and legislations on marriage make the Mediterranean island an attractive al- ternative. “Not only is it easier but it is also an EU country,” added Olivier, who joined us briefly. “The marriage is also recognized worldwide, especially in the EU with both of us having EU pass- ports,” he remarked. The happy couple went on to ex- plain that the island’s proximity to mainland Europe along with the lure of fairer weather made it more accessible to friends and family. But taking the decision to wed on the idyllic island is as important to the national economy as it is to brides and grooms to be. Before the revelries of my friend’s special day commenced, I spoke with Antigone Kapodistria, a tour- ism officer with the Cyprus Tourism Organization (CTO), who pointed out the importance of wedding tourism to the island. “According to the munici- pality data retrieved in 2012, the num- ber of ceremonies (civil and religious, concerning non-residents of Cyprus) reached 8,500 which represents of about 14% [of total weddings] compared to 2011 results,” commented Kapodistria. Key factors making Cyprus an at- tractive choice are the country’s quick and cheap legal proceedings. In most cases, couples will simply have to meet with the local municipality for an in- terview. Once approved, the ceremony is fast—15 minutes on average—with an affordable price tag of no more than €300 ($390). In terms of demographics, the CTO found that UK visitors make up the bulk of the market, constituting 50%. A small percentage also comes from Lebanon and Russia, each with 7%. The CTO estimates each wedding has an average of 25 guests in attendance. As a result the number of wedding tourists in 2012 reached 212,500 visitors, making up 8.5% of total tourist arrivals in Cyprus. The industry of marriage tourism is varied, offering numerous venues and options for couples. While most who visit the country to get married typically opt for a seaside ceremony with breath- taking views, it really comes down to a matter of preference. Offering themed and traditional options, alongside other quirky alternatives (sailing in from the The CTO estimates that with an average of 25 guests per wedding, Cyprus reached 212,500 visitors, or 8.5% of total tourist arrivals in 2012
  • 3. 76 FORBES MIDDLE EAST JUNE - JULY 2013 sea, parachuting in)—anything goes on the island. A popular destination as it may be, but planning one of the most important days of your life from a distance is not without its challenges. Speaking from experience, newlywed Marianne of- fers some words of advice to prospec- tive couples. Warning not to rely purely on information found on the Internet, Mrs. Gheysen asserts that a pre-visit will avoid mishaps and nasty surprises: “If a recommendation is possible, I would say that would be great. If you are able to visit the country yourself, that would be tenfold better.” After sharing her insights and rest- ing her feet the new bride was called to join her husband for the first dance, before the wedding party descended on the stage to join in the celebrations once again. At the stroke of midnight, the party ended. As guests retreated to their hotels in Paphos, I was one of the lucky few that had accommodation for the night in one of eight rooms on the first floor at the inn, with access to a shared terrace. I had hardly crawled under the sheets be- fore I was out cold. Awakening to a dull headache late the next morning, I fumbled out my room to a breathtaking view of the sunlit val- ley. After taking in the morning dew, I made my way downstairs to collect a freshly brewed cup of Cypriot coffee. Enjoying my elixir in the courtyard, I was joined by an elderly couple as they pre- pared for an adventure. They were off on a bird-watching expedition, hoping for a glimpse of the Black Francolin bird, a spe- cies common in the area because of the abundance of fresh water. Dismissing my repeated apologies for the prior night’s boisterous merrymaking, the compan- ions had long grown accustomed to the inn’s reputation through multiple visits over the years. As the birdwatchers left me by my lonesome, I began to laugh, recalling the events of the previous day. Soon the elation would wear off and I would have to begin the dull task of packing, but for that moment I reveled in the experi- ence of an evening well spent. The joy of a fantastical celebration in my home- land coupled with the privilege of being a part of my best friend’s wedding—a cherished memory that will stay with me for eternity. FORBES MIDDLE EAST LIFE—MARRIAGE TOURISM If a recommendation is possible, I would say that would be great. If you are able to visit the country yourself, that would be tenfold better IMAGESFROMSOURCE