My real Big Fat Greek Wedding.

By Margaret Burin.

For several years now, Eleni Kallianiotis has been fielding questions from her parents Bill and Soula about when she will get married.

She’s their only daughter, and that day has finally arrived.

Bill left Greece in 1957, after his father was killed while serving in the army. As a young man he settled in Melbourne where he owned the Village Oyster Bar in North Balwyn and married Eleni’s mother, Soula.

At their family home in Lower Templestowe, north-east of Melbourne, Bill and Soula perform Orthodox blessing rituals as they prepare to give away the nifi (bride).

“My parents are extremely traditional, but also modern in many ways,” she says.

“They are as stereotypical as you can get. They grow their own vegetables in their huge garden, they make their own sauce using home-grown tomatoes, my mum is always cooking and cleaning.

“Eat”, Bill says as he points to their celebratory spread, including overflowing platters of baklava and spanakopita.

“You can’t come to my parents house and leave without eating and drinking,” Eleni says.

“They do everything for their family, they will die for you. That’s what they take pride in.”

Eleni and her partner Chris met seven years ago through mutual friends.

At first their relationship came as a bit of a surprise to Bill and Soula, who had always imagined their daughter marrying a Greek man.

“I have one brother who is married to an Aussie girl, so my parents had an even greater expectation of me bringing home ‘a good Greek boy’ as I was their last chance,” she says.

“Like most Greeks they want to carry on their traditions and their culture, they want to keep it alive.

“When I went home and told them I was in love with a Mauritian boy… there was major shock at first, but as soon as they met him they fell in love with him, and love him like they love their own son now.”


After being together for a couple of years, then came the pressure to wed.

More than anything, Bill and Soula wanted to see Eleni get married and start a family.

“Seven years together is a long time for most Greek parents to be OK with their daughter dating, and in the last few years they were really pushing us to get married,” Eleni says.

“Two years ago my mum went to Cyprus on a holiday, and came back with the white gold crowns. Amazing, except we weren’t even engaged yet.

“They would ask me on weekly basis ‘Why you no get married?'”

Eleni and Chris live a modern Melbourne lifestyle and that is reflected in their wedding.

And while they may have opted against buying a house in the same street as her parents, Eleni says the 2002 cult classic film My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which has been followed by a sequel released in cinemas this month, is very close to home.

It is not uncommon for Eleni’s family and friends to mimic spitting on the newlyweds by making the sound ‘ftou, ftou’, a gesture believed to ward off the evil eye.

Like the film’s mother, Soula has been known to whip out some sex advice when it’s least expected.

Similar to the dad in the movie whose solution to all health problems — including getting rid of pimples — is “put some Windex”, Eleni’s own father has his own one-stop cure.

“Methylated spirits, he puts it on everything. If you’ve got a headache, if you’ve got any pains or aches, he’ll put it on a face washer and slap it on.”

And just like the movie, there’s nothing like the chant of ‘opa’ above the sound of joyous Greek music to bring everyone together and carry the celebration on into the night.

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This post originally appeared on ABC News.

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