Greek-American Couple Waited 5 Years and 45 Minutes to Marry

The happy couple, on their wedding day- Elena Sarkissian and Demetrios Orfanoudis. Photo: Courtesy of Elena Sarkissian

NEW YORK – Elena Sarkissian and Demetrios Orfanoudis married on January 21 at the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity on East 74th Street in Manhattan.

Sarkissian, 44, a real estate broker was sitting alone in the back seat of a rented Bentley. “I ended up spending 45 minutes circling the cathedral,” she told the New York Times. What she was experiencing instead was the pandemonium of Manhattan in the grip of the Women’s March, held one day after President Trump’s inauguration, a protest that drew hundreds of thousands, choking the city with traffic.

The bus, carrying friends and family, who came from as far as Athens did not make it for 40 minutes or more.

Father John Vlahos presided over the ceremony at Holy Trinity Cathedral in New York City. Photo: Courtesy of Elena Sarkissian

“I married my best friend,” Sarkissian said after an hour-long traditional Greek Orthodox ceremony that included chanting, crowns and a priest in robes.

Sarkissian and Orfanoudis met in September 2011 after a months-long telephone courtship set in motion by a friend of Sarkissian, Dr. Mary Vouyiouklis Kellis.

“My parents always wanted me to meet someone I could happily spend my life with,” said Orfanoudis, who, like Sarkissian, was raised Greek Orthodox; he cannot personally rebut the stereotype about traditional Greek families’ obsession with seeing their children settle contentedly into marriage, he said. “I had been hearing some of that for a while. I just never found the right person.”

Sarkissian’s cousin Lisa Chicouris, of Chicago was the koumbara and Col. Alex Stathopoulos, a longtime friend of Orfanoudis from Washington, was the koumbaros, as the New York Times reported.

Orfanoudis proposed to Sarkissian in September, after having been admitted to the New York bar, paving the way for a move to New York. The decision to propose was inspired not only by his love for Sarkissian, but also his love for his mother, Fotine. His father, George, once the head caterer at the Blair House in Washington had passed away only months before Demetrios met Sarkissian in 2011. During the long-distance relationship with Sarkissian, his mother began showing signs of dementia. Mrs. Orfanoudis’s illness progressed and she now uses a wheelchair at age 93 which helped her attend the wedding. Orfanoudis told the Times, “I wanted to kind of move things along so she could be a part of everything.”

Sarkissian, accepted Orfanoudis’s proposal after he traveled to her hometown, Bloomfield Hills, MI, to ask for her parents’ approval. She also wanted her mother-in-law to be a part of the special day.

“My fiancé had two requests after we were engaged,” Sarkissian said, as reported in the Times. “One was that we try to get it done ASAP because his mother was gravely ill. And the other was that he wanted to get married before his 50th birthday, which was February 8. So I had to hustle.”

Sarkissian’s father, Miran, is Armenian and her mother, Angela, is Greek; they divide their time between homes in Athens and Bloomfield Hills. Sarkissian calls herself “Greek lite” compared with the more traditional Orfanoudis. Both her parents walked her down the aisle, a modern touch to the traditional Greek wedding which also included blessings at the altar from an Armenian archbishop, Khajag Barsamian (who left after the ceremony for a meeting with the pope at the Vatican, as the Times reported), in honor of the bride’s Armenian heritage on her father’s side.

At the Yale Club reception, two bands and two guest musicians performed. The Pete Saunders Band played American favorites including the first dance, “The Way You Look Tonight,” and Yianni Papastefanou, the King of Kefi, performed the traditional Greek songs. Alison Burns, Sarkissian’s childhood friend from Michigan, sang “Unforgettable,” her parents’ first dance. Another friend, Philip Payton, a violinist with the “Kinky Boots” orchestra on Broadway, played a solo piece by Bach.

An Armenian archbishop, Khajag Barsamian also offered a blessing with Fr. John Vlahos at Holy Trinity Cathedral. The bride’s father is Armenian. Photo: Courtesy of Elena Sarkissian
Fr. John Vlahos, Demetrios Orfanoudis, and Elena Sarkissian during the ceremony. Photo: Courtesy of Elena Sarkissian
The newlyweds, surrounded by friends and family holding sparklers, on the steps of Holy Trinity Cathedral in Manhattan. Photo: Courtesy of Elena Sarkissian
The happy couple, on their wedding day- Elena Sarkissian and Demetrios Orfanoudis. Photo: Courtesy of Elena Sarkissian