There's one big difference between Georgia Papagianis, who's getting married in November, and Toula Portokalos, the heroine of the 2002 hit film "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." They're both of Greek heritage, both planning weddings, but in the film, Toula (played by Nia Vardalos) would prefer a smaller, more sedate affair than what her lovably looney family has in mind. Papagianis? She wants bling.
Lots of it.
Papagianis, 28, a private nanny from Malverne, and her fiance, John Makrides, 29, a medical physicist from Stamford, Conn., met eight years ago at a Greek dance in Queens. They're getting married on her birthday, Nov. 16, at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of St. Paul in Hempstead, then having a reception at the North Ritz Club in Syosset.
"My mother always tells John, 'You're gonna have to wear sunglasses; you'll see her shining a mile a way,'" says Papagianis. But she's not fazed. For her, the blingier, the better.
We don't want to give too much away, but her dress -- found at Bridal Reflections in Carle Place -- is by Stephen Yearick. It's a full-length A-line gown and, yes, it sparkles -- like her headpiece -- and cathedral train -- with scads of glittery crystals. Her shoes, a pair of sensible two-inch pumps from Rhea Nichols in Rockville Centre, seemed a tad staid by comparison. Not to worry, the salesman assured her -- they could hand-glue more crystals onto the heels.
But the sparkle doesn't stop there. Papagianis -- and glitter-loving brides like her -- have endless options these days when it comes to bedazzling their invitations, centerpieces, cake toppers and more.
"In the last few years, we've been seeing more brides interested in invitations and place cards that sparkle with Swarovski crystals or rhinestone embellishments," says Gina Milano, owner of Long Island Wedding & Event Planners Boutique in East Norwich, who has helped organize weddings at premier local venues like Oheka Castle, Flowerfields, Glen Cove Mansion and the Garden City Hotel.
"They want pizzazz," says Milano, who thinks the endless stream of online wedding images, from Facebook to Etsy, is encouraging brides to be more creative.
Someone bedazzles a wedding invite, and next thing you know "it goes viral," says Milano, laughing.
Papagianis, a client of Milano's, glued crystals onto her invitations, establishing the glittery theme of her wedding to come. She'll carry that through at the reception, where crystals will hang over the dance floor, and adorn menu cards, centerpieces and her wedding cake.
Instead of the standard table with place cards at the entry, she plans to have a table with portraits of her and Makrides, plus wedding-day pictures of her parents and his -- each picture, of course, sitting in "blinged-out frames."
"I always wanted a big, elaborate wedding," she says.
She's also "big into Disney -- John actually proposed to me in Disney World," she notes. "I guess I'm trying to bring in a bit of that fantasy look."
Milano and her associate, Amanda Rynd, hear that a lot.
"Many women dream of this day their whole life," says Rynd, "so we just want to make sure the brides have a great experience."
To that end, their office is full of gear (to rent or buy) that glitters -- from "Mr. and Mrs." signs and seating charts to invitations with satin ribbons and hand-sewn brooches.
Dress designers are heeding the call, too -- some just hinting at sparkle, others offering Vegas-style glitz. Ines di Santo's tulle Toulousse gown shimmers with an overlay of gold flecks. Maggie Sottero's Divina gown reserves the sparkle for the waist. Mark Zunino goes for chunky crystals on decolletage and side panels. And Hayley Paige adds sex appeal to her strapless Khalessi gown with a cobweb-like bolero that seductively drips strands of crystal and alabaster.
At shops across Long Island, you'll find the level of sparkle that's right for you. Crystals can be added to existing designs, and at shops like Thea Tora Bridal Collection in Sayville, Paradise Bridals in Patchogue or Princess Bridals in Farmingdale, dresses can be custom-designed -- and blinged -- from scratch.
That's what's nice about the bling trend -- each dress "can be personalized with tailoring, adding just enough beaded lace, crystals or stones," says Charles Prokop, co-owner and an in-house designer at Princess Bridals in Farmingdale.
Of course, not every bride wants all-out bling.
"Many take a simple dress and add a glittery headpiece or belt," says Kathi Cotty, manager of Bridal Suite of Centereach.
Rhinestone belts are huge sellers, says Cotty, who offers dozens, from a fairly simple Mori Lee satin belt with beaded appliqué on the front (about $200) to more elaborate cinchers (costing $600 or more).
Shoes and handbags also are good for just a splash of flash.
Which is probably what Papagianis' mom, Maria, would prefer. Her style is more traditional and old lace, her daughter says. But she's letting Georgia do her wedding her way.
"My mom is really open to what I want, which is great, because I feel like this is ... well, it's just me," says Papagianis, unapologetic. "Hey, I'm a little over-the-top, a little elaborate. When people walk into my wedding, I want them to go, 'Oh, yeah, this is so Georgia.' "