If Hollywood filmmakers hadn’t already concocted a movie about a Greek wedding, they would have the perfect romance story right here:
A popular restaurant.
Two brothers – the owners.
Two sisters – the waitresses.
Two love stories. And two marriages.
Could it get any sweeter? Well, yes: The co-star of this particular romantic tale is a cake decorator, which is just one of many frosting-on-top details in the story of Dimitrios Kollidas, 29, and Joni R. Becker, 23, who were married April 25 at the Hellenic Orthodox Church in Buffalo.
The new couple met at the Family Tree restaurant, which has been owned by the Kollidas family since 1989 and is currently run by Dimitrios, a graduate of Clarence High School and Canisius College, where he studied political science and history, and his brother Nectarios, who goes by Nick. Both Joni and her sister Chelsey were waitresses at the Greek restaurant, which is on Bailey Avenue near the University at Buffalo’s South Campus. Nick and Chelsey started dating first; they were married in February 2012. Dimitrios and Joni’s love story followed Nick and Chelsey’s; they began dating four-and-a-half years ago. Then, on a trip in February 2014 to one of the couple’s favorite spots, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Dimitrios walked Joni to the water.
Though the couple had been talking about marriage, Joni wasn’t suspecting the question to come at that moment. Nor had she any idea that Dimitrios had been shopping for rings. Only when he walked her to the water – “a place that has become our spot,” she said – did Joni realize what was happening.
With no audience, Dimitrios asked for Joni’s hand in marriage.
“It was just the two of us,” he recalled, “nice and quiet.”
The relative privacy of the proposal was balanced 14 months later by a wedding celebration that included 175 people, four of whom came in from Greece.
“That was a big one for me,” said Dimitrios, whose father Andreas is from Greece. “It was their first time here.”
Joni, who wore a Grecian-style wedding gown with a sheer lace neckline and cathedral veil, got ready for the day at the Tonawanda home of her parents, John and Peggy Becker. Her six bridesmaids wore dresses of varying soft pastels: purple, pink and sage. Dimitrios and his groomsmen, wearing tan tuxedos with ivory ties, prepared for the ceremony at the home of his parents, Andreas and Ann Kollidas of Clarence. The Rev. Christos Christakis heard the couple’s vows.
In keeping with Greek tradition, the new Mr. and Mrs. Kollidas selected a member from each of their wedding parties – Dimitrios’ brother Nick and Joni’s sister Chelsey – to be the koumbaro. This is a role similar to best man and maid of honor, but it runs deeper: The koumbaro also will become the godparents of the new couple’s first-born child.
Afterward, guests gathered for the reception at another Kollidas family restaurant, Milos in Williamsville. The three-tiered rustic-style cake was made by Joni’s employer, Sweet Beginnings Bakery in Kenmore, where she has worked for two years as a cake decorator. Joni, a graduate of Kenmore East and Buffalo State, where she earned a degree in hospitality and tourism, made the invitations and bouquets for the wedding. She also made the bride and groom’s crowns, a symbol in the Greek church of joining in marriage.
After a honeymoon in Charlestown, the couple is now home in the Town of Tonawanda and ready to begin their life together – one that will inevitably include lots of conversations about their dual brother-sister love story.
“It’s something that comes up,” said Dimitrios, laughing.
Joni, also chuckling, added, “People think it’s kind of cool.”
– Tim O’Shei