I focused my thoughts on what I knew about Greek Weddings and Greek families- It seemed that many family members had the same/similar names (confusing to me), families are close-knit and are made up of many loud, plate-breaking, hungry, history-sharing, strong-willed, funny, accented, traditional, religious and sometimes overwhelming individuals. Oh, and Greece is beautiful.
to this church (wow!) and many of the culture’s traditional celebrations
center around sacramental services in the church, from birth and birthdays to marriage to death. This keeps people’s lives firmly rooted in the church and in Greek
important in Greek culture, it’s expected that children will get married, and
they typically do so in big celebrations full of socializing, food, music and dancing.
As Toula’s mother quoted in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, there’s a saying in Greece that goes: The husband may be the head of the house, but the mother is the neck and she can turn the head any way she wants. Greek marriages happen to have one of the lowest divorce rates in the world, and it can be attributed to strong relationships, morals and shared religious values.
Choosing a Date- In many cultures, there are certain dates that should be avoided when planning a wedding. In Greece and with Greek weddings around the world, it is customary to avoid:
– January 5th-6th
– Great Lent & Holy Week
– August 1st-15th
– August 29th (the Beheading of St. John the Baptist)
– September 14th (the Exaltation of the Holy Cross)
– December 13th-25th
– and the day before feast days and all Holy Days of the Lord
Otherwise, the calendar is open for your selection.
Some Greek couples have a krevati (or bed-making ceremony) a few days before the wedding to bless the marital bed and the couple’s fertility. Family members and
close friends are invited to the house of the betrothed couple to witness the Priest blessing the
wedding rings. A few individuals make the bed, then the couple’s families come into the
bedroom to wish the two of them a happy life together and throw money on the bed, to help them out in their new beginning. At the end of the ritual, they sometimes put a
baby girl or boy on the bed, depending upon their wishes for the gender of their first child. This is sometimes called ‘flipping of the baby’.
The morning of the wedding, the Groom gets ready
with good friends and family members at his parents’ house. His Koumbaro (like a Best Man- see Ceremony
below) gives him his ‘last shave’ (before marriage, that is) and makes sure he is dressed and ready, while a violin player and singer provide a musical soundtrack to praise the groom before his departure from his home.
gift package to the bride on a silver platter, which includes her shoes and money to cushion her feet throughout the day, and surrounded by almonds (a symbol of fertility). He sends his Koumbaro to deliver these gifts, and he is the one who helps her into her shoes (and places the money inside until they are the “perfect fit”). Oftentimes, the more money, the better the fit. There are many rituals in his morning routine, including drinking three sips of wine, given to him by his mother in a ceramic cup, then throwing it on the ground. Sometimes, he’ll throw it behind him and walk away without turning back, symbolizing the leaving of his parents and the joining of his wife. His parents and close friends tie a red scarf around his waist 3 times, signifying his fertility.
with friends and family at her parents’ house. She may have a Koumbara (like a Maid of Honor), and may have one additional bridesmaid or may not have any. Oftentimes (especially in Crete), friends are involved and helpful, handing out favors and being there while she gets ready, but the only bridesmaid is on the smaller side- more like a flower girl, in fact. This small girl, or sometimes (but less often, small boy) is called “paranymfakia”. Her/his main responsibility is to hold the bride’s dress as she walks
down the aisle. Sometimes in Greek-style weddings around the world (especially in the U.S.), there are multiple bridesmaids and a Maid/Matron of Honor instead or in addition.
The bride also drinks wine (from her parents) and breaks the cup. Her parents and close friends also tie a red scarf around her waist 3 times, signifying her virginity.
Typically, the bride & groom travel to the church separately, accompanied by family and friends from their parents’ houses. If it’s too far, family and friends wave them off as they get into cars headed for the church. Musicians play (often violin and other string instruments) on the
way, and the groom sometimes brings the bride’s bouquet to the church for her.
1. The Betrothal: The priest blesses the rings 3 times, then the Koumbaro or Koumbara exchanges rings that are placed on the bride & groom’s right ring fingers.
2. The Lighting of the Candles
3. The Crowning: The couple is crowned with stefana. The couple is now officially wed!
4. The Blessing: The Priest reads from the Bible.
5. A Shared Drink: The bride & groom sip wine from a common cup.
6. The First Steps: The newly married pair walks around the sacrament table, or altar, 3 times.
7. The Prayer & the Blessing- The Priest blesses the wife and husband with a prayer.
8. Proclamation of Husband and Wife- The Priest removes the crowns and charges the newlyweds to go forward in peace. They are proclaimed husband & wife at the end of the ceremony.
Koumbari (or Koumbaroi)- Like a best man (koumbaro) and Maid of Honor (koumbara), these individuals are religious supporters of the betrothed couple. They often become the godparents of the couple’s children, and may be asked to contribute financially toward the Stefana, candles and koufeta favors. These individuals must have been baptized in the church, and if they are married, they must have been married in the church, as that’s a requirement to become a godparent. They are participants in a few parts of the service, including the crowning ceremony and circling. They may be friends (who are becoming like family by doing the bride & groom this honor), and may even be the couple’s godparents.
Stefana– These ornate crowns are often connected by a ribbon, blessed and placed on the bride & groom’s heads during the service. This crowning ceremony joins the couple and establishes them as the King and Queen of their
crowns can be made of twigs wrapped in gold or silver, flowers, vines or
precious stones or metals. Couples keep the crowns
forever, and it is not until death that the ribbon between them is cut, the
crowns then buried with each partner. Sometimes, after the wedding, the couple will store the crowns in a Stefanothiki, or a special crown case. This is said to preserve their beauty and serve as a visual reminder of the sacrament of their wedding day. It may be hung or displayed in the home, wherever the married couple chooses.
sacrificial love they are to have for each other. By circling the table, the couple signifies their oath to preserve the marriage bond forever, until death. The triple circling is in honor of the Holy Trinity.
The Common Cup- Following the readings and brief prayers, the
common cup, containing a small portion of wine, is presented to the bride and
groom. The priest blesses the cup and offers it to the newly joined husband and
wife, representing their equal share in the cup of life.
guests. In the early days of the Church, honey dipped almonds
were offered to the newlyweds by the priest. The white symbolizes purity. The
egg shape represents fertility and the new life which begins with marriage. The
hardness of the almond represents the endurance of marriage and the sweetness
of the sugar symbolizes the sweetness of future life. The odd number of almonds that each guest receives is indivisible, just as the bride & groom shall remain undivided. Guests will receive either 3, 5, 7, 9 or 11 koufeta, with the most common number in Greece being 7 (the same as the Divine Mysteries of the Church) and in the U.S. being 5 (also symbolizing health, joy, fertility, prosperity and longevity).
& protection in Greece.
Kissing- Not only the the Kiss a sign of love in Greek culture- it is one of the deepest symbols of respect that one person can offer to another. At a Greek Orthodox wedding, there are many moments throughout the ceremony in which the Priest will prompt the Bride, the Groom, the Koumbari or other important players to kiss the Holy Gospel (and in turn, the hand of the priest), the Stefana, or each other. Just before the Father of the Bride hands over his daughter to the Groom, the Groom will kiss the Father of the Bride’s right hand to show a sign of deep respect, honor and gratitude.
At the end of the wedding, guests come up to the alter to offer congratulations to the bride & groom in the form of 1, 2 or even 3 kisses on the cheek depending upon the cultural tradition of the family…and of course, it would not be a wedding without a kiss between the Bride and the Groom. It is a western cultural influence that the Bride and the Groom kiss at the end of the ceremony. However some couples wait until they are outside of the Church before getting too romantic. (http://greekweddingtraditions.com was an amazing source of info on Kissing in a Greek wedding)
about marriage by the sole fact that they are appearing in the church on their
wedding day. Sometimes the couple will give a vow-like thank you speech at the
reception to each other, their parents and their loved ones.
“Na Zisetel”- meaning “Long life to you!”, this exclamation is often wished by the guests for the couple at the end of the ceremony in a shower of confetti and love. The guests have been given small pouches of rice or paper confetti and they either throw it as the couple circles the table or as they leave the church. When rice is used, it’s symbolic as a Greek pun arising from the word rice “ryzi” in Greek and the word “rizono” which means to make roots. The couple, after being showered with rice or confetti, should become permanently connected together as if having roots.
Click here for Part 2- Greek Wedding Reception, Dances, Food, Post-Wedding Customs and Dress!