Wedding Traditions in Greece
Greek wedding traditions span across centuries, starting from Ancient Greece till now, and every Greek wedding has these traditional elements involved. And, since most Greeks are of the Greek Orthodox faith, this article will feature those wedding traditions.
1. The Engagement
Every wedding has to start with an engagement. So, the couple exchange rings with family present. Simple gold bands will do, none of that large diamond frou-frou. These rings are worn on the left hand till the wedding, when they will be switched to the right hands.
The Wedding Date
As already stated, most Greeks are Greek Orthodox. As such, certain dates set aside by the Church for certain remembrances and festivities are not used for weddings. Example:
· Forty days to Christmas
· The entire Lent period
· The first two weeks of August
· Such days that saints are commemorated on, like St John the Baptist Day and so on
These days are not suitable for weddings. Consult your local church calendar.
Before the wedding, the bride and her maids have to dress the marital bed for the groom’s approval. Oh, and all the maids must be single. After the groom gives them the thumbs up for a good job,
· Money is thrown on the bed – for prosperity
· Rice is thrown on the bed – for putting down roots
· A baby is rolled on the bed – for fertility
1. The Bridegroom
On the wedding day, the best man -called koumbaro- shaves the groom, to show the trust between them. All the groom’s men then partake in dressing him (all of them), for this is symbolic, showing that they all had a role in preparing him for this big day.
2. The Bride
The maid of honor is called the koumbaro, and she also helps prep the bride for her wedding. The bride writes the names of all single ladies on the bottom of shoes: the names that wear off at the end of the night are the ones next to marry. The bride leaves with her father.
1. The Ceremony
A traditional Greek Orthodox wedding can take as long as an hour, so get ready to read a lot.
· The groom stands at the front of the church with the bouquet, which he gives to the bride after accepting her from her father.
· Two gold crowns –called stefana- which have been procured by the koumbaro (the crowns are connected by a strand of ribbon), are switched on the couple’s heads three times. The crowns signify their unity.
· The couple is given lighted candles to hold during the ceremony. These candles symbolize Christ as the light of the world, and they cannot be thrown away, but allowed to burn completely.
· The plain gold bands are switched back and forth three times by the koumbaro, blessed by the priest, then placed on the couple’s right hands, which they hold together. This hold dignifies their new life together as one.
· The priest pours wine into a single wine glass –called the common cup- and the couple each takes three sips from it. The wine stands for life: the shared sips represent togetherness.
· Lastly, the couple ear the stefana and follow the priest round a table holding the common cup, the candles, and a Bible. Then, the priest blesses them and removes the crowns. In case you were wondering: no, no vows are said in a Greek Orthodox wedding. The reason is that, God is the one who ordains and blesses these unions, so we mortals can’t avow anything.
The Party (Reception, in common parlance)
This includes plate-smashing, money-pinning, tie-shredding, and dancing.
· Okay, plates aren’t smashed so much now, but they were smashed to show joy and celebration.
· There must be dancing. Typical Greek wedding moves are the Kalamatianos, the Tsamiko (you must be very fit for this), and the Zeibekiko (where you get soaked in ouzo, a drink). The couples dance last.
· As the couples dance, guests pin money on them
· The groom’s tie may also be shredded and given to guests in exchange for money.
· Wedding favors: Jordan almond –koufeta- which are coated in sugar, put in cute little bags (make sure the number of almonds is odd, not even!), and handed to the guests. Of course, this is also symbolic: the almond stands for fertility, its crunchiness signifies endurance, and the odd number of nuts stands for luck.
There you have it, the Greek wedding traditions all in one!