Wedding Traditions from Greece
Ah, Greek Weddings! If you ever have the opportunity to attend such an event, make certain you do so. Weddings are highly anticipated, highly celebrated events that are full of energy and lively customs. No matter which traditions a Greek wedding chooses to follow, traditional Greek weddings are filled with symbolism. As with all of these conversations on tradition, I cannot cover every tradition that is out there and will focus on some of the more traditional aspects of weddings with their roots in Greek tradition.
In general, Greeks are not supposed to get married on certain religious holidays, such as Lent and other Christian observances. Today, that practice is generally abided.
One tradition that we know for certain came from the Greeks is the bachelor party! Bachelor parties began in the Greek city of Sparta, and were originally dubbed the “men’s mess.”
The wedding shower also has roots in Greek culture. Before the weddings, the bride & groom often invite their friends to their new home and relatives and friends present money and wedding gifts to the couple to bring the luck and fortune.
When the couple is engaged. “koumbaro(s)” is named. This is a large responsibility, and one not to be taken lightly. Today, we see this tradition in the choosing of a best man (and now maid/matron of honor), however, in a Greek wedding, the koumbaro can be the best man, or another who is close to the couple and in good standing with the church. Whoever is chosen, they have significant responsibilities during the ceremony.
On the wedding day itself, is when we see the dowry presented, typically by the bride’s mother . Once the dowry has been presented, Nyphostoli begins, where local females volunteer to set up and decorate the couple’s new home. Once might see traditions such as rolling a baby on the marital bed to encourage fertility, throwing money onto the bed, or other such practices during Nyphostoli.
Koumparo is the Greek tradition of the groom and his Koumbaro preparing for the wedding ceremony. Musicans will accompany the groom to the church playing traditional Greek music and then the musicians will go and gather the bride and travel with her as she makes her way to the church. In other areas of Greece, the guests will waits with the groom outside the church until the bride arrives, while he waits with her bouquet, which often has ivy incorporated, as it is considered a symbol of eternal love. As the couple comes into the church, the guests follow and find their seats. In Greek tradition, there is no dividing of the grooms and brides guests, and all intermingle.
Greek ceremonies occur in two parts: the Service of the Betrothal & the Ceremony of the Sacrament of Marriage. In all parts of the ceremony, the number three crops up again and again, as a symbol of the Holy Trinity. One part of the traditionally recognized ceremony that you will not see at a Greek wedding is the exchange of vows. It is considered their solemn vow to appear in church, and the fact that they are serious about marriage is an accepted fact.
Rings, however, are exchanged and blessed not once, but twice. First upon the engagement, and second on the wedding day. The couple will wear their rings on their left hands until they are moved to their right hands by the Koumbaro during the ceremony.
One might also find that the bride will wear a yellow or red veil to signify fire and to protect her from evil, or be carrying a lump of sugar in her gloves in hopes of a “sweet life.” In addition, members of the wedding party often wear eye-shaped amulets to ward off bad luck.
Weddings often begin with white candles being handed to the bride and groom, symbolizing the couples willingness to receive Christ.
Service of the Betrothal: The focus of this part of the ceremony is the exchange of rings. The priest blesses the rings , and the Koumbaro swaps the rings over the bride and grooms fingers three times.
Ceremony of the Sacrament of Marriage: There are multiple parts to this portion of the ceremony. Petitions & prayers, the crowning, the offering of the common cup, a ceremonial walk, the removal of the crowns and the benediction. After the prayers, the priest joins the right hands of the bride & groom, and their hands will remain joined until the end of the ceremony, symbolizing their unity.
The crowning is truly the focus of the marriage ceremony. The Koumbaro has the duty of crowning the bride and groom. These crowns are often made from twigs wrapped in gold or silver, or hearty flowers such as orange blossoms, and are called the stefana. The crowns symbolize the glory and honor that is bestowed them by God. Often, white ribbons are used to secure the crowns onto the bride & grooms’ heads and symbolize the “ties” between the couple.
The common cup begins with the reading of the Gospel reading that tells of the marriage at Galilee. It was at this wedding that Christ performed his first miracle and changed water into wine. After this has been read aloud, wine is presented to the couple and they each drink from the cup three times.
The ceremonial walk begins as the priest leads the couple around the altar three times, symbolizing that they are to be guided in their marital path by the church and Christ. The Koumbaro follows behind the couple, holding the stefana in place, and representing the support of their loved ones along their path. When this has ended, the priest blesses the couple, removes the crowns and breaks their hands apart (often with a bible) representing that only God can break the union which they have just entered.
The ceremony ends, and the reception begins with the kalamatiano, a traditional handkerchief dance. The bride and groom are connected only by a scarf of which each the bride and groom hold a corner.
One might also be a part of the throwing of rice at the couple as they leave the ceremony… but, be warned, this tradition can get a bit out of hand at times!
Greek receptions are large parties and can continue on into the wee hours of the morning. There is food, dancing, and lots of laughter. One might see the Isaish danced – a traditional wedding dance that is done in addition to the Kaslamantiano, where the guests dance in a circle with the couple. Candied almonds are often given, and plates… yes, plates… are often smashed, which although quite fun, is intended to bring good luck and happiness to the marriage. Just make certain they are not the ones you rented!
What traditions do you have to add?
Come Visit Us @ http://www.eventmuse.biz
We are a Portland, Oregon (OR) based wedding & event planning company. We serve all of the surrounding counties, including Salem and Vancouver. Call us for your needs for a Wedding Planner, Wedding Coordinator, Bridal Consultant, Day-Of Coordinator, Event Planner, or private party.