To really appreciate a Greek wedding, one must have been raised in either a Greek community or the Greek Orthodox Church. But if you’re going to your first Greek wedding, there are several things you should know about the Orthodox ceremony and the customs and traditions that make a Greek wedding such a joyous occasion.
It’s important to keep in mind that there are two distinct wedding rituals during a Greek wedding: one practiced by the Orthodox Church and the other by Greek culture. “While the Greek, Russian, Ukrainian, Armenian, and other branches of the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church are often lumped together, they should be considered distinct. If you want an Orthodox wedding, you’ll have to stick to the prescribed ritual rather than create your own ceremony. However, there are little details to adjust before, during, and after the wedding ceremony.”
The commitment to God to care for one another is seen as more important than exchanging vows between partners in an Orthodox Christian wedding. The couple pledges their undying love to God. For this reason, the couple does not face each other during the ceremony but rather faces the altar, symbolizing their focus on Christ. There is no severe formality to the ceremony.
- Bride’s Wedding Shoes
The bride’s wedding shoes are traditionally given to her by the groom as a present in several parts of Greece. She is getting dressed when the Koumbaro brings them to her, and the whole charade begins when she claims they are too big. So that they are just right, the Koumbaro stuffs her shoes with cash until she is content. A last tradition among the single bridesmaids is to sign their names in permanent marker on the heels of their shoes. Guests whose names have been worn off their shoes at the end of the big day are soon-to-be husband and wife.
Guests at a Greek wedding typically wait outside the church for the bride’s entrance. She walks down the aisle with her father at her side and her new husband at her side. The American churchgoers have already been seated. When the bride and her father are ready to walk down the aisle, the wedding party, comprising the flower girl and ring bearer, will lead the way.
- The Marriage Sacrament
Symbolism abounds in the Greek Orthodox wedding ritual, which is also one of the oldest Christian wedding rites and one of the seven sacraments of the church. There are two ceremonies in a wedding: the Betrothal Service and the Crowning Service. The latter is divided into five parts: the Dance of Isaiah, Scripture readings, the Common Cup, the Crowning, and the Prayers. Symbolizing the Holy Trinity (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit), the sacrament is performed three times.
- Putting Hands Together
During the wedding ceremony, the priest will join the right hands of the bridegroom and bride while he prays to God to unite the couple into a single entity, both mentally and physically. Prayers are offered up in the hopes that they will be granted a life filled with contentment, health, and longevity. As a symbol of their commitment to one another throughout the service, they will keep their hands connected the entire time.
- Dance of Isaiah
The priest will then lead the couple in a ceremonial promenade that is referred to as the Dance of Isaiah while holding up the book of the Holy Gospels. By following closely behind and clutching the ribbon that connects the Stefana crowns, the Koumbaro demonstrates his support for the couple. This “dance” honors the newlywed couple’s first steps together as a married couple.
- The Blessing
The priest takes the crowns off of their heads and prays to God that they have a long and healthy life. He then raises the book of the Holy Gospels and places it between the couple’s hands as they are holding hands as a reminder that only God has the power to separate them from one another. It is a spiritual reference that if they start to drift apart from one another, Christ will always be the means for them to find their way back to each other through the Gospel. Although the first kiss is not a required part of the Orthodox wedding, the priest will permit this public display of affection between the couple.
- The Common Cup
In honor of the miracle that took place at Cana, the wine used for the toast will be blessed, and both the bride and groom will drink from the same cup or goblet. This act is meant to symbolize that if they share everything in life, their joys would be multiplied by two while their sadness would be reduced by one-half.
Frequently asked questions
What are the Greek wedding traditions?
The marriage crowns, also known as Stefana, are one of the most recognized customs of a Greek wedding. These two exquisite objects are connected by a ribbon string and are crafted from flowers, leaves, or even valuable metals. They represent the joining of two individuals into a single couple.
Why do Greeks break plates at their wedding?
Plates are broken to signify that such violent and aggressive conduct implies no celebration can take place anywhere near them since Greeks believe that a joyful occasion or celebration also draws evil spirits.
Why do Greeks dance with a napkin?
As far as We can tell, the traditional Kalamatianos give the second dancer more opportunity to improvise with more complex steps because the lead dancer holds them both by the handkerchief rather than the hand.