Our “Wedding Traditions Around the World” blog posts are intended for all to enjoy; as the wedding traditions from different countries are absolutely fascinating.
However, we think they will be particularly useful to three kinds of readers – first, bi-cultural couples willing to tie the knot in a fantastic English venue; second, those who have been invited to attend bi-cultural weddings as guests; and third, those looking for a wedding theme that is meaningful to them.
For example, if you and your other half are not of Chinese heritage, but have spent the last 4 years working in Beijing, maybe you would like to introduce a small cue in your ceremony that reminds all guests of your shared history?
Today we are looking at the millenary tradition of Greek weddings.
Perhaps most of what we know about Greek weddings was learnt watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding, cuddling up in the sofa on an autumn afternoon. The movie quickly became a hit because the appeal and fun of Greek weddings is undeniable. Although the movie is a bit of a caricature, it does warm our hearts!
In this blog post we look at what it is that makes Greek weddings just so wonderful. They are full of meaningful rites that no guest will ever forget, and they unite Greek people and those of Greek descent around the world.
Greek pre-nuptial traditions
In the Greek tradition, couples traditionally get engaged in the presence of the bride and groom’s respective families. After they have exchanged their engagement rings, an engagement celebration is to follow. These are typically gold bands to be worn on their left hand until the wedding day (diamond solitaires are not traditional for couples of Greek heritage).
During the engagement ceremony or immediately afterwards, the couple will set a date for their wedding and decide on the wedding venue. The Greek tradition follows the Greek Orthodox Calendar. Nowadays, even if Greek couples don’t actively practice religion, it may still be customary to set their wedding date according to this calendar.
According to the Greek tradition, it is not traditional to get married in the first two weeks of August, as these are reserved for prayer. Also, the forty days leading up to Christmas and to Easter are not auspicious.
Therefore, popular times to get married include the month of January up to mid February, celebrating the New Year. Also from Easter up to August 1st (spring and summer); and from late-August to mid-October.
Before the wedding, the couple’s family and friends will help to prepare their new home.
The bride and all of her female friends will make her bed, which then the groom will have to approve of. Afterwards the bed will be blessed with coins (a symbol of prosperity), and with rice (a symbol of settling). Finally, one of the family’s or friends’ babies will be placed on the bed, a symbol of fertility. If a baby boy is used, superstition has it that the couple’s first child will be a boy. If a baby girl is used, the couple’s first child should be a girl.
These days this is done symbolically. It is therefore important that your wedding venue should offer overnight accommodation, so that your Greek wedding party can perform this part of the tradition!
Greek wedding traditions
As well as the bride and the groom, two characters that have a central role in Greek weddings are the so-called koumbara and koumbaro. They are the Greek equivalent of the Maid of Honour and the Best Man.
On the wedding day, the koumbaro will shave the groom, a gesture of trust between them. All other friends will help to dress the groom, as a symbol of friendship.
Similarly, the koumbara and her friends will help dress the bride. The names of her unmarried friends will be written under her shoe. Greek superstition says that those names that disappear by the end of the night are those of the friends who will be next to marry!
Remember the engagement rings that the Greek couple wear on their left hand, until the wedding day? During the wedding ceremony, the priest will bless them and change them to the couple’s right hand. Before that, the koumbara or koumbaro will pass them back and forth between the bride and groom three times, a symbol of their everlasting bond.
The stefana are little crowns placed on the bridegroom during the ceremony, and are the central part of the Greek wedding, symbolising that the bride and groom and now king and queen of their castle.
Like the wedding rings, the stefana are blessed by the priest and exchanged between the bride and groom’s heads at least three times.
Are you attending a Greek wedding?
Prepare yourself for a wedding steeped in tradition, full of wonderfully emotional moments, millenary rites, a lot of fun and good food!
Planning a Greek wedding in an English venue?
The mixture of old and new is a perfect combination for a contemporary wedding. At Country House Weddings, we will help you to make sure each detail of your big day is successful. Incorporating traditions of your national heritage is a wonderful idea, and some of our couples have already done so throughout the years! These bi-cultural weddings have a magnificent charm that we will never forget.
If you or your fiancé are of Greek heritage, why not decorate your venue with a Greek-inspired theme, and create the perfect setting for your traditional fairy-tale Greek wedding? Make your dreams come true!