Three Key Wedding Traditions from Greece
Traditional Greek weddings are full of practices that have specific meanings, all in relation to marriage or married life. Greek wedding traditions are filled with symbols representing peace, fertility, oneness, and a lot more.
Prior to the Ceremony
A Greek Orthodox practice involves having a formal engagement before the wedding, which is called the Service of Betrothal. This focuses on the ring exchange between the bride-to-be and groom-to-be. The girl’s mother will then present a gift, which is often an article that aids in housework. The groom also asks the father of the bride’s permission for his daughter’s hand in marriage.
The priest will bless the rings on two occasions: the engagement and the wedding. Before being wed the bride and groom to be will wear their rings on their left hands, and will then wear the rings on their right hands after the second blessing.
Today, more customary practices are being changed to fit the times. Yet, there are some that still hold fast and remain true to Greek traditions. Here, a number of basic traditions will be highlighted, but keep an open mind since there may be some slight differences in what you may have already seen.
During the Wedding Ceremony
An interesting aspect of a traditional Greek wedding is that couples do not exchange vows, unlike most religions. It is understood that the couple who wish to bind themselves in holy matrimony are there for reasons stated in customary vows; hence, there is no longer a need for these vows to be said out loud.
Traditional Greek weddings are not only romantic, but these are metaphorical, as well. All facets that are part of a Greek wedding represent unity and traditional values, which is like most wedding rituals.
Before the ceremony officially starts, wedding guests are asked to wait outside the church for the bride and groom. Once the bride arrives, usually adorned in a veil of orange or red to protect her from evil spirits, the guests follow the soon-to-be-wed couple into the church where they are seated together. Guests will be all seated together, not separated according to families like in most cultures.
Two basic ceremonies make up a traditional Greek wedding: the Service of Betrothal and the Service of the Sacrament of Marriage. The priest will sanctify the wedding rings during the formal engagement, and the rings will then be worn on the right hands of both bride and groom.
During the service of the Sacrament of Marriage, the couple will have to join their hands to signify unity as the priest presides over saying a series of prayers for them.
The crowning of the husband and wife is another poignant element of a customary Greek wedding ceremony. The newly wedded couple will be adorned with crowns made of orange or white flowers that are joined with a white ribbon. This is also called a stefana. The stefana is a symbol of the honor given to the couple by God, and the ribbon represents unity. The religious sponsor, or Koumbaro, switches the crowns between the couples’ heads three times.
When the crowning ritual is done, it is followed by the common cup rite. Traditionally the priest performs a Gospel reading of Cana at Galilee, where Jesus performed his first miracle of transforming water into wine. The priest also does the same ritual by presenting wine to the couple and they drink from the cup three times.
The ceremonial walk follows as the couple, adorned with their crowns, circle the altar three times, signifying their first steps as husband and wife. Then comes the throwing of rice by the crowd towards the couple. The crowns are then taken off and the priest places a Bible between the intertwined fingers of the newlyweds. This signifies that only God has the power to break what He has blessed and united.
The Greek Wedding Reception
Greek wedding receptions focus on the family. It is a time filled with music, laughter and dancing – a celebration of the union of two loved ones. A wedding reception is often expected after a Greek wedding. There are, however, definite Greek rituals that make each party unique.
One difference is in the wedding dance. The Isaiah is performed by the bride and groom, while the Kaslamantiano is performed by the couple and guests forming a circle.
Ah, and then there’s the food. Of particular note are sugar-coated almonds. These are distributed in odd numbers to guests, symbolizing a unification that cannot be separated. Wedding guests can expect to be served authentic Greek fare and beverages.
Greek Orthodox weddings do not only honor the traditions and practices that begun in Ancient Greece. These are also emotional and moving. The allure of the special rites performed and the presentation of different symbols are there to ensure the couple’s perfect union.
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