If you are planning on attending a Greek wedding, you may want to learn some of the traditional events and customs that may occur so you know what to expect during your arrival. Since weddings in Greece tend to follow the Greek Orthodox traditions, there are many symbolistic features in the ceremony that you may miss if you haven’t done your research.
Thankfully, these explained Greek wedding traditions will help you prepare for the special event. From ceremonial customs to reception dances, weddings in Greece contain different symbols that are interesting to learn about and amazing to experience.
What to Expect at a Greek Wedding
Greek Orthodox weddings can truly differ from any other Orthodox weddings around the world. It is important to understand that some of the traditions may stem from Church beliefs or are simply passed down through Greek customs.
Either way, both religion and traditions play a significant role in wedding ceremonies. To know what to expect at a Greek wedding, discover the many ways Greece represents its culture in these explained ceremonial customs.
Greek Wedding Dates
When planning a wedding, most would research the best months for their wedding date. In the U.S., the most popular wedding months are June, September, and October. In Greece, however, the best months to marry are January and July.
Both of the months are dedicated to Hera, the wife of Zeus in Greek mythology. She is known to be the goddess of marriage and fertility. Originally, only the month of January was devoted to Hera. That is until the Romans translated “Hera” to “Juno,” thus moving the goddess’ special month to June.
There are also wedding dates that Greeks avoid without the special consent of the ceremonial priest. Some of these include:
- 40 days prior to Christmas
- 40 days prior to Easter, otherwise known as Lent
- The first two weeks of August are dedicated to the Virgin Mary
- August 29th that commemorates the death of Saint John the Baptist
- September 14 that celebrates the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
Koumbaro and Koumbara
According to the Greek Orthodox religion, the wedding will need two sponsors called the Koumbaro and Koumbara. In order to be a sponsor, you will need to have a good standing with the Church, meaning that non-Orthodox friends and family are not allowed to be in this position.
Typically, the Koumbaro will be the best man while the Koumbara will be the maid of honor. They often become the godparents of the newlyweds’ children, as well. Most of the responsibilities of the Koumbaro and Koumbara are similar to that of a maid of honor and best man, such as helping the couple getting dressed and decorating the ceremony and reception.
During the ceremony, one sponsor will exchange the rings while the other exchanges the crown. In the past, both of the sponsors would gift the newlyweds a silver tray to hold the rings and crowns. Though, today, the silver tray is not a common gift.
To learn more about Koumbaros and Koumbaras, or if you are wanting to become a sponsor for a Greek Orthodox wedding, you can find information through Saint Demetrios.
The Signing of the Shoes
If you ever randomly check the bottom of the bride’s wedding shoes right before the ceremony, you may be surprised to find that a list of names has been written on them. According to Greek traditions, the next-to-marry single bridesmaid can be determined by this method.
Before the ceremony, all of the bride’s single friends will write their names on the bottom of the bride’s shoes. The bride will then wear these shoes throughout the ceremony and reception. At the end of the day, any names that have been worn off will be getting married soon.
This is similar to the English-originated tradition of the bride throwing the bouquet after the wedding ceremony, in which the bridesmaid who catches it will be the next newlywed.
When attending a wedding in the United States, you will probably take your seat in the church and wait for the bride to arrive while the groom takes his place at the altar. However, in a Greek Orthodox wedding, the groom along with the wedding guests will wait on the bride outside the doors of the religious venue.
Typically, the bride’s father will escort the bride to the church where her groom and guests await her arrival. The groom will then hand her a bouquet of flowers and proceed to walk down the aisle with all of the guests following. Once the priest gives the order, the guests may sit down and the ceremony will start.
Service of Betrothal
A traditional Greek Orthodox wedding ceremony consists of two parts, the Service of Betrothal and the Service of the Crowning. During the Service of Betrothal, the priest will begin with offering requests of prayer for the couple then proceed with the blessing of the wedding rings.
The priest will bless the rings three times each with the groom than the bride, representing the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Koumbaro or Koumbara will then exchange the rings three times for the same reason. After the acceptance of the rings, a final prayer is read to make the couples truly engaged in the presence of God.
Service of the Crowning
Otherwise known as the Sacrament of Marriage, the Service of Crowning is the second part of a Greek Orthodox wedding ceremony. To start off this service, the bride and groom each receive a lit, white candle that symbolizes Christ’s “Light of the World.” By accepting the candles, the couple is symbolically accepting Jesus Christ into their lives.
Afterward, the bride, groom, and priest join their right hands together as the priest reads three prayers in light of the Holy Trinity. It is after this when the famous act of the crown exchange takes place. The priest will bless the couple’s crowns before placing them on the groom and bride’s heads.
The Koumbaro or Koumbara will then exchange the wedding crowns three times between the couple as a witness to the uniting of the couple in marriage. Crowns in a Greek Orthodox wedding can symbolize the bride and groom to be the Queen and King of their own home or can refer to the Crown of Martyrdom, meaning that the couple must sacrifice for their marriage.
Following the exchanging of the wedding crowns, the priest will read from the Bible the story of Cana and Galilee marriage. In the Bible, this is the wedding in which Jesus turned water into wine. The bride and groom are given a single cup, called the Common Cup, to both drink three times from as a symbol of a new shared life.
For the final part of the Sacrament of Marriage, the celebrant will lead the groom and bride around the altar table three times for the Dance of Isaiah. The ceremonial walk expresses gratitude to God and the joy of receiving His blessings. Once finished, the marriage between the happy couple is sealed through the Greek Orthodox Church.
During the wedding reception in Greece, the wedding guests may be treated to Koufeta. These are sugar-coated almonds that are packaged in odd numbers to hand out to wedding guests. The hardness of the almond represents the endurance marriage between the couple while the sugar coating symbolizes a happy life in their future.
As for the odd number of the Koufeta, it is believed that odd numbers cannot be separated evenly. Therefore, by making an odd amount of Koufeta for the gifts, it is displaying that the couple will not be divided.
The Last Dance
Unlike American weddings, Greek couples save their newlywed dance for last. At the reception, they may play a mixture of modern top hits and traditional Greek music as a tribute to their roots.
Ancient customs have even consisted of pinning money to the bride’s dress as a symbol for financial success. In more modern Greek weddings, some may just throw the money on the dance floor as an alternate option. It is best to bring a few bucks just in case the bride and groom decide to keep the tradition going.
Questions About Greek Wedding Traditions
Learn more about traditional Greek weddings!
Who pays for a Greek wedding?
The parents of the couples may pay for the venue and wedding ceremony. However, the Koumbaro and Koumbara will most likely pay for the crowns and candles that are used in the traditional Greek Orthodox wedding ceremony performances.
Modern couples may still cover some wedding costs.
How long is a traditional Greek wedding ceremony?
You can expect a traditional Greek wedding ceremony to last anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour. There are various customs and prayers that must be performed by the Greek Orthodox priest in a traditional wedding that may make the ceremony last for this long.
Why do they spit on the bride in Greek weddings?
Wedding guests may pretend to spit on the bride as a way to ward off evil spirits. In Greek tradition, pretending to spit on the bride three times as a symbol for the Holy Trinity will protect her and the groom from any evil that may loom on their special wedding day.
Greece has many matrimony traditions from ancient times that have been passed down for several generations. Whether the customs are from ancient superstitions or Orthodox beliefs, you will find symbolism throughout any traditional Greek wedding ceremony you attend.
Of course, if you are not from Greece nor knowledgeable of the culture, you may find yourself lost when attending a Greek wedding. Luckily, these explained Greek wedding traditions will prepare you for your arrival on the big day. You may even find yourself falling in love with the culture as you witness the happy couple join hands in marriage through such a breathtaking display.
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