Greek Wedding Traditions

Traditions From Greece

Greek wedding traditions are resplendent with imageries of eternity, unity and fertility.

A few days before the wedding the bride and groom invite family and friends to their new home, where a priest blesses it. The couple's single guests then decorate the bed with new white linen and flowers, after which presents and gifts are thrown on the bed to wish the couple good luck and fortune. Lastly young children jump on the bed to bestow its sleepers with fertility.

On the day of the wedding the groom goes to the bride's house for a formal engagement ritual whereby he asks the brides' father for permission to marry his daughter. After the father "agrees" the best man, called the koumbaros (traditionally the groom's godfather), escorts the couple to the church.

For luck, abundance and "sweetness in her marriage" it is customary for the Greek bride to carry a lump of sugar in her glove.

During the wedding ceremony there are three key Greek wedding traditions, each occurring three times; three represents the Trinity and thus eternity. The first involves the exchange of rings. The koumbaros exchanges the rings between the bride and groom three times; the groom's ring is placed on the bride's finger and vice versa. This ritual reminds the couple that marriage is about balance; the strengths of one compensate for the weaknesses of the other. The second event involves the crowning of the couple. Two crowns, each made of gold or twigs and orange blossoms, entwined with ivy, are joined by single ribbon and exchanged three times over the bride's and groom's heads. The ribbon represents the couple's unity and the crowns signify the couple's new role of king and queen of their dynasty (their home and future children); which they should rule with wisdom, justice and integrity. Finally the couple, with crowns on heads, circle the church alter together three times. This ceremonial walk represents the couple's first steps together as a married couple.

At the wedding reception the party begins. Greek weddings have plenty of dancing and the most famous dance is the Greek circle dance. Guests join hands at shoulder height and dance in a circle around the couple who are seated in chairs. The chairs are then lifted and the couple paraded around the circle. The circle dance acts as the couple's first dance as husband and wife. A money dance is also performed; instead of bringing wedding gifts, guests bring money, which they pin to the clothing of the bride and groom. Another popular Greek wedding tradition is for guests to smash plates during the reception since it is considered to symbolize good luck, happiness and permanence of the marriage.

Guests are given wedding favors containing an odd number of candied (Jordan) almonds; the odd number represents the couple's combined strength (as an odd number can't be divided evenly) and the almonds are a symbol of fertility (a promise of children to come!).

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