Wedding Sponsor(s) – Koumbaros, Koumbara, Koumbaroi
In the Orthodox Church, many of our sacraments, especially those that initiate us into a new role in life, have sponsors in them. The Baptism has sponsors known as Godparents, the wedding has sponsors and Ordination has somewhat of sponsors, as the approval of the candidate’s spiritual father is required. Besides in Ordination, the other two sacraments’ sponsors are in Greek called Koumbaroi (which is the plural form of Koumbaros and Koumbara). The role of the sponsor is to bear witness to the readiness of the couple to be joined to each other in marriage. Besides the Bride and Groom, the person(s) who fulfills this role has the next place of honor at the wedding. Practically, the sponsor(s) is supposed to do the ring exchange three times after the priest has blessed the rings of the couple and placed them on their fingers, as well as the crowns after they have been blessed and placed on the heads of the couple.
There is always a bit of confusion on who can be a sponsor. First and foremost, the Sponsor must be an Orthodox Christian in good standing. (A member in good standing is someone who is a faithful participant in the life of a parish and in the liturgical life of the church; receives the mysteries regularly; and gives to the Church. The priest is the ultimate authority in a parish who determines if someone fulfills these aspects to the best of their ability.) Secondly, a Sponsor should be someone who will be there for the couple spiritually and help them lead their marriage to success.
Those are the two most important things. Many times we hear, it needs to be the Godparents of the Groom, or the Best man, or Maid of Honor, or a Sibling of the couple, or whatever other ideas people will throw around. I will say that it has sadly become a tradition of someone being picked out of their relationship with the Groom than the person who is best qualified to nurture the couple. As explained to me, the picking of the Sponsor(s), should actually be someone outside the family, as it is a way to expand the family and to give hospitality like a sibling to one who is not physically a sibling, but now spiritually one. There has been a lot of confusion on these matters. Though after someone becomes your sponsor you cannot later be married to them, this shouldn’t limit our picks to those in our families, and it shows a lack of commitment to the marriage, to not pick someone who could be a potential spouse (as if to leave the Koumbaros/a available for Free Agent signing after a divorce). If there are two people who are Kombaroi, it should only be because they are married, that is the only acceptable plural. The Koumbaros also, according to the Church, is not only the choice of the Groom nor just the best man, but should be someone who can be counted on in times of need by both the Bride and the Groom.
Once again, I am not the ultimate authority on these matters, but just sharing what I have been taught. Please have a conversation with your priest before you choose your Koumbaroi.
Categorized in: Greek Wedding Traditions
This post was written by Andrew Athanasiou