Traditional Greek Wedding Customs
Traditionally, a Greek couple becomes “officially” engaged by exchanging rings in the presence of family and friends. After the engagement there is always a feast to celebrate the ring ceremony. This ceremony is considered as binding as the wedding.
Another old-fashioned Greek wedding tradition is the baby-rolling ceremony on the matrimonial bed. Newborns and babies of friends and family are placed on the mattress and gently rolled from side to side. The bed is also strewn with rose petals, coins and sugar-coated almonds (called koufetta) to bring fertility and prosperity to the couple.
The making of the wedding flag, or flamboro, marks the beginning of the wedding week. A branch ending with five twigs is found first. Then, an apple is tied to one branch and tufts of red wool are added to the other four twigs. This is put up at the bride’s home until the wedding day.
As the couple dress for the ceremony, they may be serenaded with traditional Greek wedding songs. There is also dancing until it’s time for the wedding procession to begin.
The wedding procession is begun at the groom’s house where the wedding flag is raised. Then the flag bearer leads the group proceeds to the bride’s home where the bride’s mother greets the groom. She greets him with a glass of wine, a ring-shaped biscuit and a boutonniere of herbs for his label. He pins the herbs to his lapel, kisses her hand and asks for her blessing. She gives her blessing by kissing him on both cheeks. She may also touch his neck with incense and give him embatikion, a gift to symbolize that his is now a part of the family.
The groom may present his bride with her bouquet at the wedding site.
Traditional Greek Orthodox weddings are always on Sunday. They aren’t performed after Easter and Christmas, during periods of fasting and the day preceding a Holy Day. Vows aren’t exchanged because marriage is considered a union between two people in love, not a contractual agreement.
Two loaves of bread are baked, decorated with flowers, and tied together with a white ribbon, separated by a bottle of wine. When the couple enters the ceremony site, the ribbon is cut. They take three sips of wine and circle the altar three times while the guests throw rice or sugared almonds.
The traditional ceremony in Greek Orthodox weddings in divided into two parts: the Betrothal and the Crowning. The Betrothal Service consists of blessing the rings over the heads of the bride and groom.
Then they are exchanged three times by their Koumbaros, or best man. The Crowning is the main part of the ceremony where the couple is crowned by garland wreaths, vines wrapped in silver or gold paper or even crowns made of semi-precious stones and metals. A white ribbon symbolizing unity joins the crowns. The crowns are packed in a special box after the ceremony. By ancient custom they are to stay with the couple for life – some couples are even buried in them.
Charms (traditionally in the form of a small eye) are worn by the attendants to protect the bridal party from bad luck. The bride may also put a lump of sugar in her glove for a sweet marriage. Ivy may be carried by the bride as a symbol of never-ending love.
Wedding bands are traditionally worn on the right hand, not the left.
The bride may throw a pomegranate instead of the bouquet. The many seeds symbolize fertility.
After the ceremony, the group heads to the groom’s house where the flag is once again raised. The bride throws a piece of old iron to the roof to symbolize the strength of her new home.
At the reception, plates are broken on the dance floor (or some other hard surface) for good luck. A member of the immediate family begins and others quickly join in with much yelling and laughing as the plates shatter.
There is a traditional money dance at the reception where people dance with either the bride or groom, pinning money to their clothes.