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The Greek Wedding Traditions

A complete guide of how the Greek wedding traditions are still relevant to modern couples getting married in the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, and other diaspora countries, respecting their heritage in a contemporary way.

A bride prior the Greek wedding tradition


There are numerous traditions that come in stages with every stage having its own process, meaning, and symbolisation according to customs and religion rituals. It’s no wonder that, although a couple can follow as many rituals as they want, the majority of Greek weddings follow most of the traditions. Passing on our valuable heritage, one way or another, is important, and we all feel it deep in our souls.

On a wedding, the photographers are the only vendors who follow the couple from the begging to the end of their big day. That means they are the lucky ones who collect great experience and wedding knowledge. This is just a small sample of an 18-year professional life as a Greek wedding photographer, highlighting the breadth and wealth of the Greek culture!

Hope you enjoy reading this Greek wedding traditions “memoir” just as much as I did writing it!


Part 1/2


Before the wedding

Engagement Rings

It is very likely for a Greek couple to exchange engagement rings prior the wedding. In the previous years, if a woman was seen hanging out with a man, especially in the evening hours, she was criticised by society and considered a woman with no values. To restore the girl's reputation, the man seen with her should give a wedding promise. That promise was an engagement ceremony, where the couple exchanged engagement rings and wore them on their left ring finger. When they got married, the same engagement rings were their wedding rings, too, only after the ceremonial rituals and blessings they were worn on the right hand to signify the couple's new “man and wife” status! Today, couples get engaged to share the joy they feel for having found their significant other and the person they want to spend their entire life with! Plus, to get the parents' blessings for the new chapter of their life opening up in front of them! At remote villages in Greece, an engagement ceremony is still considered a big deal.

Wedding Date

A couple can get married anytime they want, except during fasting periods, according to the Orthodox Church. As for the day of the wedding, most weddings used to take place on a Sunday. Nowadays, many couples prefer to have their wedding on a Saturday. That said, Sundays remain favourite wedding days, although many couples show a preference for weekday weddings, too.


Making the Bed

The “making the Bed” is one of the most popular and well-known traditions in Greece that takes place before the wedding. The family and friends of the bride and groom gather at the couple's new home to help with the preparation of the bed. It is a tradition that doesn't usually involve the groom. Present is only the bride-to-be, although modern couples tend to prefer a joined “making the bed” experience! The unmarried bride's friends make the bed and then family members and friends throw money, coins, rice, and rose petals on the bed for good luck and a happy life. This ritual ends with a child (usually a boy) been rolled across the bed to guarantee fertility! Now, if the groom is present, the making of the bed is a tedious and fun tradition, where the single ladies make and re-make the bed until the groom gives his approval!


Dowry (prika)

Until a few years ago, parents with girls would prepare their dowry as it was a big deal back then. This meant that their daughter should have her clothes, underwear, kitchenware, home decorative items, and linen all ready for when she'd meet her husband. These items were either purchased by the single girl herself and her mother, or handmade. On the Thursday before a Sunday wedding, the dowry was taken to the couple's future home with carriages, horses, cars or even trucks! It was also customary for the bride to display her dowry at her parent's home so people could wish her upon her imminent wedding, before she moved the dowry to her new home. Today, dowry is no longer a necessity, except for very few cases in villages.

Several Greek wedding traditions



Can I see the Bride?
The groom to be is not allowed to see his bride the day before the wedding. It is considered bad luck if otherwise. If for not anything else, it increases suspense!
The groom carries his bride on his hands and, together, they enter their home (or their hotel room) the first night after the wedding. That's a way to cast away the evil spirits lurking under the flooring to catch the bride!


The Number of Koufeta
The number of koufeta placed inside a bomboniera should always be an odd number, which usually 5 or 7. That is because it's believed that an odd number cannot be divided by 2. It represents the wish the new couple will never be divided. That aside, the koufeta are part of the servings to the guests at the house the morning following the wedding. It's also a tradition that single women sleep with a couple of koufeta under their pillow for 3 days so they can dream of their husband to be!


Let's Cross the Doorstep Together, Honey!
It is believed that if the bride trips or falls while passing the doorstep of her new home, she will have a turbulent marriage. This is another reason why the groom lifts her up in his arms and takes her inside their home!


It's Bad (or Good) Luck to...
• It is bad luck a bride sees another bride.
• If it's raining on your wedding day, you should be happy! The rain makes the land fertile. Likewise, if it rains the day of your wedding, you will have many children!
• If the wedding rings or stefana fall down, it is not a good sign.
• Leap year weddings were considered to be doomed to fail for thousands of years now. The Romans believed that February was the month of the dead, so no weddings were performed during that month until very recently. It all started with royal families which ruled that when a wedding between blue-blooded was taking place, no other wedding was allowed within that same year. When a king got married on a leap year, nobody else could get married that year. Over the course of time that incident became a superstition and was established as a ground rule: No couple should get married on a leap year. What can I say? Are you eager to postpone your wedding for another year and a day!!!


Can I Have a Cup of Coffee? Heck, NO!
In some areas in Greece, the family (particularly old ladies) doesn't offer a cup of coffee. Even to the photographer! They believe they shouldn't be making and drink coffee on a wedding day!

Three flower girls holding traditional baskets

Sweets & Drinks are Served!

Traditionally, wedding bombonieres (wedding favours) are filled with sweet sugar almonds called koufeta that are given to the guests. They have a strong symbolic meaning at the wedding and their egg shape represents fertility. Their sugary flavour symbolises the sweetness of the couple's future life while their hard almond heart represents the endurance of the marriage. Τhere are usually 7 koufeta in each bomboniere as are the Divine Mysteries of the Orthodox Church. However, there are also bombionieres with 5 koufeta, which symbolise fertility, health, happiness, longevity, and prosperity. As for their colour, white koufeta are traditionally used for a wedding as white symbolises purity. However, you may also see silver, gold, pink, green, orange or even blue koufeta if the couple has decided to match their bombonieres with the wedding theme! It should be noted that the bombonieres are only offered by single girls and guests receiving them usually wish the girls a quick and happy marriage to them, too!
Local sweets
Depending on the area where a wedding takes place, different treats are offered to the guests before the wedding. For example:

At the beautiful island of Amorgos, guests are treated with pieces of pasteli (sesame seed candy) placed over lemon tree leaves or rolled pasteli bites followed by a glass of Muscat Blanc (Barefoot Moscato Wine).

At Kimolos island, people offer guests a piece of pasteli with the bomboniere, which symbolise the newly weds' sweet life and the deep attachment to one another!

The Peloponnese mother-in-laws, on the other hand, make diples (desert made with thin sheet-like dough, rolled into thin strips, fried in hot oil and dipped in syrup or honey) that they make themselves. And, after the wedding, they place a traditional scarf on the newly weds' heads after they offer them a spoonful of honey and walnuts.

At Kyparissia, the bride's family makes the bridal bread called kouloura and adorn it with lovely flowers, bird figures, and stars, all made from dough. In the middle, they place two beautiful pigeons that symbolise the bride and groom. The kouloura is then cut and offered to the guests after the wedding dinner. There are cases, though, where the couple gets to keep the kouloura for themselves as a wedding memorabilia!

In the Etoloakarnania region, it's customary to offer kourampiedes (shortbread-type butter biscuits with almonds and lots of powdered sugar that covers each one!) on the wedding day, along with a drink.

Among the countless Thracian wedding traditions, I have noticed that the tsoureki (Greek Easter sweet bread) called “kouliki” made by the bride's father is something common. Once the father makes the kouliki, the bride's friends break the bread over her head after making the sign of the cross with basil leaves. Then, pieces of that bread are offered to the guests. Also, single girls place a piece under their pillow to dream of their future hubby!

Homemade wedding treats and sweets have a significant place in every home in Mytilene, too. The fabulous island is blessed with abundant sunlight and a great climate that allows trees to reach their prime soon, offering plenty of fruits that the women of the island use to make their famous spoon sweets. Besides the baklava that's also a primary wedding treat at Mytilene, Lesvos' amugdalota (almond cookies) are also popular. Some people even say that the almond cookies there are the best in Greece! I must say, I tend to agree with them! They taste delicious! They are also treats the bride offers her mother-in-law at the engagement ceremony.

Finally, in the mountainous regions of Naxos island, guests to a wedding are offered a glass or raki or tsipouro and xerotigano (also a traditional Cretan homemade delight dripping with honey that symbolises abundance and happiness) along with their bonboniere. To make the xerotigano, all the women of the village gather at the bride's home to give a hand, because the preparation is very time-consuming. Again, the mother of the groom gives the newlyweds honey when they arrive home, something I have seen in many weddings across the country.

Simillar wedding traditional sweets with small variations can be found in other parts of Greece of course.
Other treats and sweets
Other treats and sweets also offered to the guests include:
• meringues
• macaroons,
• pishies,
• pastitsi,
• kourabiedes,
• loukoumia,
• nougat,
• glutzista,
• kserotigana and diples,
• katimeria,

and many more, along with soumada (orgeat almond drink with rose water and sugar).
Greek traditional koufeta sweets

We love greek wedding traditions, however

The rich Greek folklore is meant to add traditional elements to a wedding and not overwhelm the couple and their families with too much stress. Unlike what was believed in the past – that if something is not done as the ancestors dictated then the wedding was doomed to fail – people have finally convinced themselves that tradition is there to make things happier and merrier, not harder :)

A Greek wedding tradition with koumbaros

Let s talk about the

The Koumparos / The Koumpara

The koumparos is the couple's best man. Τhe koumpara (or coumera in Cypriot dialect) refers to a woman and is pretty much like the bride's maid of honour only with more responsibilities! And they both play a vital role in the Greek ceremony. Traditionally, the groom's godfather or his children were asked to serve first or a family member or a close friend of the couple or the family.

I believe that the koumparos or koumpara plays a much more vital role than the British/American Best Man and Maid of Honor. The koumparos in Greece was the “sponsor” of the marriage, and has always a very special role in the ceremony, performing rituals. Indeed, in some geographic regions, such as Epirus, I've been to weddings where the koumparos and his family were extremely appreciated and honoured with various traditions paying tribute to them and lots of traditional dancing involved.

I remember a wedding at Santorini among local families. The groom met with the bride at her home and they walked all the way to the church, through cobble-stoned, quaint streets, always accompanied by the music of a band playing traditional wedding songs. However, it was not the groom that was escorting the bride to the church; it was the koumparos! The groom was walking behind them!

Also, the koumparos and koumpara are both blessed with the honour of becoming the couple's first born child's godparents. Through the practice of baptism, the koumparos or koumpara become the child's spiritual parents and mentors.

Did I mention that a long time ago, politicians were the most preferred people to become the koumparos-wedding sponsor? Yes, that's true, even today, although not as customary as before!


Preparations Before the Wedding

The Groom gets Shaved by his Best Man!
On the wedding day, the groom’s friends will help him get ready. The koumparos will shave him; this confirms the trust between the two men. His friends will help to dress him. One might assist him to tie his bow and another may help him put his blazer on.

A Greek groom is being shaved by his best man while dancing traditional songs

The Bride's Friends Help her Put on her Wedding Dress!
Accordingly, at the bride’s house, her koumpara and friends will help her put her dress on. At his time in some parts of Greece, they are also singing traditional wedding songs. Just before the bride puts her shoes on, she will write the names of her unmarried friends on the bottom of her shoes. The tradition says that the names of the girls that will be erased by the end of the day will get married soon.

The Koumparos Pays for the Bride's Wedding Shoe to Fit!
The koumparos visits the bride's house the day of the wedding to escort her to church. But, the doors are shut! There are many traditions around his visit. For example, he may have to bring a fried chicken all fancily decorated and adorned in exchange to enter the house! Then, he must help the bride put her shoes on. At this point, the bride always pretends the shoes don't fit her as they are too large! Then, the koumparos places money to make her feet slide in until the happy bride-to-be says she is comfortable in her wedding shoes! This “show” could continue with other men in the home, such as the bride's father, who may also try his luck and see if he can make that shoe fit!

Friends of the bride helping her getting ready

The Cypriot “Stolisma”
In Cyprus, the tradition indicates the “stolisma”. When the bride is ready, a band plays a song that calls all the bride’s relatives to give her their bless. During this ritual, a red scarf is passed around the bride’s waist which symbolizes fertility. The same ritual is performed on the groom, too. Then the “Kapnistiri” takes place, which is a censer traditionally used as a smoke blessing to the bride and groom.


The Ceremony (General)

Some of the wedding rituals and traditions have changed while others have been replaced by others over time. For example, in Greek weddings, the groom, his family and other guests wait at the church's yard for the bride and her family to arrive. Then, the bride's father or brother escorts her and hands her over to the groom outside the church's entrance. It’s custom for the Greek groom to have brought a bouquet for his bride, which he presents to her as her parents give her away, before they walk the aisle to the priest.

Abroad, many Greeks have adopted the etiquette of the western cultures, where the bride's father hands her over to her future husband in front of the priest, inside the church. Although there is nothing wrong with it, they actually miss out on a fantastic and fun show taking place upon the bride's arrival, when the car driving her to the church (and the cars of the guests following it!) doesn't stop and circles around the church, making as much noise as possible! This gives the feeling that the bride, who must traditionally arrive late, may have second thoughts, which increases anxiety and anticipation on the groom's side! To be honest here, this ritual also serves the guests that have escorted the bride's car to the church. By having the bride doing circles around the church, they get the chance to find a spot and park their cars (imagine that there are as many as 300-1000 people at the wedding!).

That aside, the waiting phase outside the church is one of the most symbolic moments in a couple's new life. It's where the two families meet one last time before their children leave their nest and start their own family with the blessings of their parents and loved ones.

The ceremony itself is a beautiful act of customs and rituals of Orthodox Church, unchanged since the 11th century. It lasts 30 to 60 minutes and it has many acts that symbolize beliefs that need to be followed.

A bride arrives at the Greek church

Truth be told, nobody wants to miss the bride's arrival. And, when she meets with her groom and they kiss they all clap their hands! What a wonderful sensation!

“This is a great mystery, and it is an illustration of the way Christ and the Church are one.” (Ephesians 5:32)

As Fr Joseph Paliouras mentions: For Apostle Paul marriage is a great Mystery and illustrates a bond of perfect union and devotion; one that is eternal and unbreakable. The very presence of our Lord at the Wedding at Cana (John 2:1-12) just shows us how important this mystery is to our Holly Church, and we can all understand why it is so blessed.Two people become one under the eyes of God and promise to share a life filled with sincere, pure, and constant love and respect, not withstanding each other's failures and defects; just like Christ gave himself for the church. To all of you planning to get married soon, please accept my fatherly advice and choose to start your new life and meet within the bosom of our Church.
(The Very Revd. Protopresbyter Joseph Paliouras serves at the 12 Apostles Church in Hertfordshire, UK).

Greek wedding traditions at the church

The Decorations

There is always a pair of wedding candles (the height of a small child or taller) that are placed opposite the couple, inside the church. Over time, the wedding decorations have included hallway embellishments, flower compositions on the stairs, and even decorative pieces, such as lanterns and balloons outside the church. Of course, both the bride and groom's homes and balconies are also decorated with tulle inspirations (and not only), with the bride's being the fancier! In short, if there is a wedding in Greece, everybody in the neighbourhood or a random passerby will know!


What Happens During the Wedding Ceremony

There are some common rituals in almost every wedding I've been called to immortalise. For example: The stefana, which may have flower embroideries, are linked with a ribbon that   See more...

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