Some Greek wedding traditions

Hello and hope you are all well on this cold and wet Friday evening.  We have just managed to get our son to bed, and this has given us both a chance to catch up with some work!

Those who know me will know that my wife is Greek Cypriot and that we had a traditional Greek wedding (albeit we did not include a couple of the traditions that are usually found).   The day was magnificent (you can see from some of the pictures), with wonderful bouzouki music, amazing food and not forgetting the people who were there that made the day so special.  Many guest who were present have often asked me what certain bits meant – which I explained to them, but I also thought that it may be an idea to put them here on my blog.  So next time you are invited to a Greek Wedding you will understand what certain parts of the day mean.

The Red Scarf

The Red Scarf takes place at home prior to the actual wedding ceremony at the respective bride and groom’s houses.  Many people are not aware what the red scarf that is tied around the bride and groom symbolises. For the woman it signifies her virginity and for the man his fertility. It is wrapped around the bride and groom three times by their parents and close family and friends.

Crowns / Stefana

There is one Greek wedding tradition, in particular, that would be beautiful to include in any wedding ceremony, and that is the stefana, or wedding crowns. This is an ancient Greek custom, and no Greek wedding would be complete without it. The bride and groom wear a pair of crowns that is bound together by ribbons. The crowns symbolize the nobility of marriage and the fact that the newlyweds will be forever bound together in their new family. In an Orthodox service, the priest will say a prayer over the stefana and the newlyweds, wishing them all of God’s blessings in their new life together, as well as hoping for the family to be ruled wisely.

The marriage crowns are extremely important to a Greek couple, and will be saved after the wedding, and often placed on display in their new home. Some people are even buried in their stefana, they are that important. The ribbon that binds the two crowns is to be kept intact for a lifetime, as it represents the lasting union between the bride and groom. Traditionally, the crowns were made of materials ranging from lemon leaves to vines to gold and jewels. Because they are considered a lasting keepsake, brides today will often have custom bridal jewelry created to match the look of their crowns, or vice versa. The bridal jewelry and the stefana can both be handcrafted of the same fine materials, such as pearls, sterling silver, and Swarovksi crystals.

Shaving the Groom

The groom is dressed by his koumbaro (best man) and witnessed by family and friends. He is also shaved by the koumbaro which is known, very ominously, as the ‘last shave”.  The koumbaro then proceeds to putting the groom’s shirt, waistcoat and cravat on all done whilst the violin and singer play and sing music to praise the groom before his departure from home to the church.

Brides’ Shoes

Before the bride puts on her shoes she lists all her single friends’ names under her shoe.   At the end of the night she takes it off and the name which still appears on the shoe is the girl who will get married next!

Sugar Almonds and red ribbon

The sugar coated almonds which are placed on the tray with the crowns and which will later be offered to the guests are also symbolic. The white symbolises purity, the egg shape represents fertility and the new life which begins with marriage. The hardness of the almond represents the endurance of marriage and the sweetness of the sugar symbolises the sweetness of future life. The odd number of almonds is indivisible, just as a couple the bride and groom shall remain undivided. After the ceremony the almonds and ribbon are shared amongst the single women who apparently if the ribbon is placed under their pillow that night they will see in their dreams the man they will marry.

The newly-wed dance

This dance is performed half way through the night by the newly- weds to honour their guests. It is also a chance for their guests whilst the couple is dancing to pin money on them as a gift. Receiving money is far better, in my opinion, as the money you receive can go towwards paying the wedding off, and any other debts.  What better way to start your married life?  Not worrying about debt!

Throwing the bouquet and garter

This tradition has been passed on from other cultures. At the end of the evening all single girls gather on the dance floor and the bride at a fair distance from them with her back turned to them throws her bouquet in the air at random. The girl who caches the bouquet is the next to be married. Similarly the groom ‘crawl’ under the brides skirt and detached the garter from the bride’s leg with his teeth. Once his has successfully got it between his teeth all the single men gather at a distance from the groom and with his back turned to them he throws the garter at random. The man who catches it is the next one to be married.

Stefana / Wedding Crowns

This is an ancient Greek custom, and no Greek wedding would be complete without it. The bride and groom wear a pair of crowns that is bound together by ribbons. The crowns symbolize the nobility of marriage and the fact that the newlyweds will be forever bound together in their new family. In an Orthodox service, the priest will say a prayer over the stefana and the newlyweds, wishing them all of God’s blessings in their new life together, as well as hoping for the family to be ruled wisely.

The marriage crowns are extremely important to a Greek couple, and will be saved after the wedding, and often placed on display in their new home. Some people are even buried in their stefana, they are that important. The ribbon that binds the two crowns is to be kept intact for a lifetime, as it represents the lasting union between the bride and groom. Traditionally, the crowns were made of materials ranging from lemon leaves to vines to gold and jewels. Because they are considered a lasting keepsake, brides today will often have custom bridal jewelry created to match the look of their crowns, or vice versa. The bridal jewelry and the stefana can both be handcrafted of the same fine materials, such as pearls, sterling silver, and Swarovksi crystals.

I hope that this has helped you understand Greek Weddings a little bit more?  If you have any questions, or comments, then please get in touch!  Here are a couple of photos from my wedding illustrating some of the above customs.

All photographs copyright David Kuzan.

If you’re thinking about getting married in Cyprus, then click here to find out more about what you have to do before you can say “I do!”

Please let me know in the comments section whether this article has been of use to you and helped you learn and understand Greek Wedding Traditions

Many thanks.

Todor

My website

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