Living here in Orange County, we are exposed to so many great cultural differences. It’s an opportunity to meet people from all over and to learn about their countries and eat their amazing cuisines. What makes it better for me being an Orange County Professional Photographer is the opportunity to witness such a wide variety of wedding traditions. From Indian to various Asian to various Latin, but one you may not think about is a Greek Orthodox Wedding Ceremony. Three16 Photography honors Greek Wedding Traditions as well as all wedding traditions throughout the world.
For couples that are looking to have a Greek Orthodox wedding, there are many traditions that have been part of the wedding ceremony that are centuries old. The ceremony, reception, food, dance and all the loud fun makes for a great Greek traditional wedding.
Prior to the Wedding
There are particular dates of the year that according to Greek Orthodox tradition are considered bad luck and should be avoided at all costs. They include:
• The 40 days that lead up to Easter.
• The first two weeks of August as these days are dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
• August 29th as this marks the death of Saint John the Baptist.
• September 14th as this is the celebration of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.
• The 40 days that lead up to Christmas.
The Koumbaros and/or The Koumbara
Simply put, the Koumbaros is the best man, while the Koumbara is the bride’s maid of honor. One of the traditions that is carried out by these two individuals include preparing the groom and his bride for the wedding ceremony.
The Koumbara will lead the women from the bridal party to the bride. There they will prepare the bride by helping her get dressed and ready for the ceremony. As they are dressing the bride there is a likely chance the bridesmaids will be singing traditional Greek wedding songs. One unique aspect to her getting ready is she will write the names of her single friends on the bottom of her shoe prior to putting them on. According to tradition, the names will begin to disappear from her shoes as she walks throughout the ceremony and celebration. Those names that disappear are believed to be getting married soon.
The Koumbaro, or the best man, will be the one that shaves the groom that morning. This just proves the trust, reliability and closeness between the two men; a true friendship. Then the rest of the friends will join the koumbaro and help him get dressed. In addition to serving in these roles, these two were selected to also fill the role of godparents, should the couple give birth to children.
The Wedding Ceremony
There are several Greek Orthodox Wedding Traditions you will see throughout the wedding ceremony. Some are steeped in history and others have special religious meanings. A Greek Orthodox Wedding generally last about 30 to 60 minutes. For the most part the following is what you are likely to see.
The Blessings of the Rings
Often throughout the ceremony many things are done in three’s, in fact almost everything is done in odd numbers. The number three represents the Holy Trinity – the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. At the start of the ceremony, the bride and groom will place their rings on the tips of their wedding fingers. It will be the job of the koumbaro to exchange them three times, after which, the priest will bless the rings three times.
The bride and groom will hold the candles throughout the wedding ceremony. These candles represent the light of Jesus Christ.
The Common Cup
The bride and groom will also share “the common cup” where they will take three sips of wine from the cup as the cup represents a successful and happy marriage .
Traditionally, there are two readings that are presented during a Greek Orthodox wedding. The first one will be the Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians. This reading highlights the joining of two people. The second reading is the Gospel according to St. John. This reading highlights the miracle of Jesus turning water into wine while the bride and groom are sipping from the common cup.
The Wedding Crowns
Probably the most known or recognizable Greek wedding tradition are the Marital Crowns, also known as Stefana. Thought to have originated in the 11th century, the Stefana is made up of precious metals, flowers or foliage and then are combined together by the use of a strand of ribbon. They represent the joining of two people into the union of a single couple. The Koumbaro will swap the Stefana back and forth three times and the bride and groom will walk three times around the altar wearing the Stefana. Prior to removing the crowns, the priest will then bless the couple.
This tradition is still just as important in a Greek wedding today as has for centuries.
The Martyrika is simply Greek Wedding Witness Pins. After the ceremony is over, the Koumbaros will hand out these tiny lapel pins that includes a small ribbon to the guests. Traditionally, the Greek wedding colors are blue, white or pink and may include a small cross located in the center of the pin. These pins symbolize the sacrament of the wedding the guests were just witnessed to. Often the couple will have their flower girls hand out the pins in lieu of the best man.
First of all, expect a Greek wedding celebration to be very loud as they celebrate the new couple. And what celebration doesn’t love dancing? Greek traditions at the reception almost always includes dancing. Traditional dances include the Tsamiko, the Zeibekiko and the Sirtaki, where the guests are in a circle holding hands.
A different tradition than what we are used to in Western Culture is that traditionally the couple share the last dance of the night instead of the first. While dancing, guests can throw money at the couple or they may opt to pin the money directly on their clothes.
The food at a Greek wedding is amazing! Food differs from location to location, but what is common is that the amount of meat present is massive. And don’t forget incredible baklava!
Some Fun Tidbits and Superstitions
• Jordan Almonds, also known as Bomboniera or Koufeta, are packaged together and given as gifts to the wedding guests. These almonds represent fertility, as well as purity and for the endurance of the marriage. Typically, the Bomboniera is filled with an odd number of almonds that cannot be divided. An example of divided would be the number nine. It’s an odd number, but you can evenly divide it into threes. Therefore, five is the most likely amount you will find. The five almonds symbolize:
o A Long Life
• Once in a while you will come across seven almonds being used, which represents:
o Purity & Partnership and/or Unity with Christ
• The bride and her groom often invite an odd number of guests, as well as an odd number of attendants to stand next to them. Odd numbers are considered good luck.
• A lump of sugar placed inside the bride’s glove is thought to ensure a sweet life. Adding a gold coin to the inside of her shoe, will be looked at bringing good financial fortune and freedoms.
• Iron is thought to ward off evil spirits throughout the day. So, it’s recommended that the groom place a piece in his pocket!