Friday, July 16, 2010

Greek-Orthodox Weddings

Both Mr. Milk and I are Greek-Orthodox. Neither of us can say that we actively practice our religion, but we both believe in a higher power and want to be married in a church. While having a discussion with a close friend of mine, who is also getting married in Cyprus in a few weeks, I realized that I should have some information on the marriage ceremony and traditions for our international friends, particularly since the ceremony will be in Greek. While searching for some information online, it occurred to me that I don't actually know a lot about why the ceremony is the way it is! So I though I would share with you what I found out about our wedding ceremony :)

The Beginning of the Wedding

The groom waits for the bride at the entrance to the church, holding her floral bouquet. He hands it to her as they meet and they then go inside together followed by the guests. There is no separation of the guests into guests of the bride and guests of the groom, everyone sits together and in the case of small churches, many people prefer to stand in a spot where they can get a good view of the proceedings. The wedding ceremony itself is in two parts: the Service of Betrothal and the Ceremony of the Sacrament of Marriage, and last approximately 45 minutes.

Service of Betrothal

The exchanging of rings is the focus of the Service of Betrothal. The priest blesses the rings by holding them in his right hand and making the sign of the cross in front of the bride and groom. The rings are then placed on the third fingers of their right hands. The "Koumbaro" (best man) and “Koumera” (Maid of Honor), then swaps the rings over between the bride and groom's fingers, three times. A number of rituals in the ceremony are repeated three times and this symbolizes the Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Ceremony of the Sacrament of Marriage

This ceremony consists of several key parts. First, several prayers are said and then as they come to an end, the priest joins the right hands of the bride and groom. Their hands remain joined until the end of the wedding ceremony, which symbolizes the couple's union.

The bride and groom are crowned with thin crowns, or "stefana", which are joined by a white ribbon and have been blessed by the priest. The crowns symbolise the glory and honour that is being bestowed on them by God, and the ribbon symbolises their unity. The best man and maid of honor then exchange the crowns between the heads of the couple three times.

The "stefana" or crowns

The crowning is followed by a reading of the Gospel, which tells of the marriage of Cana at Galilee. It was at this wedding that Jesus performed his first miracle, changing water into wine, which was then given to the married couple. Wine is given to the couple and they each drink from it three times.

The priest then leads the couple, who are still wearing their "stefana", three times around the altar, taking their first steps as a married couple. The best man and maid of honor follow close behind the couple holding the crowns in place. At this point the couple (and anyone standing nearby) is usually showered with rice, which was earlier handed out to the wedding guests.

The sugar coated almonds (koufeta, also shown in the picture), which are placed on the tray with the crowns, and are later offered to the guests, are symbolic. The white symbolizes 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 symbolizes the sweetness of future life. (Adapted from: source 1 and source 2)

So what do you ladies think? Did you find out anything you didn't know or interesting about your ceremonies?

3 fabulous blogger's comments:

Anonymous said...

Very cool chocolate lover. I'll try to learn some Greek to make sure they are saying it all correctly!

miss you!!

Ams said...

I LOVE this idea...
I love tradition, I love rituals and all of these are so beautiful and meaningful!!! :)

Mrs T said...

I love ceremony and traditions. Can I come to your wedding?