Welcome to the world of Greek weddings, where the sun shines bright, the sea sparkles, and love is celebrated in the most joyous and festive ways.
Greece has been known for its vibrant culture, rich traditions, and passionate people from ancient times to the modern day. As you might expect, when it comes to weddings, Greeks sure know how to throw a party.
So grab a glass of ouzo, don your dancing shoes, and join us as we explore the exciting and colourful world of Greek wedding traditions. Opa!
The engagement process
The engagement process is an essential aspect of Greek wedding traditions and involves several customs that bring the two families together to celebrate the couple’s union.
First, the groom visits the bride’s father and asks permission to marry his daughter. Once permission is given, the couple exchange
In traditional Greek culture, the bride often has a dowry of linens made by her and the other women in her family. The bride’s father may also gift the couple a furnished house.
The groom’s family, particularly the mother-in-law, is tasked with organising an engagement party and presenting gifts to the bride-to-be.
In provincial areas, a priest is invited to bless the engagement rings during the party and counsel the upcoming marriage.
A Greek engagement can last for many years, and it’s intended as a time for the pair to get to know each other and plan the wedding ceremony. If you’ve seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002), you’ll understand how complicated and extravagant the celebrations can be!
Greek wedding dress traditions
Like many cultures, the bride’s wedding dress is integral to Greek nuptials. A Greek wedding dress is traditionally white and made from silk or chiffon, with intricate lace patterns and embroidery.
In some parts of Greece, the groom gifts the bride her wedding shoes. The Koumbaro (best man) delivers them to her on the wedding day while she’s getting ready, and then a scene plays out where the bride pretends they are too big.
The Koumbaro fills the shoes with money to fit the bride, and the unmarried bridesmaids write their names on the shoes’ soles. The names worn off the shoes by the end of the wedding day are supposedly the people who will marry soon.
Greek Orthodox wedding ceremony
If attending a Greek wedding, you’ll likely witness Greek Orthodox traditional customs and rituals. Over 98% of the country identifies with the faith, and weddings are one of its seven sacraments.
A Greek Orthodox wedding ceremony is a beautiful and sacred event steeped in tradition and symbolism. It usually occurs in an Orthodox church, a spectacular setting with unique artwork and design.
Unlike most ceremonies in the UK, Greek wedding guests aren’t already seated when the bride arrives at the church. Instead, they gather outside to greet her as she meets the groom at the church doors. The bride then walks down the aisle with the groom and her father, following the wedding party.
The wedding is split into two parts — the Service of Betrothal and the Service of the Crowning. Rituals in the sacrament are done three times to signify the Holy Trinity.
The service begins with lighting the candles and the Joining of the Hands. The groom and bride are each given a tapered candle (Lambathes), which is then lit to symbolise their willingness to receive Christ.
The Joining of the Hands involves the priest joining the couple’s right hands and saying prayers to grant the pair a peaceful, happy, and long life together. The engagement rings are repurposed as wedding rings, exchanged in the Service of Betrothal, and placed on the couple’s right hands.
One of the most iconic Greek wedding traditions is the Crowning of Stefana. During this part, the couple each wears a crown, usually made from olive leaves or flowers, joined together by a ribbon.
As the priest places them on the pair’s heads, God crowns them as king and queen of their homes and founders of a new generation.
Sacred scriptures are read before the groom and bride sip blessed wine from a cup. The priest then leads the couple in a ceremonial walk called the Dance of Isaiah, celebrating their first steps as husband and wife.
Finally, the priest removes the crowns and brings the book of the Holy Gospels down on the pair’s joined hands to remind them that only God can separate them.
Traditional Greek wedding food and drinks
Greek weddings are famous for their delicious and plentiful food and drink offerings. They reflect the country’s rich culinary heritage and are served abundantly to ensure no guest goes home hungry.
The main course at a traditional Greek wedding typically features a roasted meat dish, usually lamb, with sides including vegetables and Greek-style potatoes or rice.
Starters may be dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), keftedes (Greek meatballs), spanakopita (spinach and feta cheese pie), and tyropita (cheese pie).
For dessert, expect to see the famous baklava, galaktoboureko (custard-filled filo pastry), and kourabedies (celebration cookies).
Greek weddings are also generous in drink offerings, with plenty of wine and spirits served to guests. Have a glass of Retsina and Assyrtiko — traditional Greek wine — or see in the party with classic spirits like ouzo and tsipouro.
Greek wedding dances
Now’s where the real party begins. Greek weddings are widely known for their dances and music, making the nuptials joyful.
One of the most famous Greek wedding dances is the ‘Kalamatianos’, a traditional dance involving a group of dancers forming a circle and performing a series of steps and movements.
Another is the ‘Tsifteteli’, a solo dance performed by a female dancer and accompanied by music played on a bouzouki, a traditional Greek stringed instrument.
Modern music and dances are also performed at Greek weddings to keep the party going. Guests are encouraged to take to the dance floor to celebrate the newlyweds.
Why do Greeks smash plates?
You can’t have a traditional Greek wedding without smashing a couple of plates.
Plate smashing is synonymous with Greek culture and is performed at weddings and special events to bring good luck and ward off evil spirits. As the plates and glasses are thrown to the ground and broken, guests shout, “Opa!” and enthusiastically dance around the area.
Attending a Greek wedding
Taking part in a Greece wedding is a beautiful experience, and the celebrations have deep historical roots that make for unique celebrations.
Here are some things to note before attending a Greek traditional wedding.
When attending a Greek wedding, it’s crucial to dress appropriately and respectfully. You should check with the bride and groom about specific cultural customs to be aware of, especially if the wedding takes place in a rural or traditional area.
- wear a suit or smart trousers with a shirt and tie
- wear darker colours, such as black, navy, or charcoal
- choose leather shoes over sneakers or other casual shoes
- avoid wearing shorts or sandals, which are considered too casual for a wedding.
- wear a formal or semi-formal dress
- avoid wearing anything too revealing or too short
- choose a dress that’s elegant and comfortable to dance in
- wear high heels or dressy flats
- avoid wearing white or ivory, as they are reserved for the bride
- take a change of clothes if attending the ceremony and evening reception.
Giving gifts to the newlyweds is a common tradition at Greek weddings, and it’s a way to show your love and support for the couple.
Some gift ideas include:
- money — this is the most traditional wedding gift in Greece. It’s usually given in an envelope, and the amount depends on how close you are to the couple.
- kitchenware — food is a big part of Greek culture, making kitchenware another popular wedding present.
- wine or spirits — Greek wine and spirits are greatly appreciated gifts, especially vintage or locally sourced bottles.
- jewellery — it’s common to gift jewellery to the bride, especially pieces with crosses, Greek key pendants, pearl sets, or items with a Mati (“evil eye”) to ward off evil spirits.
- sweets — at some Greek weddings, there is a ‘pastry table’ where guests can leave traditional sweets, cakes, and biscuits.
Greek wedding favours, or ‘boubounieres with koufeta’, are a small and lovely way for the bride and groom to thank guests for participating in the celebrations.
Traditional favours are white sugar-coated almonds, symbolising purity, fertility, and endurance. The bride and bridesmaids will wrap an odd number in netting for each favour, representing that (like odd numbers) the couple cannot be divided.
After attending a wedding, unmarried Greek women will sometimes tuck the koufeta under their pillows to dream of their future husbands.