Although there is a great variety of local customs throughout Greece, the Greek Orthodox wedding ceremony, has remained the same during centuries. It consists of two main parts which both have religious significance: The Betrothal Service and the Marriage Ceremony.
The wedding begins with the Betrothal Service at the door of the church and is completed before the altar table. The bride and the groom stand at the vestibule of the church in front of the priest who asks them if they come of their own free will. Then, he leads the couple to the church and they stand in front of the altar table. The priest blesses the rings and the best man places them on the right ring finger of the groom and bride. Best man is known in Greece as “Koumparos” (male) and “Koumpara” (female). He/ She exchange them three times between the couple, symbolizing that their lives are entwined forever. The priest will seal the rings on their finger by chanting a pray and placing his vestment over their crossed hands.
Afterwards, the Marriage Ceremony begins with the priest giving the bride and groom lighted candles which they hold throughout the ceremony. Nowadays, instead of holding the candles, most couples prefer to have two big candles standing on the ground. The lighted candles represent the Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, Who will light and bless the couple in their new life together. The ceremony continues with the crowning of the couple. The priest holds the wedding crowns, known in Greece as “stephana”, and makes the sign of cross with them three times over the bride and groom. The wedding crowns are linked together by a ribbon, representing the joining of two souls and that the couple is ready to create their own household, their own “kingdom”. The groom and the bride kiss the crowns before they are placed on their heads; the best man switches the “stephana” back and forth three times.
Once the couple is crowned, Bible readings will be chant about the responsibilities and duties of marriage. The bride and groom drink red wine from the same cup and eat honey with nuts from the same spoon, which signifies that the couple is ready to share happiness and sorrow together. The red wine symbolizes the blood of Jesus Christ. Then, the priest will lead the bride and groom around the altar table three times while he is holding the Bible in his hands. In Greece it is called “The Dance of Isaiah” and symbolizes that the couple will follow the Word of God as they start a new life while the circular dance represents the eternity of a marriage, there is neither a beginning nor an end. During the “Dance of Isaiah”, the guests throw rice and rose petals to the couple to wish them a happy and long-lasting marriage.
At the end of the ceremony, the priest lifts the crowns from the heads of the couple and uses the Bible to uncouple the joining hands of the bride and groom, representing that only God is able to divide the couple.
After the ceremony, the newlyweds thank all the guests for their presence by distributing “bombonieres”, a party favor which contains an uneven number of koufeta (sugar-coated almonds), symbolizing that the couple can not be divided. Usually a reception follows where the newlyweds dance the first dance of the reception and later there are accompanied by their families.