Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Greek Orthodox wedding ceremonies

The Greek Orthodox wedding begins with the Betrothal Service during which the Priest blesses the rings. The rings are then placed on the ring fingers of the right hands (as it symbolizes the “good” hand according to the Bible) of the bride and groom by the best man (Koumbaros) or Maid of Honour (Koumbara), who then exchanges the rings between the couple three times signifying that the two have become one, forever. The Priest then says a prayer to seal the rings upon their fingers and Marriage ceremony begins.

The Marriage ceremony:

This portion of the Greek wedding ceremony has many significant parts. The joining of hands, symbolizes that the couple has been joined as one. The bride and groom remain with their hands held together for the remainder of the ceremony.

The Crowning:

The crowning of the couple with the stefana (two crowns linked together by ribbon), signifies the joining of the couple as one and that the couple is prepared to establish their own kingdom as head of a new family. The Priest crowns the couple and the Koumbaro switches the crowns back and forth three times on the couples’ head.

The Common Cup:

Once the couple is crowned, the Priest recites readings of the Epistle and the Gospel. This Gospel reading is to remember the first miracle which Christ performed during the marriage of Cana at Galilee where he converted water into wine. The Priest presents the couple with a single glass of wine that they must drink from symbolizing that they will share the “cup of life” together.

The Ceremonial Walk:

Next, the couple circles the altar table, three times, while holding hands and joined by the stefana. The Priest recites passages and carries a gilded Book of Gospels which signifies that the couple will follow the word of God as they begin their new lives together. Circling the table signifies the eternity of marriage. At the end of the ceremony, the Priest blesses the couple and lifts the crowns from their heads which indicates the end of the marriage ceremony and the beginning of their new life together.

The Koumbaros or best man, usually the bride and groom’s best friends (2) take this position, they act as the witnesses, exchange the wedding crowns, exchange the wedding rings and accompany the couple around the ceremony table three times. It is customary for the koumbaros to become the godparents to the couple’s first child.

The Koumbaros provide the tall candles for the ceremony, the wedding crowns, favors and pay for all costs incurred in the church (donations, lighting, psalmists, etc.). They sometimes undertake to pay for the decoration (flowers, aisle carpet, candles, etc.)

Contact the Priest performing the ceremony if you would like to ask if a non Greek Orthodox faith or non Christian faith person can be your second Koumbaros (at least one must be Greek Orthodox), sometimes the priest will allow this as long as they don’t partake in the exchange of the wedding crowns or the rings.

Stefana or wedding crowns, these are linked together with a white ribbon symbolizing the link that will connect the couple throughout their married lives.

The crowns sit on a tray of sugared almonds until they are placed on the couple’s heads during the ceremony. According to tradition, single girls can take a sugared almond to place under their pillow that night and will see their future husband in their dream.

At the end of the ceremony, both sets of parents kiss the crowns and the couple after which the priest ties the crowns together with the ribbon and gives them to the couple for safekeeping.

An idea to consider is giving out rice bags to all your guests; this symbolizes the seeding of the couple’s marriage and is thrown as the couple is led around the ceremony table three times. As this is the only time that your guests can partake in the ceremony, I think it is important to acknowledge and encourage this.

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