“Simera ya, simera yamos yinetai…”
You’d be hard pressed to find a Greek wedding that hasn’t heard this traditional song in the house or on the street as the nuptials prepare for the big day.
Although we now have the ability to play this song from our phones or sound systems in our homes or at a wedding on a Greek island (as has become de rigueur), back then the Wedding parties traditionally marched with their families and guests to church, followed by the whole village, and musicians playing that same song.
There are a myriad of different traditions associated with Greek weddings, depending on the region of Greece.
From the love of Epirus for the klarina (clarinets) and the dance of the tsamiko, to the gunshots at Cretan weddings. “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” may have put Greek weddings on the public radar, but here’s a look at some of the wonderful traditions we love about Greek weddings.
Getting ready for the big day
In many parts of Greece, big day festivities start four days in advance. An abundance of food, live music and all-night dancing unite the bride and groom with family and friends.
In many parts of Halkidiki, the bride bakes special buns on the Thursday before the wedding, which she will then throw behind her for young unmarried women to grab outside the church. It is said that whoever catches these buns will marry soon.
In Cyprus, there is the “stolisma”. When the bride is ready, a band plays a song calling on all the bride’s relatives to give her their blessing.
During this ritual, a red scarf is passed around the waist of the bride which symbolizes fertility. The same ritual is also performed on the groom. Then the “Kapnistiri” takes place, which is a censer traditionally used as a blessing of smoke for the bride and groom.
Na zisei i nifi kai o gambros, koumbaros kai koumbara…
The “koumbaro”, or best man, will shave the groom the morning of the ceremony to signify confidence. Then close friends step in to help her get dressed. The koumbara or bridesmaid leads the wedding party to the bride to help her dress and prepare for the ceremony.
The names of all single women are written at the bottom of the bride’s shoes and tradition dictates that the names that are worn at the end of the reception are soon to be married.
On the wedding day, the koumbaro goes to the bride’s house to escort her to the church. But the doors are closed! Many traditions surround his visit.
For example, he must help the bride put on her shoes.
At this point, the bride is still claiming that the shoes don’t fit her because they’re too big! Then the koumbaro places money to slide her feet until the happy bride-to-be says she is comfortable in her bridal shoes!
This “show” could continue with other men in the house, like the father of the bride, who could also try his luck and see if he can fit this shoe!
The koumbaro and koumbara will subsequently become the godfathers of the couple’s children.
The couple have two “lambathes” (candles) throughout the ceremony to represent the light of Christ.
The “stefana” (crowns)
One of the most recognizable traditions of a Greek wedding are the marital crowns or “stefana”. These can be made of flowers, material, gold, silver or crystals, and tied together with a strand of ribbon.
The ‘stefana’ symbolizes the union of two people into a single couple.
They are exchanged three times by the koumbaro and the couple wear them while walking around the altar three times to represent their journey through life together. The priest will bless the couple before removing the ‘stefana’.
The religious service
There are two traditional readings that feature in Greek Orthodox weddings. The epistle of Saint Paul to the Ephesians, which highlights the union of two persons, is the first and the Gospel according to Saint John is the second.
This is where the miracle of turning water into wine was told and the reading is linked to the couple sipping from the common cup.
An odd number of beautifully wrapped Koufeta (sugar coated almonds) are offered to the guests right after the wedding ceremony.
They symbolize purity, fertility and endurance of marriage. The number of koufeta must be an odd number, to symbolize that the bride and groom cannot be divided.
Enchanting Mount Pelio in the southeastern part of Thessaly, the women make sure to make spoon candies (or “glyko tou koutaliou”) and sweets from the trees that bloom in the area so that they can prepare them for a whole year.
So, if a wedding takes place that year, they are well prepared! In the village of Zagora, baklava was, and still is, a traditional wedding treat and making it is an important part of the whole ritual!
It comes with such strong symbolism of the couple’s sweet new life that it’s no surprise no wedding misses it.
In Halkidiki, the mother-in-law offers nuts and honey to the bride and groom so that they have a sweet and fertile marriage.
Stefania’s Story: Custom Handmade Orthodox Wedding Crowns by Maria