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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Greek Weddings

All Photos courtesy of

A Greek Orthodox wedding service is filled with beauty and symbolism.  The ceremony is different from any other wedding ceremonies in Western Europe or North and South America.  The service has remained the same for hundreds of years and is steeped in traditions.  In a Greek Orthodox wedding the bride and groom make their vows not to each other but to God.

The ritual has two parts, The Service of Betrothal and The Ceremony of the Sacrament of Marriage.  The Betrothal Ceremony centers around the exchange of wedding rings by the couple.  The rings and couple are blessed by the priest and the priest places them on the third finger of the right hand of the bride and groom.  The couple's religious sponsor, known as the koumbaro, moves the rings back and forth between the fingers of the bride and groom three times to symbolize the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. 

The actual ritual itself has two sections: the Service of Betrothal, which is followed by the Ceremony of the Sacrament of Marriage. The first part centers around the exchanging of wedding rings. The priest will hold the rings in his right hand, and make the sign of the cross over the heads of the couple. The priest will then place the blessed rings on the third fingers of the right (not the left!) hands of the couple. The koumbaro (the couple’s religious sponsor within the Greek Orthodox church) moves the rings back and forth between the bride and groom’s fingers three times. The number three in Christianity symbolizes the Holy Trinity: God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Accordingly, there are many symbolic acts that occur three times, in remembrance.

Next the Ceremony of the Sacraent of Marriage starts with the priest leading the guests in prayer.  He then joins the hands of the bride and groom.  They will hold each other's hands for the rest of the ceremony.  This symbolizes the value of the new and unending union of the couple.  After this the couple have 'stefana' or wedding crowns on their heads.  The crowns are blessed by the priest before the ceremony and are connected by a white ribbon.  The crowns are a symbol of the glory God is placing on the newly married couple and the ribbon is a sign of their new unity. Just like with the rings the crowns are exchanged back and forth by the sponsor three times.  After the crowns are in place, the priest will read the story of the Wedding at Cana.  Thisis where Jesus turned water in to wine which was given to the guests to drink.  To symbolize this the couple will each drink from one goblet of wine three times.   Next the priest leads the couple aournd thealtar three times  in their first walk together as a married couple.  Their sponsor follow them to make sure the crowns remain in place.  As in our wedding ceremonies rice or birdseed is thrown at the couple.  After this the priest blesses the couple.  The wedding crowns are taken off, and the priest seperates the couple's right hands with a Bible.  This is a symbol that only God can sever the union that has just been created. 

As the Koumbaro/Koumbara you are required to bring the Stefana (Wedding Crowns), Large Lambades and 2 Small Lambades (Decorated Wedding Candles), Tray (Decorated Silver Tray with Koufetta (and Rice if desired) for the Stefana, and Gratuities for the Priest or Canter.

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