The wedding service in Greek Orthodox faith is an ancient and beautiful ceremony, which has been celebrated in its current form for centuries. The wedding ceremony is full of symbolism and is a great experience if you have never attended one before, because it is likely to be quite different from other weddings you have attended in Western Europe. The service is also rather unique because bride and groom do not make vows to each other – their presence together in church is taken to mean that they are serious about getting married. There are no wedding rehearsals and ceremony usually has a very relaxed atmosphere - guests take photos whenever they want to and often chat quietly among themselves throughout ceremony.
The Beginning of Wedding
In most cases wedding guests will wait with groom outside church until bride arrives (a few sneaky wedding pros will go into church early to secure a good seat). In Summer, when most weddings take place, it is not unusual for ceremonies to be arranged back to back, so guests attending a marriage will often stand around with those who have just attended previous wedding are ready to leave. Wedding dress commentators among crowd will get to consider and discuss at least two brides and maybe even a third as they leave church – bargain! Meanwhile, groom waits for bride at entrance to church, often holding her floral bouquet. He hands it to her as they meet and they then go inside together followed by guests. There is no separation of guests into guests of bride and guests of groom – everyone sits together and in case of small churches, many people prefer to stand in a spot where they can get a good view of proceedings.
Service of Betrothal
The wedding ceremony itself is in two parts: Service of Betrothal and Ceremony of Sacrament of Marriage. The exchanging of rings is focus of Service of Betrothal. The priest blesses rings by holding them in his right hand and making sign of cross over heads of bride and groom. The rings are then placed on third fingers of their right hands. The Koumbaro, couple’s religious sponsor, then swaps rings over between bride and groom’s fingers, three times. A number of rituals in ceremony are repeated three times and this symbolises Holy Trinity: God Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Ceremony of Sacrament of Marriage
This Ceremony consists of several key parts. First, several prayers are said and then as they come to an end, priest joins right hands of bride and groom. Their hands remain joined until end of wedding ceremony, which symbolises couple’s union.
The bride and groom are crowned with thin crowns, or stefana, which are joined by a white ribbon and have been blessed by priest. The crowns symbolise glory and honour that is being bestowed on them by God, and the ribbon symbolises their unity. The Koumbaro then exchanges crowns between heads of couple, three times.