This blog post is part of my Student Series! in while I highlight articles written by previous Humanities students on a topic of their choosing that relates to our course content. Keep in mind this is written by high schoolers and anything that could identify them personally has been removed or altered by me.
The Hollywood blockbuster My Big Fat Greek Wedding depicts a Greek girl getting married to someone who isn’t Greek while still having the ceremony at the Greek Orthodox Church. This requires her fiancé to convert to Greek Orthodox because to get married in the Greek Orthodox Church both people in the relationship must be part of that religion. This is one of the many teachings and faiths that go along with this sect of Christianity.
Greek Orthodoxy has a large belief of having, “preserved and taught the historic Christian Faith, free from error and distortion, from the time of the Apostles.” Their church calendar starts on September 1st and then ends August 31st and has several major festivals annually but each day is very sacred. There are seven sacraments that are Baptism, Chrismation, Confession and Holy Communion which are all obligatory, but Matrimony, Holy Orders, and Unction aren’t required. Matrimony in a Greek Orthodox Church comes with certain traditions and ceremonial processes that are much different from ‘mainstream’ weddings.
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Parental Permission & Specific Tradition
Greek weddings, parents definitely have a say in the choice of partner. Marriages are not necessarily arranged, but an agreement is made between the parents and young persons getting married before anything becomes too official. Rings are exchanged between the couple in front of friends and family in a ceremonial matter. Being engaged is just as binding as a marriage is in Greek Orthodoxy.
Greek weddings have much tradition, holy and secular, that comes with getting married. During the wedding week, the preparations for the event normally start on a Wednesday, with the actual wedding ceremony taking place on a Sunday. Things happening in threes are a large part of the tradition during the ceremony. By doing this, it represents the Holy Trinity: The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
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Service of Betrothal
The Service of Betrothal takes place towards the beginning of the wedding. This is when the exchanging of rings takes place. The Priest must first bless the rings before given to the bride and groom. The couple is then blessed with the rings and the process is repeated three times. Wedding rings are generally thought to be placed on the left hand of the bride and groom but for Greek Orthodox couples, they are put on the right hand instead. The meaning behind this is that Christ had ascended to the right hand of God and God blesses the right hand. The koumbaro of the wedding, who is the groom’s best man, generally his godfather, switches the rings between the hands of the couple to continue to honor the Holy Trinity. This section is then closed with a prayer from the priest.
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Crowns & Common Cup
Another ritual that happens during the ceremony is the crowning of the couple. The bride and groom are blessed by the priest before the crowns are placed on their heads. The crowns represent God putting a blessing on the couple and it is a mark of a new beginning of a kingdom that is for the bride and groom. The crowns are not actual metal crowns that are typically thought of; they are made out of orange blossoms, twigs, leaves, and vines and accented with strands of gold and silver. Also, the crowns are connected with a white ribbon, shown above. The crowns are switched from the bride and groom’s heads three times by the koumbaro which seals the union between the couple.
A big part of the ceremony is the couple drinking from the Common Cup. There is a little bit of wine in the cup for the newlyweds to drink that is given to them by the priest. The communal cup of wine symbolizes the mutual sharing of future happiness and sorrow of the couple and also represents a life of harmony and the bride and groom equally share the new duties they will encounter.
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Joining Hands & Walking in Circles
Before the priest joins the hands of the bride and groom, three prayers are read. The right hands of the couple are joined. It symbolizes the union of two individuals through the Lord, creating one body and one mind for the couple. The bride and groom circle the table, shown above, while hymns are being sung. Walking around the table happens three times and it is represents a bond for eternity between these two people.
Although there are many different traditions that take place during a Greek Orthodox wedding ceremony, they all lead to binding together a couple for the rest of their life in love under God and honoring the Holy Trinity. The couples getting married want to have the Lord’s blessing as well as the priest’s while getting married and to be bonded with love. Just like “mainstream” weddings, the couple just wants to be in union together and in love for the rest of their lives, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, and until death do us part.
- “Greek Orthodox Wedding Ceremony Wedding Traditions.” Documents and Designs. Accessed May 12, 2016. http://www.documentsanddesigns.com/verse/Greek_Orthodox_marriage_wedding_vows.htm#t3c.
- “Introduction: What Is The Greek Orthodox Church?” Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Accessed May 10, 2016. www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith8032.
- Monger, George P. Marriage Customs of the World: From Henna to Honeymoons. California: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 2004.
- “Teachings and Sacraments.” Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church of Greater Orlando. Accessed May 12, 2016. www.htgocorlando.org.