Maybe you adhere to the beliefs of the Greek Orthodox church. Maybe not. But whatever your religion or belief system or lack thereof, the wedding traditions of other cultures and faiths can give you some great ideas when you're planning your own wedding ceremony. You may notice that the Greek Orthodox wedding is a bit different than other weddings you've attended in the past -- that's because the traditional wedding ceremony is less about the bride and groom and more about the church itself.
Guests wait with the groom outside of the church until the bride arrives, though sometimes sneaky wedding guests do manage to get in. Some of the guests may actually be there to watch an earlier or later wedding, as the church can host many weddings in a single day. Those who love to look at the wedding gown will often get a treat in the form of seeing multiple brides!
Meanwhile, the groom waits for the bride at the entrance to the church, often with her bridal bouquet in hand. He gives it to her as they enter the church, where the guests sit down or stand where they like. There is no separation between the bride's side and the groom's side.
The wedding ceremony itself is comprised of two parts, the Service of Betrothal and the Ceremony of the Sacrament of Marriage.
The exchanging of rings is the focus of the Service of Betrothal. The priest blesses the rings by holding them in his right hand and making the sign of the cross over the heads of the bride and groom. The rings are then placed on the third fingers of their right hands. The Koumbaro, the couple's religious sponsor, then swaps the rings over between the bride and groom's fingers, three times.
The Ceremony of the Sacrament of Marriage consists of several key parts. First, several prayers are said and then as they come to an end, the priest joins the right hands of the bride and groom. Their hands remain joined until the end of the wedding ceremony, which symbolizes the couple's union.
The bride and groom are crowned with lovely thin crowns called stefana, which are joined by a white ribbon and have been blessed by the priest. The crowns symbolize the glory and honor that is being bestowed on them by God, and the the ribbon symbolizes their unity. The koumbaro then exchanges the crowns between the heads of the couple, three times.
The Common Cup
The crowning is followed by a reading of the Gospel, which tells of the marriage of Cana at Galilee. Wine is given to the couple and they each drink from it three times.
The Ceremonial Walk
The priest the leads the couple, who are still wearing their stefana, three times around the altar on their first steps as a married couple. The Koumbaro follows close behind the couple holding the stefana place. At this point the couple (and anyone standing nearby) is usually showered with rice, which was earlier handed out to the wedding guests. The priest will often make use of the bible he is holding to give himself some protection!
The Removal of the Crowns
When the ceremonial walk has ended, the priest blesses the couple, the crowns are removed, and he then separates their previously joined hands with the bible, reminding them that only God can break the union which they have just entered into.
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