Wedding rings: the wedding rings are a symbol of commitment. They also symbolise eternity because the circle has no beginning or end. The priest will bless them over the Gospel and then place them to couple's foreheads. The best man will then ‘exchange’ the rings between bride and groom for 3 times. At some point the priest will pray for the bride and groom coming together in ‘one flesh’ and will get them to hold their right hands which they will then hold for the rest of the ceremony as a symbol of eternal unity.
‘Halos’. The priest will bless 2 ‘halos’ and will place them upon couple's heads. The best man will swap the ‘halos’ 3 times. This is another symbol of unity and eternity/eternal love.
Before the priest puts the ‘halos’ on couple's head he will make the sign of the cross in front of the couple. At this point you will hear their names called by the priest. The priest will be saying that (the name of the bride) is getting married to (the name of the groom) and vice versa. This is the part when close relatives often become emotional.
Wine: The priest will give to the couple wine, to drink from the same glass. This symbolises that the couple needs to share everything from now on, including the joys and sorrows of life. The best men will also drink from the same glass.
‘Melokarido’: The priest will give them a spoonful of honey and walnuts mix which symbolizes virility and the sweetness of life (a Cretan tradition).
Isaiah ‘dance’: The priest will take the couple to walk 3 times around the table. This symbolises the first steps in their ‘new’ life together and it’s a demonstration of joy. The circular movement symbolises eternity. The guests will throw rice on them which symbolises fertility, good luck and stability (‘to root like rice’).
Sugar coated almonds: The sweet part (sugar) and the bitter part (almond) symbolise the joys and the sorrows of life that the couple will go through together. Almonds also symbolise fertility. At the end of the wedding the guests will be offered a ‘bomboniera’ – this is a pouch containing sugar coated almonds (in greek: koufeta). The koufeta in the bomboniera can only be a prime number (divided only by 1 and itself), ie, 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, etc. This symbolises the unity of the couple and that they will be un-separated.
Best man/woman: In orthodox church you can have a ‘best man’ or ‘best woman’. The best man is called ‘koumparos’. Koumparos attends not just as a witness but he also commits himself to stand by the couple and support them for the rest of their lives. It’s an honour to become a ‘koumparos’ and that starts a relationship with the couple, similar to being a non-blood related relative, which will continue beyond the wedding day.
At the end of the wedding the couple will probably stand alongside their parents, all siblings and koumparos and wait to be greeted from the guests. Sometimes this is quite an organised line up, sometimes not.
You may hear….
‘gamos’ which means … wedding and marriage
‘I ora i kali’…. This is what everyone wishes a couple that are about to get married or their family. It literally means ‘a good time’ or could be translated ‘the time will be good’. Well, it states the obvious really!
‘Na zisete’… this is what you wish the couple. It means ‘to live’.
‘i nifi’ – the bride, ‘o gambros’ – the groom