I have been very vocal of how much I hate weddings since it has become too commercialized and a battle of who has the best videographer/photographer/theme/emcee. Although I do attend weddings of close friends and families to show my support of the couple’s togetherness, I am still not the kind of person who would actually enjoy it. Yes, I’ll be there for my friend or a family member but will I have the best time of my life in that wedding? No. But that doesn’t mean that I won’t enjoy my time with my friends and family while there.
Nowadays, weddings are all about creating a fantasy Hollywood-like film and no longer focuses on what weddings are truly about. It has lost its essence and it has lost its significance. Couples these days are more concerned of having the perfect wedding wherein they can star in their pretend-film which may or may not start months before the wedding itself (the pre-nuptial photos/videos are way overboard if you ask me). And don’t get me started with those couples who won’t stop talking about how fabulous their weddings were months after the event itself. As I said, it’s no longer about the union of two people – it’s now a popularity contest of who created the biggest shebang in their wedding. That was how I felt about it, until I attended a Greek wedding.
It is my pleasure to say that last month, I had the time of my life in a wedding for the very first time. I may be saying it since I went there as a tourist/guest but I have to admit that that wedding made me a future serial attendee of all Greek weddings. The Greek tradition and culture is very evident in their weddings, a big difference from the Filipino weddings which I think is too Americanized these days. We’ve lost touch of our own heritage and culture as Filipinos whereas the proud Greeks were able to keep them alive all these years. I think if Filipino weddings are a bit more traditional as the Greeks’, then I would’ve enjoyed it more. Some of these Greek traditions are the following with a few commentary of how Filipino weddings are:
Let’s see the bride get dressed for the wedding.
Before going to church, we visited the bride’s house to witness her getting ready. On the way there, I thought it was odd that the bride would invite people to see her get ready. In my head, I’m imagining a bunch of us standing in a room while the bride gets dressed in front of us. Won’t that be awkward? I asked the Greek Mister on our way to the bride’s house. I was mistaken of course as it was only me and a handful of people who were there. And it wasn’t really witnessing the preparation of the bride which is the purpose of this tradition, it was to wish the bride a happy marriage prior to the wedding itself. I also found out that the bride lists all the names of her unmarried friends at the sole of her wedding shoes. At the end of the night (or day in the case of this wedding), the name of the person which gets erased from the list will get married the next. In this case, all of the bride’s single friends are to be married next since all the names were gone the next day. That or maybe it was an indication that the bride danced way too much during the reception.
Afterwards, we went over to the groom’s house but not to witness him get dressed for the wedding but to join a mini party prior the wedding. Drinks are already being served, quite possibly to calm the nerves of the nervous and jittery groom. Lol. After a few drinks, we all headed towards the church in a convoy with the other guests.
In a Filipino wedding, the bride and groom are most of the time checked-in a hotel where a photographer pretends to capture every single movement of the couple while getting ready. Of course these are all staged and directed. In a Greek wedding though, no photographer was present during the preparation. I actually became the photographer/videographer with due approval from the bride herself of course. :p
The longer the wait, the longer and happier the marriage will be.
At the church, the groom together with all the guests are to wait outside of it which is very different from the Filipino wedding where the groom waits for the bride at the altar. Traditionally, the Greek bride is to arrive late to symbolize all the long waits the groom is to be doing once they get married. Of course, I made that up but I never really found the answer as to why the bride is supposed to be late on her own wedding. It was also a part of their tradition that the bridal car will go around the church three times while honking before the bride finally decides to get out of the car and start the ceremony itself. Thankfully for this wedding, the bride decided to just go around once as my feet was already killing me for standing for so long (Greek Wedding Rule #1: Wear comfortable shoes). The bride was greeted by a big round of applause from the guests and a bouquet of flowers from the groom.
The Crowning Glory.
The wedding ceremony itself was much like any traditional church weddings except for two things which I find very interesting. The “stefana” or crown is blessed by the priest three times and the “koumbaro” or the best man will have to swap these crowns on the head of the bride and groom three times as well. The crowns are joined by a single strand ribbon which signifies the union of two people and the crown itself symbolizes that they are to rule their household together. Another thing which stood out for me was the ceremonial walk around the altar right after the crowning which symbolizes the first steps of life as a married couple which of course was done three times as well. A lot of things are done three times during a Greek wedding ceremony which is to symbolize the Holy Trinity.
It’s raining rice!
After the ceremony, we all went outside to wait for the bride and groom to come out from the church. Little bags of rice were given to us to throw to the couple as soon as they walk out. Rice of course is widely known to symbolize good luck, abundance and fertility in all weddings so I am guessing it is the same for a Greek wedding.
For a fruitful marriage, here’s a candy.
It is customary for the Greeks to always have an odd number for anything during the wedding. Odd number cannot be equally divided into two which is what we are all wishing for for the bride and groom – that they may never separate from each other. Odd number is practiced from the number of invited guests and even to the number of koufetas wrapped in tulle as a souvenir for the wedding which is distributed after the ceremony. Koufetas are sugar-coated almonds in white color which symbolises purity, the egg shape represents fertility and the new life which begins with marriage. The hardness of the almond represents the endurance of marriage and the sweetness of the sugar symbolises the sweetness of future life. The single ladies who attended the wedding are to sleep with a koufetta under their pillow to see their future husbands in their dreams. I wish I had attended this wedding when I was still single just to see if this koufeta thing works. :p
What’s with all these food?
I was very hungry as soon as we arrived at the reception area, not because the ceremony was long (it was actually shorter than a Catholic wedding) but because I didn’t eat anything for that day except for breakfast. Surprisingly though, food was immediately served on our table as soon as we sat even if the bride and groom were still outside greeting their guests. In a Filipino wedding, nobody is allowed to eat unless the bride and groom are seated and it was announced by an event host that it is ok to eat. Yes, there is always an event host in a Filipino wedding reception which The Greek Mister found mind-boggling. “Why do you need someone to tell you what you need to do next? We don’t have a host in a Greek wedding, we know how to have a good time on our own.” is what The Greek Mister said during a Filipino wedding we attended months ago. After this Greek wedding though, I now realized the difference between having a host and not having one. The latter is of course more fun and more laidback knowing that there is nobody who will scold you in case you try to do something which is not yet on the schedule.
Anyway, the first serving had meat and pasta along with some other dishes which I don’t know how to pronounce. It doesn’t look like an appetizer to me so I ate it all thinking that it was the only food which will be served during the reception. How wrong was I though? After that dish, another one came and another and at some point – a huge plate of roasted lamb was placed in the middle of our table which nobody touched as we were all too full! You will never go hungry in a Greek wedding in fact, I suggest you bring some lunch boxes with you for leftover food.
Dance until you drop!
Dancing commenced immediately, the food has not even stopped coming to our table and yet the bride, groom and the wedding party already started dancing. It’s safe to say that dancing is a major component of a Greek wedding reception which is why it was a lot of fun! I have to commend the energy of the bride and groom who almost never left the dance floor the whole time. I was hoping I could dance but The Greek Mister’s lack of skills in dancing is stopping him from going to the dance floor with me. The groom however personally invited me to the dance floor and patiently taught me the very confusing foot works of a Syrtos dance. I didn’t get it of course but I still had a great time.
The wedding reception ended at 6 in the morning the next day. Normally, a Filipino wedding reception will only last for 2 or 3 hours as wedding venues are paid per hour – not in Greece though. You can dance, eat and drink until whatever time you wish or still can. We left at 4 in the morning and the dance floor was still packed while some guests were busy emptying their glasses of alcoholic drinks from their dining tables.
I definitely had a marvelous time but I have to say that more than being there as a tourist and witnessing all these wedding traditions for the first time, it was the hospitality of the bride and groom together with their families which made this event more enjoyable for me. As the only foreigner in this event, everyone seem to be very keen to explain everything of what’s going on in front of me. Even when I tried my best to do the Syrtos dance during the reception which I miserably failed, people who I don’t even know were congratulating me for trying and that I did great. Once again, it was the hospitality of the Greeks which won me over. I cannot wait for my next Greek wedding to attend. Hopefully, I would’ve mastered the Syrtos dance by then. Opa!
P.S. I did attend another Greek wedding right after this one and although it wasn’t as traditional as this, it was just as fun. Enjoying the moment is what the Greeks are always after in any kinds of events I suppose.
Special thanks to the bride for giving me the thumbs up to write about their wedding. I love that she was so cool about me taking photos and videos of her and the whole wedding. Also, the hospitality both the bride and the groom showed to all their guests was beyond my expectations. I have never attended a wedding where I felt comfortable approaching the bride and groom without feeling that I may be bothering them or they may be too tired to talk to me. In this wedding however, both the bride and groom had too much energy to approach each and every guests making sure that we’re all having a great time. The personal touch they both put into this event was extremely appreciated by everyone.
Here’s a video I made of this wonderful event.