In Greek society that tends to be traditional marriage is one of the most important ceremonies of life not only for the marrying couple, but for all the family members of both party. Because of the EU regulation, the Greek government now recognizes civil marriage. Most of the Greeks, however, cerebrate their marriage in church, as the marriage is one of the Christian mysteries. Some of them do it by faith, some do it by social custom, but for the most the reason is two-fold; the marriage not cerebrated in church is not well recognized in the society.
If the couple wants to marry in church, they have to prepare documentation that proves that they were Orthodox Christians and not married (or free to marry if divorced), and with it they go to the church in which they want to have their marriage celebrated to arrange the date. As the church reports their marriage to the public authority, this act has also regal meaning.
Recently, however, the number of the couples is increasing that first register their marriage at Register Office postponing the marriage in church. The reasons are that the young couples tend not have sufficient money to have big party, but at the same time the married couples can enjoy some tax reductions, for example, to buy their first house, etc.
The marriage ceremony in church lasts for half an hour to one hour. The marrying couple and their parents invite as many people as possible. As the marriage is celebrated in a public space such as church, anyone can enter and assists the ceremony. Before the marriage, the couple should announce their marriage on newspapers. The marriage in Greece strongly maintains such public character.
The friends and relatives invited to the church should bring present(s) to the church, or, even better, bring it or have it delivered beforehand to the house of the people who invited them. The less familiar friends can bring cheap gifts, and the close friends and relatives give presents or money ranging from several tens to hundreds of euros.
The second group of people are invited not only to the ceremony to the church but also to the party afterwards. The party is paid by the married couple or by the parents. As the dining out in Greece is not terribly expensive, the cost can be as little as 15 to 20 euros a head, although they can spend ten times more.
The marriage ceremony is usually cerebrated in the evening as late as 10 o'clock in summer. Accordingly the party finishes very late, at 3 or 4 o'clock. As many like to dance various kind of Greek folk dances, there is a lot of music.
Some days before the marriage ceremony, there can be New Bed ceremony. The couple invites their friends and relatives to their future house. The unmarried young female guests prepare the new bed for them with new sheets and pillow covers. Then all the invited guests throw on the new bed flower petals, confetti (sugar coated almonds), and most importantly banknotes (more than 50 euros, if possible), gold coins, and small children to anticipate symbolically their future happy married life. The marrying couple offers food and drink. It depends of what sort of friends and relatives they have but the couple can expect a good cashing-in.
One particular aspect of the Greek marriage is the presence of "koumparos" (pronounced "kubaros") or "coumpara (kubara)" if female. Usually this role is assigned to the best friend(s) of the couple, and can be one or two person. The koumparos (or koumpari) has to have a reasonable economic basis to be able to bear the expense of the church. At the church ceremony, he or she crosses the assimilated crowns called "stefana" above the heads the marrying couple, and after the ceremony signs the marriage certificate together with the couple. For the Greeks, or at least those who cherish traditional values, being koumparos (koumpari) is an honour and being able to pay for the friends is a source of satisfaction. One koumparos said to have paid 1,000 euro, but it may vary. According to tradition, two friends cannot become koumparoi one to the other; it means that one cannot pay back to his/her koumparos/-a becoming in turn his/her koumparos/-a.
What I wrote above is based on my experience and on some of my friends' accounts, but they also told me that the custom differs from one region to another, so it is possible that you hear or witness something quite different.
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