Jul 13, 2013


The Greek Orthodox Ceremony

We will have a Best Man (or as we call them “koumbaros”) who is American, as well as some guests that will come from the States and know little of nothing at all about the Greek Orthodox weddings. So I tried to explain the ceremony so that they don’t just stand there wondering what the hec in going on, and so they will feel more included. I found some information here and there in English, added some my self, so here it is:

Please, if you have the time, reed and tell me: if you were in their place would this would be helpful to you?:

The wedding service in the Greek Orthodox faith is an ancient and beautiful ceremony, which has been celebrated in its current form for centuries and centuries. The wedding ceremony is full of symbolism and is a great experience if you have never attended one before, because it is likely to be quite different from other weddings you have attended in Western Europe or America. The service is also rather unique because the bride and groom do not make vows to each other. The vow is given towards God by the couple by having the ceremony before Him.

The marriages are Always done in a church or right outside if a chapel is too small. But it has to be done on holy ground.

As Cyprus has become very popular for couples to have their destination wedding, of course other options are available for civil, catholic and other weddings, but I will try to explain the Greek Orthodox ceremony which is “the way to go” among Cypriots -regardless of how faithful they are.

The church has very strict rules as in when a marriage can be done thru the year. Marriages are not performed on fast days or during fasting seasons; these include the Great Lent and Holy Week – all 50 days- , August 1-15, August 29 (Beheading of St. John the Baptist), September 14 (Exaltation of the Holy Cross), and December 13-25. Nor are marriages celebrated on the day before and the day of a Great Feast of the Lord, including Theophany (January 5 and 6), Pascha, Pentecost, and Christmas (December 24 and 25). So in the remaining time when marriages are permitted it is not unusual for ceremonies to be arranged back to back, so the guests attending a marriage will often stand around with those who have just attended the previous wedding as they prepare to leave. Wedding dress commentators among the crowd will get to consider and discuss at least two brides and maybe even a third as they leave the church - bargain! That of course if one arrives to the church early.

For example my wedding is at 6 o’clock and at 5 o’clock there’s another wedding scheduled to end 15 minutes before mine.

The Beginning of the Wedding 

In most cases the wedding guests will wait with the groom outside the church until the bride arrives. The groom waits for the bride in front of the church, holding her bouquet and he hands it to her as they meet and then they walk into marriage together. The Best Man or “koumbaros” as he is called in Greek stands beside him. There is no separation of the guests into guests of the bride and guests of the groom - everyone sits together and in the case of small churches, many people prefer to stand in a spot where they can get a good view of the proceedings.

The Candles

The couple brings two candles that stand on either side of the altar.  The candles remind the couple of the light of Christ who is with them throughout the sacrament and their coming life together.

The Greek Orthodox Ceremony photo 1

Service of Betrothal 

Right from the beginning the priest places the rings and the “stefana” on the holy bible. Stefana are thin crowns that are used in the ceremony.
The wedding ceremony itself is in 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 placing then on the bible (with the "stefana") and reading prays and blessings an then take them in his right hand and makes  the sign of the cross three times over the foreheads of the bride and groom. Then he puts the rings on the third fingers of their right hands. The "Koumbari"–the Man of Honor and Maid of Honor- then swap the rings over between the bride and groom's fingers, three times. A number of rituals in the ceremony are repeated three times and this symbolizes the Holy Trinity: God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The swapping also symbolizes the two becoming one, the union between them.

The Greek Orthodox Ceremony photo 2

Ceremony of the Sacrament of Marriage 

This Ceremony 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 Crowning

The bride and groom are crowned with thin crowns, or "stefana", which are joined by a white ribbon and have been blessed by the priest on the holy bible. The stefana symbolize the glory and honor that is being bestowed on them by God, and the ribbon symbolizes their unity. But they also symbolize the crown of thorns Jesus wore and that a marriage comes also with difficulties and sacrifices that they acknowledge and will face together.  The priest holds the “stefana” in his right hand and makes the sing of the cross three times over the foreheads of the bride and groom, then places them on their heads and then exchanges the crowns between the heads of the couple, three times. 

The Greek Orthodox Ceremony photo 3 The Greek Orthodox Ceremony photo 4

                                                      This is a pic from my parents wedding btw!

The Common Cup 

The crowning is followed by a reading of the Gospel, which tells of the marriage of Cana at Galilee. It was at this wedding that Jesus performed his first miracle, changing water into wine, which was then given to the married couple. Wine is given to the couple and they each drink from it three times as well as holy dread. Like in the Holy Communion. During this the “Koumpari” assist the priest by holding a red cloth under the brides and grooms chin to avoid any spilling of the wine on their clothes.

The Greek Orthodox Ceremony photo 5 The Greek Orthodox Ceremony photo 6

The Ceremonial Walk

The priest the leads the couple, who are still wearing their "stefana", three times around the altar. This is their first steps as a married couple. The priest goes first holding the bible so that the path that the couple walks in life to be a blessed one, to follow a righteous path. The "Koumbari" follow close behind the couple holding the "stefana" place. They are the help and support that friends and family give to the married couple as they face common life.

The Removal of the Crowns

When the Ceremonial Walk has ended, the priest blesses the couple, the stefana 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 and charges the newlyweds to go forward in peace.  The Bride and Groom are proclaimed husband and wife, at the conclusion of the service.



The stefana are considered to be very very important and they must be kept for life with care. If you have watched the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding you will now understand why Nia Vardalos bussed in to tears when her grandmother placed her old stefana on her head on that scene.

Well.. I can’t think of anything else! But please comment if you find this helpful or if you find there are some points that are not as clear or anything else


(4) Comments

Uhlease I opened their wedding alboum and photographed them.. hoho..

Wow! And how amazing that you have pictures from your parents wedding up! :)

This is so interesting! Thanks for sharing it here, I think those who are not familiar with the customs will really appreciate it!

I found this very informational but I would personally want to know this information beforehand, moreso the part about standing with the groom until the bride arrives. The rest of the information could be put in a program, or like a bulletin. That is what the Catholic Priest that I worked for in the Navy called them. I typed them up for his Sunday Services and it basically told the order of service. I have been to many weddings that were of a different faith and I actually didn't feel lost and followed what others were doing. I was so caught up in the wedding ceremony and the sacred union of it!