Greek Wedding Traditions
In case you haven't heard, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 is hitting theaters today and we couldn't be more excited. This time around, we're expecting an even bigger celebration of love, family and Greek culture. To make sure you're in the loop, we did some research on which traditions to look out for.
Koumbara and Koumbaro
The koumbara (for a woman) and koumbaro (for a man) are similar to the maid of honor and best man, but more specifically, they're sponsors of the wedding. There might be only one sponsor, and whomever that is, has highly symbolic responsibilities during the marriage ceremony. Traditionally, this person is also selected as the godparent for the couple's first child.
The priest will bless the wedding rings during the ceremony, but before wearing them, the koumbara or koumbaro will pass the rings back and forth between the couple three times before placing them on their fingers, which is meant to symbolize their everlasting bond.
The stefana is the focal point of the ceremony, symbolizing that the couple is now the king and queen of their castle. It also represents the official union of marriage. Similarly to the ring exchange, the stefana, or wedding crowns, are blessed by the priest and passed between the almost-newlyweds three times before being placed on their heads.
Jump 'n Jive
The bride leads a raucous dance known as the kalamatiano, where the entire bridal party joins hands and skips in a circle (think Jewish weddings…without the chair). Guests also love the acrobatic tsamiko, where skilled dancers leap into the air, and the rowdy zebekiko, where dancers sequentially take shots of ouzo (a very potent Greek liquor) off of the floor.
Depending on how traditional a couple is, koufetta—fresh almonds with a sugar coating—will be present for some part of the wedding. They might be tossed onto the marital bed the day before the ceremony (along with money or other candies), eaten by the bridal party while they're getting ready for the wedding or handed out as favors (aka bomboniere). The bittersweetness symbolizes the good and bad parts of any marriage, but the sugar coating is meant to balance it with happiness.
There are several wedding activities that have been known to shower the couple with money. During the newlywed's first dance, family members might pin money to their clothes or throw it onto the dance floor, or the groom can cut his tie at the end of the wedding and auction off the pieces. This tradition pops up every once in awhile, but these days it's more common to give gifts from a registry or a card with money inside.
Classic Greek cakes are made up of thin layers of sponge cake with a sweet cream filling. But modern couples are opting for a flourless almond cake. Another customary treat is sourdough wedding bread, which is decorated with beads and blossoms.
Special thanks to Danielle Tseperis Kalas of Crosses Plus, a manufacturer and distributor of Greek wedding and baptismal supplies.