Before two people can wed, according to Greek Orthodoxy, the prospective bride and groom must visit the priest for councelling three times. The number three is very significant throughout all aspects of the entire wedding because it symbolizes the Holy Trinity. After these traditional sessions, the priest will perform a ceremony.
In a traditional Greek Orthodox wedding, the engagement and the reception are included as part of the whole ceremony. Although in today's society the "engagement" on the day is more of a formality than an actual betrowal, it is carried out with as much seriousness as the vows and the prayers. On the day of the service, the bride groom goes over to the bride's house to begin the engagement tradition. Once the father of the bride agrees to the marriage, the best man, called the Kumbada, (or Kumbubr), leads the couple to the church. The Kumbada has a very important role as best man. He acts like a director or "sponsor" and instigates the actions of the ceremony. Along with the couple and the priest, his role in the ceremony is a necessity and carries great weight.
Once the wedding party arrives at the church, the service begins. A typical Greek wedding usually lasts about an hour. A more formal service can even be conducted by the bishop and run as long as an hour and a half. First, the Kumbada places crowns on the heads of the couple. The crowns are attached by a ribbon and they are switched three times on the heads. These crowns symbolize that the marriage is noble, and that the couple will begin a new dynasty together. For the rest of the service, they are viewed as a king and queen, and from this point on, neither the bride nor groom can speak.
Next, the Kumbada invites the couple to walk around the table. This is also done traditionally three times. The couple, the Kumbada, the Maid of Honor, and the priest encircle the wedding table. The priest then sings and says special prayers in Old Greek to bless the couple. He asks God to look over the family and send the woman lots of children. This is sung or chanted without any instruments. The couple then engage in their first communion together. They drink from the cup of the Lord with their hands crossed. And last, the couple exchange the wedding bands three times. The rings are one of the most symbolic aspects of the service because they signify an everlasting relationship.
The wedding party and the congregation next attend the reception. This event is very dramatic, with a dinner followed by lots of wine and dancing. At the Karavitis' wedding, for example, the party started at five o'clock, and ended with breakfast the next morning. The dancing begins with the Kumbada, and every member of the wedding party gets a turn to lead. One traditional dance forms with two circles around the bride. It is also tradition during this time to throw money at the musicians and break dishes. The dishes are thrown on the ground for good luck. Throughout the evening, everyone at the reception gets a turn to dance with the bride.
Some common aspects occur at the Greek reception, such as the cutting of the cake and the throwing of rice. However, each Greek reception must have Bom Bom Yara, almond candies covered in white chocolate. They are wrapped up in a netting and given to all the guests as they leave. Tradition dictates that there must be an odd number of candies in each package.
One interesting afternote is that divorce is not fobidden by the Greek Orthodox Church. Priests naturally frown upon such an act, but it is not taboo, as in our Western culture. The Greek wedding, although containing some "American" aspects, is very rich in Orthodox tradition.