11 Tips to Survive a Traditional Greek Wedding

A Greek wedding ceremony
A Greek wedding ceremony | © Milkbar Nick/Flickr
Ethel Dilouambaka

If you are attending a Big Fat Greek Wedding this summer, there’s a few things you need to know beforehand. First, you can expect weddings to be a big family affair and also be sure there will be copious amounts of food and booze involved. But besides that, arm yourself with a selfie stick, your biggest smile and best attire. For the rest, we tell you all about how to survive a Greek wedding.

Dress to the nines, heck, to the tens even

A Greek wedding is almost like a catwalk. The dress code is usually formal so you shouldn’t be surprised to see people dressed for a red-carpet event. So this is your chance to go all out and pick a glamorous outfit, as long as you feel comfortable in it.

Formal wear is de rigueur in Greek weddings

Know your way around pre-wedding traditions

Depending on the regions, you may be invited to a pre-wedding tradition called The Bed Making Ceremony (To Krevati). The bride and her bridesmaids but also some family members and guests come together to adorn the couple’s bed, and money is then thrown on the bed as gift. But the most important is the flipping of the baby; if the couple wants a girl, a baby girl is flipped or a baby boy otherwise. This unique tradition is meant to wish for fertility and blessings over the couple. Another fun tradition is that the bride writes the name of her single friends and bridesmaids on the sole of her shoes. At the end of the reception, the first name to be rubbed off is the next to get married (though this may vary from families or regions).

The bride writes the names of her single bridesmaids on the sole of her shoes

It’s all Greek to me

The wedding ceremony is usually held inside or outside a church and is performed in ancient Greek. Full of symbolism, the ceremony is split between the betrothal part and the ceremony of the sacrament of marriage. The blessing and exchange of the rings happens during the betrothal ceremony, while the second ceremony features several parts, including the crowning and the ceremonial walk. The bride and groom may not exchange vows, but the ceremony counts a few funny moments like when the bride stamps on the groom’s foot when the priest says: the bride should fear her husband. This is her way to show that she disagrees.

Greek Orthodox wedding in Naxos

Sit wherever you want

Seats at the reception are usually assigned, but at the church, you can sit wherever you like as there are no bride or groom sides. Standing in the back is perfectly fine too as the ceremony usually has a relaxed vibe. Don’t be surprised to see guests greeting each other and chatting, stand up to take photos or walk in and out of the church for a small break.

Spit on the happy couple

Once the ceremony is over and the happy couple leaves the church, you may have a “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” moment. Remember that scene when Toula walks down the aisle with her father and some members of the congregation (dry) spit on her to wish her good luck? Well this may happen too. Of course, spitting in this instance involves more words (Ftou Ftou Ftou) and less saliva. This is meant to ward off any evil from the couple. There will probably be some rice throwing too.

Leaving the church

There will be a lot of kisses, hugs and wishes

If you don’t love personal contact, you’ve been warned. Even if you are just a guest or someone’s plus one and hardly know the happy couple, you will have to meet and greet and congratulate the couple but also their family at some point. A greeting you can use for the married couple is: Na zisete (may you have a long life). To the parents of both the bride and groom, say Na sas zisoune (may they have a long life). They are more likely to respond with a Kai sta dika sas (and here’s to yours) if you are unmarried. You may be tempted to point out the unnecessary pressure but restrain yourself, a simple thank you will suffice.

So much food, so little stomach space

The reception is where the fun begins. You can be sure there will be tons of delicious food you will want to try, and you should. If there is a buffet, fill your plate with a little bit of everything in moderation. Don’t get offended if people cut the lines in front of you, this simply means that you can too!

Eat a little bit of everything in moderation, then go for seconds once you’re done

Be prepared for the interrogation

Something that might happen during a Greek wedding if you are single is that someone is bound to ask embarrassing questions about yourself and why you are single. While “yes” or “no” are the perfect answers to a lot of questions, you can also politely excuse yourself or fake a call to save the day.

Don’t underestimate the power of water

There will be a lot of drinking, so pace yourself. Getting drunk is a no-no in most social situations in Greece so use this trick: for every glass of alcohol, drink a big glass of water. That way you stay hydrated and avoid a horrible headache the next day.

There will be some dancing and some drinking too

Bring a pair of comfortable shoes along

In Greek weddings, there is no time for digestion or food coma during speeches, since there are no speeches. Once the eating is over, it’s time for dancing. From traditional dances to contemporary music, the night will be filled with dancing and fun. Rest assured that you will be invited to join, well scratch that, dragged in at some point. But don’t worry, even if you don’t know any steps, traditional dances are fairly easy to follow.

Just have fun

You are attending a wedding. Whether some traditions and customs may seem weird to you, you have the privilege to attend one. So make the most of it, dance, eat and dance some more – it’s cardio, right? There will be plenty of time for you to rest afterwards. Take photos and enjoy the moment, who knows if this is your only chance to see a Greek wedding?

Long live the married couple!
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