It’s that time in India when there is a festival practically every other week. Ganesh Chathurthi and Navratri followed by Diwali, Christmas and then New Year. Talk about having your hands full! But this is also the onset of another very important season – the wedding season. From exotic destinations to haldi and sangeet, a wedding is no less than a full-fledged festival here in India. But did you know that wedding traditions take an astonishing array of forms around the world? Some are heart-wrenchingly romantic, while some are a little strange and some downright weird. On our radar this month are Greek weddings with their own little customs.
Greece is a lot more than a south-eastern European country with picturesque landscapes and a rich historical background. Apart from its legendary olive oil, Greek salads and laurel wreath crowns popularised by Julius Caesar, a Greek-themed wedding is not too hard to put together, since it has a lot of common cultural elements with Asian weddings. Why go for a destination wedding when you can bring that country home instead!
Superstitions to be kept at bay!
With a prominent, diverse mythology, the Greeks are pretty superstitious and are always wary of the evil eye. This is their term for bad intentions, jealousy, and evil thoughts of others. And because this evil eye needs to be warded off during weddings, the attendants can wear a blue eye symbol to ward off the “evil eye”. Even when the guests leave the wedding, a little bag of Jordan almonds or koufeta that is given to each guest must have an odd number of almonds – for luck.
Greek pre-wedding customs
Greek wedding traditions have their roots in ancient customs and religious rituals, much like our Indian weddings. If you have watched the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” it does give you a rough idea of an arranged marriage in the past and how dowry goes with the bride as part of her marriage trousseau. Even today, it is almost customary for brides’ mothers to start collecting items for her daughter’s marriage such as jewellery, handicrafts, hand-made Greek laces and textiles, etc.
Before the wedding, friends and family help the new couple prepare their new home. Money (for prosperity) and rice (for laying down the roots) are thrown on the bed and a baby is then rolled over the couple’s bed to guarantee fertility!
The custom of a bride carrying a cube of sugar in her glove during the ceremony as a symbol of a “sweet” married life is pretty well known too. Another one is where she walks down the aisle with a gold coin in her shoe to bring prosperity. And if the groom puts a piece of iron in his pocket, it is said that helps to ward off evil spirits!
As part of the religious rituals, the priest pours wine into the “common cup” which is one single wine glass, and the bride and groom each take three sips from it. One of the trendy customs suggests that the bride must list all the names of her unmarried girlfriends on the sole of her right shoe and at the end of the night, the names of the girls that have been rubbed off are said to be next in line to get married!
After the ceremonies, it is time for a celebration! Everyone equates a Greek wedding with some serious traditional dancing. They move in a circle, holding hands, and rotate in a counter-clockwise direction. The last dance of the night is reserved for the bride and groom. Guests come up to them and pin money to their clothes! Now isn’t that neat!
Did you also know it is a traditional Greek custom to smash and break plates at weddings? This was done to signify that it was a momentous occasion! How much wackier can it get? Seriously?