Adina's experiences studying the Jews of Greece on Crete and Rhodes in summer 2007
Thursday, July 19, 2007
I had a very exciting weekend as I was invited to my first Greek wedding. I was invited by Manos, Alex’s brother who was the best man or koumbaros. The koumbaros is not only the best man, but acts as a witness or sponsor to the marriage and helps perform some of the ceremonial parts of the wedding. He’s also in charge of inviting people, which is where I come in.
The wedding was outdoors next to a small-ish hotel in the evening. The guests arrived and then waited for the bride. As she got out of the car and walked toward the aisle, looking fabulous, everyone clapped and cheered. The entire time I was thinking “wow, imagine if you could get up every day, looking fantastic and had people clapping and cheering for you when you got out of your car. I would never sleep in again.” The ceremony was really interesting. The service was all in Greek so I didn’t understand most of it but there were a lot of interesting rituals and I did get some explanations afterward. The priest read from a silver-plated bible which he had the bride, groom, best man and the flower girls each kiss upon closing it. Then the priest blessed the wedding rings over their heads three times and then the koumbaros placed them on their fingers, switching them 3 times. This represents the unbreakable bond of Christian Marriage. Then he placed 2 wreaths joined by a ribbon on each of their heads and recited a prayer. The koumbaros switched them over their heads 3 times. This represents virtue and holiness. They drank wine from the same cup, just like Jewish weddings, which represents that the couple will share everything from now on. The priest and the couple all walked around a small table in a circle 3 times, chanting a prayer, which represents the promise of the couple to preserve their marriage bond forever. The circle symbolizes eternity and the triple circling honors the Holy Spirit. One thing that really shocked me was the fact that people were talking throughout the entire ceremony. Babies were crying, even the flower girls were talking and didn't remain stationary throughout the service. I couldn't believe that people were chatting, but thought it was pretty funny. As the ceremony ended people threw rice and flower petals.
After the wedding each guest was given a pastry of fried dough covered in honey and a small cup of Raki, which is a local alcohol. At the reception there was traditional dancing, with the bride and many of the wedding guests, and a band that played traditional Cretan music. The whole thing was lovely and there were rose petals EVERYWHERE. I had so much fun and was very happy to experience it.