A Greek Orthodox wedding is a beautiful and sacred event. The service is incredibly rich in meaning, and the traditions are both ancient and intriguing. The following is a typical Greek Orthodox Wedding Ceremony from our experience and understanding. While specific aspects and events may vary, the following should serve as a general guideline for those interested learning about and photographing Greek Orthodox Weddings.
There are two parts of the ceremony: the Service of Betrothal and the Ceremony of the Sacrament of Marriage.
The Service of Betrothal
Shot at the Saint Barbara Greek Orthodox Church in Santa Barbara, CA with a Canon 40Don a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USMat ISO 400 f/3.5 1/80
The primary focus of this portion of the ceremony is the exchanging of rings. The ceremony begins with the priest blessing both the rings and the couple by holding the rings in his right hand and, with the other hand, signaling a cross over the heads of the bride and groom.
The rings are exchanged and placed on the third fingers right hands, symbolizing the right hand of God. The bride and groom’s religious sponsor within the Greek Orthodox Church (thekoumbaro or koumbara)then exchanges the rings between the bride and groom’s fingers, three times. An interesting aspect of Greek Orthodox Weddings is that most significant events happen in sets of three, symbolizing God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
Shot at the Saint Barbara Greek Orthodox Church in Santa Barbara, CA with a Canon 40D on a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L Lens at ISO 800 f/2.8 1/250
The Ceremony of the Sacrament of Marriage
After several prayers, the Priest joins the right hands together of the Bride and Groom, and they stay joined for the rest of the ceremony, tosignify the union of the couple.
The Crowning –
One of the most intriguing aspects of a Greek Orthodox wedding is the use of crowns. During the service, the bride and groom each wear a crown known as a stefana. These crowns symbolize their new status as husband and wife, and they also represent their union with Christ. The stefanas are connected by a white ribbon, which represents the couple’s unity and their shared journey through life.
The priest places crowns (stefana) on the heads of the Bride and Groom wear headbands (such as in the picture to the left, shot with a Canon 40D on a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L Zoom Lensat ISO 1000 f2.8 1/160); and thekoumbaro/koumbara exchange these crowns, as they did the rings, three times. The stefana symbolises the glory and honour bestowed upon them by God, while the white ribbon used to tie the crowns together symbolize unity between the Bride and the Groom.
The Common Cup – Another wonderful tradition is the sharing of bread and wine at the end of the service. This act represents the couple’s first meal together as husband and wife, and it is a cherished moment that is sure to be remembered for years to come. The Bride and Groom then drink from the common cup three times, after which there is a reading of the Epistle and the Gospel. Wine is then given to the couple and they each drink from it three times.
The Ceremonial Walk
The Priest will lead the couple round the table three times on which are placed the Gospel and the Cross. The Koumbaro or Koumbara walks behind the married couple holding the Stefana in place. Often called the dance of Isaiah.
The Removal of the Crowns
After the ceremonial walk, the Priest blesses the couple, removes the crowns, and asks God to grant the couple a long, happy life together. Then the priest separates the couples joined hands with a bible, reminding the couple that no one but God can separate the couple.