“My large Greek wedding” on Crete

The fast is over; summer is coming, which means that it is the time not only for tourists, but also for weddings.

How does a wedding on Crete begin? Well, concerning relationships, marriage proposal, engagement – this is understandable, but before the wedding there is a preamble! So is the meaning of the Greek word πρόγαμος. The preamble is appointed a few days before the wedding: that evening friends and relatives of the intending spouses come and not with empty hands, but with carcasses of sheep, which will be cooked directly at the wedding. Tables are laid to treat the donors: the treats are a bit more modest than at the wedding. There are boiled and stewed meat, potatoes, Greek salad, wine and fruits. On this day, it is also customary to come for those who, for whatever reason, will be absent at the wedding itself. The gift for a wedding in Crete is fixed – 50 Euros in a signed envelope; and the bridal pair begins carefully to put into the guest list book all donated envelopes: when someone invites them to his or her wedding, they will look into this book and check if he or she was present at their wedding. In case of absence, they will not come: here the law of traditions is strict – only reciprocation.

In Greece, legalization of relations is possible in two ways – by getting married at the local city hall (δημαρχείο/dimarhio), or in a church. Both ways are completely equal in terms of the legitimacy of the relationship: it happens quite often last time, you can first do it at a city hall (especially if the bride is already in the family way), and then, after having given birth to a child, combine the wedding with the christening. In this country where the people are believers a marriage enshrined in a church wedding is more respected and approved.

A marriage in the city hall is very simple and takes place without great solemnity. The bride and groom will quickly be asked questions on their consent to enter into marriage, to sign on the necessary documents and will be wished many years of marriage. Signatures of two witnesses will be also required. The whole procedure takes five to ten minutes. The bride pair and the guests are dressed elegantly like for a lunch in a fancy restaurant, but the bride never wears classic white wedding dress and veil: such an outfit is only for the wedding.

A solemn ceremony is the wedding. The bride is here usually in a chic wedding dress and the groom in a nice expensive suit. In the church there are all the attributes of this solemn wedding ceremony, and after the wedding, all the guests are given memorable “boubounieres”: beautiful bags with sweets and souvenirs.

If in the first case (after your marriage in dimarhio) you can organize a modest holiday, then in the case of a wedding on Crete, you need to arrange this event in a big way. Your village and all nearby are not even invited –  it goes without saying that all the neighbors are welcomed guests at your wedding – and as a result, their number can start with 1000 people.

At a Cretan wedding, it is almost impossible to hear modern music: only professional musicians play lyre, guitar, and sometimes violin, and solely traditional Cretan music. Usually, relatives and friends dance, while for each dance you have to pay the musicians. The other guests sit at the tables, watching, listening and enjoying the holiday. There are no such attributes as a toastmaster leading wedding, various contests, or serving of many unusual salads and snacks: everything is very standard. The wedding is held in a village right on the main street or square (often blocking traffic), or in a special huge restaurant: there are many of them on Crete and only for this wonderful mission. By the arrival of guests, on the tables, there are already wine, raki, water, Coca-Cola, cutlery, flowers and table decorations. They spread bread, Greek salad and then boiled lamb and rice cooked in broth from this lamb. Thereafter is served baked lamb and then roasted one… At the end they bring fruit and sweets as well as gifts from the bride pair: usually a memorable souvenir. The wedding begins around eight o’clock in the evening and lasts until the morning, but by morning there are present only the closest and most persistent, including the bride and groom. They must see through to the last guest: if they leave earlier, it will be a disrespect.

The Greek wedding is a very expensive event. A photographer, who will be with a couple from morning to night, costs about 1,000 – 2,000 Euros, wedding makeup and hairstyle – another 1,000 Euros, food for one person costs about 15 Euros, and the total amount to be paid for the average in all respects wedding is about 25,000–30,000 Euros. Taking into account the crisis in the country, this money has to be saved by both persons intending to marry and their parents for more than one year, and the average age of marriage on Crete is over 30. As a rule, most couples meet more than one year before marriage, checking relationships, and do not hurry. But, despite all the difficulties, the Cretans continue to fall in love, create families and marry just as their ancestors did it before the crisis, arranging wedding with thousands of guests and dancing in such a way that the earth trembles under their feet!

Olga Morozova.