Greek/American Culture, Marriage and “YiaYia


( serenading, singing, playing guitar “badly”)

Not that I felt like Toula’s  boyfriend in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” but the movie was my only introduction to Greek/American culture before I got married.The traditional wedding service in the Greek Orthodox faith is ancient, traditional and beautiful that continues unchanged for centuries. I have always had a great curiosity for Greek Philosophy, War and now Religion.

It’s  a ceremony full of symbolism that I love. Although my wedding wasn’t 100% Greek it had some traditional elements to it. Many people find the service itself rather unique. The bride and groom don’t make vows to each other (although we did) — it’s understood that standing together in the church shows they’re serious about getting married. I am thankful that my wife’s parents or my wife for that matter embraced new change and had no purpose of keeping our relationship a secret like Toula had.

Ceremony of the Sacrament of Marriage. This Ceremony consists of several key parts. First, the priest leads several prayers. Then, as they come to an end, he joins the right hands of the bride and groom. Their hands(thought mine were sweaty) remain joined until the wedding ceremony ends, which symbolizes their union.

The Crowning. The bride and groom are crowned with flowered crowns, or “stefana”, (yes, I wore one)which are joined by a ribbon and have been blessed by the priest. The crowns symbolize the glory and honor bestowed on them by God, and the the ribbon signifies the couple’s unity. The “Koumbaro” then exchanges the crowns three times between the couple’s heads.

The Removal of the Crowns. When the Ceremonial Walk ends, the priest then blesses the couple, removes the crowns(actually by my brother n law) and separates their previously-joined hands with the Bible, reminding them that only God can break the union they’ve just entered into.


My wife’s “YiaYia” had passed on recently and my only real understanding of their church and God was reading philosophy books a long time ago, mainly written or influenced by Greeks. Aristotle, Plato, Dante etc. Listening to the priest, who was one of the nicest men I have ever met, expressed and believed in “eternal life.” The church strongly says there is a positive outcome in death — that the deceased is alive with God. While death is the separation of the soul  from the body  the physical body will be reunited with the soul at the Last Judgement. Death and Eternal Life. Body and Soul. Cremation is forbidden as it represents the destruction of the eternal physical body and it seems open casket is the only way to leave as visitors say good bye.

Iris, the Goddess of the Rainbow is known to be the messenger, between Earth and Heaven in Homer’s Lliad. A sign that “someone” has made it to the other side.

Rainbows can be observed whenever there are water drops in the air and sunlight shining from behind at a low angle. Most rainbow displays happen when half the sky is still dark with raining clouds.

But on this day, we were in the car going to the cemetery, there was no rain or clouds. Clear, smooth,tranquil.Just the sun and with a final sign in the sky- showing us all, that a final transition had been made.

“YiaYia, even though I knew you the shortest amount of time, thanks for telling me all the stories”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s