Last year I had the opportunity to go to Chios, Greece to photograph a traditional Greek wedding. It was such an amazing experience to not only go to Greece but to witness a their traditions.
The wedding was a rather small wedding (500 people) in a little village on the island of Chios. Chios is really rather stunning. Alot of the building are medieval and made of stone.
I covered three days of photography for their wedding in order not to have 8 million photos on one page I divided their wedding into two parts.
Part One. The Wedding
The bride's and her family are from Chios which is why they chose to get married there. In Greece it's traditional for the whole village to be invited to the wedding. So a few weeks before the bride's mother and father went around the village and personally handed out invitations to each person.
So, the day of the wedding the bride got ready in a house that has belonged in her family for years.
The guys got ready just down the street. A tradition in Greece is for the best man or koumbaro to shave the groom on the morning of the ceremony to signify trust before close friends step in to help dress him,
Chios, Greece Wedding Photography
Shooting in Greece is a dream come true. Everywhere you turn are beautiful doors and walls. We found this beautiful alley for their first look.
After the first look and a few photos around the village the bride went back to her parents house and prepared for the ceremony.
The Koumbaros, or “sponsor” of the marriage, plays an important role in the ceremony, performing rituals. Traditionally the groom’s godparent is asked to serve first. Then the godparent of the bride is asked, and then a close friend or family member may be asked.
Koumbaros play a much more important role than the American Best Man and Maid of Honor.
The wedding procession is begun at the groom’s house. He is met by the Koumbaro or Maid of Honor along with local musicians. They will march down the street together to the bride's home where the bride’s mother greets the groom. She greets him with a glass of wine, a ring-shaped biscuit and a boutonniere of herbs for his label. He pins the herbs to his lapel, kisses her hand and asks for her blessing. She gives her blessing by kissing him on both cheeks. She may also touch his neck with incense and give him embatikion, a gift to symbolize that his is now a part of the family.
The groom will carry the flowers to the bride as a gift.
After this they will process to the ceremony. While they are walking guns were fired into the air to announce to the village the start of the ceremony.
The ceremony took place in a tiny little church that barely fit their immediate family and wedding party. While the ceremony took place outside the 500 plus other guests waited outside eager for the celebration to begin.
The traditional ceremony in Greek Orthodox weddings in divided into two parts: the Betrothal and the Crowning. The Betrothal Service consists of blessing the rings over the heads of the bride and groom.
Then they are exchanged three times by their Koumbaros, or best man. The Crowning is the main part of the ceremony where the couple is crowned by garland wreaths, vines wrapped in silver or gold paper or even crowns made of semi-precious stones and metals. A white ribbon symbolizing unity joins the crowns. The crowns are packed in a special box after the ceremony. By ancient custom they are to stay with the couple for life – some couples are even buried in them.
Finally before the ceremony is over, in what is a high point of the service the newlywed couple is led around the small table by the priest, while the Koumbaros [a] follows behind holding the stephana ribbon. They circle the table three times, taking their first steps as husband and wife in what is known as ‘The Dance of Isaiah’. Following this and one final blessing, the ceremony is over.
Many a traditional Greek wedding ends in rice throwing. The rice is passed out before the wedding gets underway and can be a fun end to the ceremony, kicking off the party to come.
After a beautiful ceremony that was entirely in Greek the sun outside the church began to set. We stopped to catch the beautiful pink light as it danced on the nearby mountains before setting into the ocean.
The marina was transformed into a stunning outdoor reception area. Fortunately, in Chios rain is very rare so there is no need to worry about a back-up plan. Greeks are known for their receptions... and their all night food and dance parties. It is said to be bad luck for people to leave before the sun rises.
Dancing is a major component of the celebration. There are different Greek dances, from the athletic Tsamiko to the ouzo-soaked Zeibekiko. The Kalamatianos is a traditional dance that originated in Kalamata in antiquity. The dancers come together, dancing to traditional rhythmic music. 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 to do together.
Money is thrown into the air during the dances. In Greece, the money is given to the band as a way to say thank you.
Enjoy some of their reception photos. Part 2 includes a beautiful day after session !