Photo Tour: Traditional Greek Island Wedding
Here’s a photo tour of a traditional Greek island wedding in the Cycladic island of Serifos and a few tips you should know as a Greek island wedding guest.
Traditional Greek Island Wedding
This traditional Greek island wedding on Serifos was a big deal. Imagine, the whole island was invited. A total of one thousand guests! The mayor of Serifos Antonis Antonakis married his fiance Lia. She happens to be the daughter of the island’s priest. As the hour of the wedding drew closer all of those guests waited for bride and groom to walk up to the square where the church was located.
It was an honor for us to be at the wedding. I’ll rephrase that a bit, a very windy wedding! Exactly when the wedding was happening and the entourage made their way up the steps of the hilltop whitewashed village, the crazy Cycladic winds started whipping around. These island winds, called meltemi, hit. They reached a Balfour rating of eight that day. Trust me, that was a very strong rating!
Facing the winds, local musicians started off the beginning of the ceremony by walking and playing traditional Greek island wedding music. The couple followed.
Followed by so many guests. A look inside the packed church.
Afterwards, the entire island pretty much gathered at one party held at an open-air restaurant space near one of the beaches. Na zisete!
About those Traditional Greek Island Weddings
Should you be invited to a traditional Greek island wedding, here are a few lists that should come in handy.
The Greek Island Wedding
- The ceremony happens at a Greek Orthodox church. The locations of such churches on the Greek islands can be absolutely breathtaking. Sometimes the location is on an islet surrounded by the sea or in a picturesque village.
- The bride may make her way to the church in a local traditional way meaning a boat or a donkey!
- The Greek islands are diverse so the traditions may vary from island to island. Like in Serifos, local musicians serenaded the couple to the church. Other traditions include the groom’s best friend shaving the groom on his wedding day. The mother of the bride may feed the groom honey and almonds. The couple’s “wedding bed” may be showered with money and a baby may be placed on the bed for a moment as a way of wishing the couple wealth and healthy first child. Some islands hire people to shoot off rifles after the ceremony!
- The ceremony itself is broken down into two parts: betrothal service and marriage ceremony.
- The betrothal service begins at the church door. The priest blesses the rings and puts them on the couples’ fingers three times. This symbolizes their entwined lives.
- During the marriage ceremony, the bride and groom stand together with two candles wearing stefana (wedding crowns) that are linked together by a ribbon. Before the crowns are placed on their heads, the couple kisses, and the koumbaro (best man) switches the crowns three times. This custom represents the joining of two souls.
- After the ceremony a receiving line is formed either inside or outside the church where wishes are extended to the newlyweds and their family. Learn to say na zisete which means may you have a long life, na sas zisoun to the parents and relatives which means may they have a long life.
- Upon leaving the church all the guests are given a little tulle pouch and filled with sugared almonds.
Before You Attend a Greek Island Wedding Know…
- Greek weddings in general tend to attract large crowds usually over 300 people. In the Greek islands, I learned that when a local throws a wedding — everyone is invited to the ceremony and the dinner afterwards. Like at the Serifos wedding we were surrounded by 1,000 other guests. This was 200 more people than the population of the island.
- Traditional Greek food, music and dancing and the wedding ceremony itself are equally important.
- For perfect weather, Greek island weddings usually happen between the months of May and September.
- Expect a lot of food, wine and ouzo!
My advice to ladies: bring a pair of comfortable shoes or pretty flat sandals. The little chapels on islands are often challenging to get to by foot. Plus, you’ll likely want to switch to comfy shoes to dance in later on. Comfortable dresses that are long, flowy (watch out for the island winds) are a great option for women. Also, take a scarf in case it gets chilly at night. Suits for men.
How to Get to Serifos
To get to the Greek islands, many international travelers arrive by air, usually with a change in Athens or another major city. There are some direct seasonal flights to certain island destinations too. You can find the best flight deals with Vayama.
The only way to travel to Serifos is by ferry or private boat/yacht from the port of Piraeus in Athens. The island does not have an airport.
The frequency of ferries depends on the season. Ferries leave from the port of Piraeus in Athens. The trip lasts anywhere from 2.5 to 5.5 hours, depending on if you book a seat on a fast or slow ferry. For updated ferry schedules check www.openseas.gr. I usually take the SpeedRunner which is about a 2.5 hour journey (45-50 Euro each way).
There are regular connections to the other west Cyclades, including Milos, Kythnos and Sifnos.
Where to Stay in Serifos
Boutique: Rizes Hotel is a four-star hotel with a beautiful pool, individual plunge pools, a great view, excellent buffet breakfast and a beautiful view to the Chora and the Aegean Sea. From €100 a night, depending on the season. Coco-Mat, the luxury Greek brand, also has a small boutique hotel right on Vagia beach.
Mid-Range: The Livadi is ideal for a convenient stay, especially for those without a car. You’d be within walking distance to everything: beaches, eateries, nightlife and the ferries. For an atmospheric apartment stay with lovely amenities, I recommend Indigo. From €80 a night, depending on the season.
Basic: For a basic clean rooms, no frills, I recommend Ms. Lambrini’s Cavo d’Oro (+30 2281 051160). From €50 a night, depending on the season.
Where to Eat on Serifos
For a rundown of the eateries in Serifos, check out my post the Best Restaurants in Serifos.
What to Do on Serifos
Serifos is a nature lovers dream. There are many beautiful beaches, hiking trails and a fantastic main town to explore. I frequent this island the most so I have tons of posts about everything Serifos on this blog.
Have you ever been to a traditional Greek island wedding?