In April 2002, an independent film starring an unknown actress was given a limited release. That film, which was made on a 5 million dollar budget, went on to earn 368 million dollars in box office revenue, making it the highest-grossing independent film ever and by most standards the most successful romantic comedy in movie history! What movie, you ask? My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
Filled with endearing characters and witty, comedic dialogue, it is easy to see why this film was a hit. But, what turned it into a worldwide phenomenon? Some of it had to do with timing – the movie went ‘viral’ before that word was part of our collective vocabulary – but we believe its enduring success stems from its universal themes surrounding love, family, friends, and they ways in which traditions are used to represent the things we value most.
As wedding florists and designers, we are granted the opportunity to learn about and witness so many beautiful wedding traditions. We recently helped design not one, but two Big, Beautiful Greek Weddings, so we thought it would be fun to share the history behind some of these time honored traditions.
According to The Knot, the Stefana is the focal point of the wedding ceremony. It represents the joining of the couple, and it acknowledges their role as the King and Queen of their home. It also symbolizes the hope they they will ‘rule’ their home with wisdom, justice, and integrity. In the same vein as the exchange of rings, the stefana, or wedding crowns, are blessed by the priest and passed between the almost-newlyweds three times before being placed on their heads.
Widely known as lambades, the wedding candle is a very symbolic element of a Greek Orthodox ceremony.The candles that are used during the sacrament of the wedding serve as a symbol of purity and the way God will light the way for the couple. The bride and groom each hold a lit candle during the sacrament to show their willingness to receive God’s blessing.
Another very popular tradition is to offer koufetta—fresh almonds with a sugar coating. The almonds themselves, which are hard, represent the challenges the couple may face in life, while the coating represents the sweet times and happiness the couple will share. According to Greek Weddings and Traditions, These almond treats are always given out in odd numbers because an odd number is indivisible, just as the bride and groom should always be undivided. Historically, they were placed on the marital bed the day before the ceremony; Today, they are often given to guests as a wedding favor – called a Bomboniere.
In the same vein, rice is also used in many Greek weddings. Rice, a symbol of fertility and prosperity, is often thrown at the couple as a way to wish them a happy and blessed life together!
It’s not a Greek wedding without lots and lots of dancing! Whether it is The Bride’s Dance, also known as the Kalamatianos, or the Sirtaki, these circle dances bring together friends and family to celebrate the union of the bride and groom.
One of the most famous dances is The “Money Dance”. In some regions of Greece, money is pinned directly to the bride’s gown throughout the evening, but in most Greek American receptions, the money is commonly thrown on/near a dancing couple to wish them good fortune and prosperity.
Bobby and Maria’s Wedding:
Reception Venue – The Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia
Reception Caterer – The Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia
Ceremony Venue – Saint George’s Greek Orthodox Cathedral
Event Lighting – Petals Lane
Band – Power Station Entertainment
Wedding Planner- Lauren James Events (LJ Events)
Event Designer – Petals Lane
Photographer – Sarah DiCicco
Cinematography – CinemaCake Filmmakers
Makeup Artist – Julie Kate & Co.
Hair Stylists – Jason Matthews Salon
Floral Designer – Petals Lane
Wedding Cake – Van Earl’s Cake
George and Amalia’s Wedding:
Reception Venue – Ballroom at the Ben
Reception Caterer – Finley Catering
Floral Designer – Petals Lane
Photographer – Ron Soliman
Cinematography – Ron Adams
Wedding Cake – Finley Catering