Cretan traditional wedding

Published: September 10, 2019
Wedding in Chania, Παράδοση, Ήθη, Έθιμα

The Traditional Cretan Wedding is a very special event with a great variety of food and entertainment provided.

On Crete young people usually get married because they are in love. If for whatever reason the parents do not agree with this marriage, the young couple then decide to elope to an unknown place until their parents finally agree to the marriage. Up until the 20th century it was very common, especially in villages for the groom to elope with his bride. The parents of the bride were usually opposed to the wedding because girls were very restricted and the father believed that he should be the one to choose the future husband of his daughter.
The reasons why the parents of the bride and especially the father did not approve of the husband their daughter had chosen are many; the bride may have been to young, there may have been conflicts between the two families regarding political matters or just disagreeing because their daughter dared to choose a husband on her own which was considered against ethical beliefs and offended the families honor and dignity.

Of course there were those who did not dare seek a companion on their own and preferred the process of matchmaking. During the process of matchmaking a third person who knew the family of the bride or groom made arrangements for the two young people to meet. The match-maker had to be a respected elderly person.Whether the couple had eloped or met by the process of matchmaking, and after the father’s agreement the engagement or “logo stemma” followed. The two families exchanged rings in the presence of a priest and the dowry agreement was drawn up. This stated the dowry the bride would receive from her family. If the two young people were getting married because they were in love or if they had eloped the groom was not entitled to any demands from his father in law (he received whatever was given to him).

If matchmaking was involved the presence of the matchmaker was necessary at the engagement. The “logo stemma” took place at the bride’s house with only close family members present. The wedding date was arranged on this day. Weddings took place on Sundays or on other holidays never on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or in May.

Before the wedding the couple had to choose the best man. The best man was usually the man who had baptized the groom or was a close friend of the bride or groom. The parents of the couple arranged the music band and the place where the wedding celebration would take place.They were also responsible for the invitations. They appointed someone to invite relatives and friends to the wedding.

Before the wedding friends and relatives sent gifts to the new couple, these were baskets of oil, wine, cheese and potatoes. The bride and groom were also given money in envelopes or household goods, so they could set up their new house. The parents gave their guests “kouloures” (round bread) decorated in a special way for the occasion or xerotigana, a traditional sweet.

On the eve the wedding the bride’s trousseau was brought to her house, this included embroidery, sheets and household goods. These were transported by horses or carriages or by the so-called dowry carriers.
The transportation was accompanied by the lyre (traditional instrument of Crete) singing accompanied by the sounds of gunshots.

When the dowry carriers delivered the trousseau, they were offered traditional treats such as almonds, walnuts, xerotigana or tsikoudia. When all the gifts reached the couple’s new house, the bride put them on display so all the villagers could admire them. The bride decorated the bridal bed with the help of her friends. The lower sheet had to be white so the loss of the bride’s virginity could be seen the next day.
Friend’s of the bride and groom helped them get dressed before they set off for the church.
If the bride was from another village the so called “psiki” took place, a group of young men left the groom’s house and went to get the bride and take her to the church. The young men competed to see who would get there first. The winner received a kouloura from the bride and escorted her to the church.

If the bride was from the same village as the groom, the groom, the best man and guests went to the bride’s house to get her. On the way, singing and gunshots could be heard.
When they reached her house a woman would sing mandinades (traditional songs), which encouraged the bride to open her door. Then everyone headed for the church. During the ceremony the bride did not step on the groom’s foot (as is traditional nowadays) when the priest said, “the wife must respect her husband” because the groom could call off the wedding.
At the end of the ceremony the couple and guests headed for the groom’s house.

There his mother would be waiting for them. She would give the bride walnuts and honey and engrave a cross on the door. The bride poured honey in the entrance so the marriage would be sweet and broke a pomegranate so the marriage would be fertile. The celebration began immediately with singing, dancing and plenty of food. This lasted until morning. First the couple began singing. The following day, as soon as the couple woke up, they would show the white sheet. Then another celebration would begin (the second wedding). Nowadays most of the traditional customs have disappeared.
Some of these traditions though, are still followed. It is worth mentioning that in Kastelli in the municipality of Kissamos during the Gramvousa celebrations a reproduction of traditional Cretan wedding takes place every year, attracting many tourists and local people of the area.

Even though many of the traditional wedding customs are not followed any more it would be worthwhile to attend a Cretan wedding celebration as it is today.
You will have the opportunity to see many guests, dance to traditional and modern music and taste a great variety of Cretan traditional food (xerotigana, rusk with tomato and cheese, wedding pilaf –rice, roasted meat, meatpies, cheesepies, cheese with honey, tsikoudia and local wine.)
The entertainment lasts until the early morning hours.