Even though a lot of the wedding’s traditions have been lost or relaxed, you can still enjoy many of the original rituals when attending a traditional Cypriot wedding.
On the day of the wedding, when the bride is dressed and ready to leave for the ceremony and while musicians play and sing, the bride’s parents, maid of honour (koumbara) and close friends wrap a red scarf around her waist and head to symbolise her virginity.
Likewise, at the groom’s house the “last shave” takes place and his best man (koumbaros) shaves him in the presence of his family and friends. The koumbaros then dresses the groom while musicians sing and play and his friends and family then wrap the red scarf around the groom’s waist as a symbol of his fertility. The groom and his family and companions then make their way to the bride’s house, and all depart for the church.
Before entering the church, the bride’s parents give her away to the groom as he waits for her with her bouquetl and the bride and groom then walk up the aisle together. During the ceremony, the priest gives the couple “prosfora”, ceremonial bread, to eat and Koumandaria, red Cypriot wine, to drink, symbolising the wedding at Cana in Galilee, where Christ blessed the marriage and converted water into wine.
The bride’s maid of honour places a “stefani”, a ceremonial headband traditionally made of materials ranging from lemon leaves, olive branches and vines to gold and jewels, on the bride’s head symbolising God’s blessings, while the best man places a similar headband on the groom.
Wearing the stefana, the couple exchange wedding rings three times before placing them on the fourth finger of each other’s right hand, to recognise that God’s right hand is the hand that blesses.
The couple then performs the Dance of Isaiah. The priest leads them three times around the table that holds the Gospel and the Cross while the best man and maid of honour walk behind the couple, holding the stefana in place.
The priest goes on to bless the couple, removes the stefana and asks God to grant them a long, happy life together and finally the priest separates the couple’s joined hands, showing them that only God can separate them from each other.
As they leave the church, the bridal couple offer the guests “koufetes” egg shaped sugared almonds . The egg shape representing fertility and the new life that begins with marriage, while their firm texture symbolises the endurance of an everlasting marriage, and the white sugarcoating represents the purity and the sweetness of their future life. The almonds are also offered in an indivisible, odd number, to symbolise the indivisibility of the new union.The single women at the ceremony share the almonds and red ribbon, placing them under their pillows to induce dreams of the man that each will marry.
The wedding guests finally toss rice at the couple as they leave the church, wishing them a life of happiness, prosperity and many children and the guests will move on to the wedding reception with the newly weds.
During the wedding reception guests will enjoy traditional Cypriot foods and dance well into the early morning hours. Early in the festivities, the unmarried friends of the bride may write their names on the soles of the bride’s shoes and at the end of the evening the bride removes her shoes. The woman whose name remains written on the soles of the shoes will traditionally be the next to marry.
Midway in the celebration, the couple perform the newlywed dance, offering their guests the opportunity to pin money to the couple’s clothing, allowing them to pay the wedding expenses and start their married life free of debt.
We really know how to celebrate in Cyprus and a traditional Cypriot wedding will be a truly memorable experience!