Traditional Cretan wedding
Once upon a time in Crete, the wedding was conducted very differently from the typical marriage ceremony of today.
When a lad was feeling ready to get married and had seen the girl he fancied, he was sending a match-maker to inform her father. After the father of the candidate accepted, the lad visited the house of the bride-to-be, and they discussed these matters all together.
Only after they had agreed about everything and the dowry that the groom would receive, he would give the girl a ring. The girl, on her behalf, when the groom was to leave, she would hang a beautiful towel from his shoulder as a proof that he would return home and that he was “promised”. About a month later, the groom with his family visited the house of the bride with gifts and koufeta (almonds covered in sugar, like candy) so that the engagement happens and they were celebrating the event. Then it was decided about when the marriage would take place.
The groom was preparing his house and the bride was completing her dowry. During that time period, the groom was visiting the bride, but always with presence of the girl’s parents, so that the groom was not able to kiss the bride. The last week before the wedding, the bride invited her female friends to admire the dowry that she had gathered at her house. At the same time, the groom’s preparations were also starting intensively the Monday of the last week before the wedding. The housewives were gathering and making chalakia (soft paksimadia, a kind of small bread) and bread. Then, they made kserotigana (another bread-type food but made on a pan) and they were helping at the housework so that everything is ready by Saturday.
On Saturday, the male friends of the groom, the “prikologi” (dowry-gatherers), were loading their horses or mules with the dowry and carried it from the house of the bride to the house of the groom. When they were loading their horses with the dowry, they were putting the most beautiful items on top so that everyone can admire them from wherever they made way. As they were leaving the bride’s house they were singing:
“we took the dowry,
with golden details,
and fabrics sewed
by hands virtuous”
Upon arriving at the house of the groom, the friends and relatives of the groom were unloading the dowry from the horses and were decorating his house. The unmarried girls made the bed where the married couple would sleep on and they put on the bed rice and money. They made and unmade the bed several times and they put a boy on it, so that the couple will bare boys in the future.
They were marking on the bed the initials of the couple with “koufeta” (sweetcovered almonds). Finally, the unmarried girls were taking “koufeta” for themselves, so that they put them under their own pillow at home, because according to the tradition they were going to dream their future husband.
Afterwards, the rest of the relatives and friends would arrive with their
“kaniskia” (wedding gifts), as well as the best man and his friends and several other people from that village. Then, a celebration would start with jokes, they would tear apart the groom’s shirts, cutting his tie that he was wearing, and celebrating all together until Sunday around midday, when they would start from that house to go receive the bride for the wedding. The friends were prepared the groom and put a flower decoration like a flag on his horse. While they were leaving, they were singing the verses: “Mother, give me your blessings so that the wedding begins..”.
At the house of the bride, the people were also celebrating and laughing from Saturday until Sunday, when the female friends of the bride started to prepare her for the event and sang nice “madinades” (traditional type of verse, in Greek it has rhythm like a poem): “Bride, at the house that you will go you must worship your mother-in-law and avoid talking too much”, “Bride, at the house that you will go, let the first bread that you will make be sweet like sugar and honey”.
The chef and his assistants prepare stew and boiled rice to welcome the wedding guests. When the time came for the groom’s company to reach the bride’s house, they were singing “Maiden, inform and invite me and I shall arrive..”. They made the table and the girls continued to sing madinades (poem-like verses) “Groom, love the bride, don’t scold her and enjoy looking at her beauty as she sits on the couch”, “our bride is virtuous and with a fine upbringing, don’t scold her, parents-in-law” and many other.
The wedding crown ritual happens at the house’s yard, the best man exchanges the crowns and gives the couple his gifts. When the wedding was finally over, the groom’s brothers took the bride, helped her sit on the horse that was decorated with flowers and they were hanging a “kouloura” (a round wedding bread with a whole in the middle and carved decorations) with a fabric like a flag.
As they were leaving, the company of the groom were singing “we took the partridge, who is with riches and we left the neighborhood..” and “Greetings basils and violas in bloom, may the unmarried girls be married by next year”.
While the group were making their way through the neighborhoods, the people were throwing at them rice and flowers and the kids were giving away little baskets with flowers for the bride and groom. At their arrival at the groom’s house, they were singing “Show yourself, mother of the groom and the bride’s mother-in-law”. The mother-in-law came out of the house holding a plate with honey and nuts, giving some to the groom and the bride, who made a cross sign outside of their door. Then, the bride threw a pomegranate at the ground, so that happiness scatters all around just like the seeds and they enter the house, the bride first and just after her. The guests that had not been at the bride’s house for the gift-offering, they were visiting the house of the couple to offer their gifts and their wishes for a happy life.
The table was made and raki was offered and in the meantime there was stew and rice getting prepared in the kitchen. Afterwards, there was a song while people were sitting at the table to eat: “My lords, drink and eat, while I recite my story..”
The musical instruments were next, framing the song “Today there is a wedding in a beautiful garden, today the mother and daughter get separated”. The bride’s dancing would begin, the groom had the first dance with her, then the father-inlaw, mother-in-law, groom’s brothers and close relatives. A dance with the best man followed. The bride held a beautiful handkerchief and the last one to dance with the bride was to keep it. The feast was carried on for hours and after midnight they were putting meat on the spit near the fire. Around that time, the “antichariotes” came (the bride’s parents with their group of people), holding their gifts (meat, pan-bread and “chalakia” small bread-type offerings), they ate together and celebrating until morning, when they finally left.
On Monday morning, the couple decorated the tables at their new home with fabric from the dowry, and offered soup to the best man.
The celebrating was carried on, the brothers of the groom and the neighbors invited the new couple and their best man at their home to eat together, with a lot of food, wine and singing involved.
On Monday afternoon, the bride took the “kouloura” (the big round wedding bread with the whole in the middle, with carved decorations) and together with some close friends or family they went to the water source of the village (usually a small built water spring, where people used to take water for their house in the past), they made a cross sign on the bread and then they carved it and shared it. That night was supposed to be the last celebrating dinner. While the guests were leaving, they were offering the best man gifts (towels, a slice from the “kouloura”, meat, and pan-bread). The bride and groom were asking the guests to give them their handkerchiefs and they filled them with bread-like offerings and salty peanuts, while they also gave a koulouri (similar to bagel), according to the tradition.
While the guests were leaving, they were singing “Greetings basils and violas in bloom, greetings to the unmarried girls and the married ones too”.
So, they all lived happily ever after!!
Imagine your dream-like wedding in this wonderful destination, full of pride and tradition. There is nothing to worry about! Just think of all the magical moments that you will experience at your traditional Cretan wedding!