If you’ve seen the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, rest assured you saw a pretty accurate glimpse into the life and hijinks of a Greek wedding. It’s true, it’s one big ol’ happy plate smashing good time!
Greek weddings are a big deal replete with so many glorious traditions. This past month, I had the honor of being my godchild George’s Koumbara at his own big, crazy wedding. It was the culmination of a year’s worth of planning There was shopping for the perfect set of crowns that adorn the bride and groom’s heads, the silver tray for the crowns to sit in at the alter and the right candles to glow their blessings down on the happy couple.
And after the alter was complete, there was still a gown to find, shoes to match that won’t kill my feet nine hours in, a gift for a shower, a gift for the wedding, food to make and love to share. After all, our own wedding anniversary would be celebrated just a few days later – there’s lots of fun wisdom in decades of marriage!
But it’s the traditions that I still find the most glorious. Depending on where your family is from in Greece, you have traditions that carry from generation to generation. In America, many of the Greek families have carried on wedding blessings from their parents and grandparents. George and his wife, Antonia, would be no different.
Sure there are presents to buy and which plates to smash, but my role as Koumbara was the easiest “yes” decision to make, and one of the traditions I was so delighted to see them honor. In the Orthodox church, the Koumbara plays and active part in the ceremony and is chosen as someone to whom the newly married couple will look to for religious guidance throughout their marriage. It was one of my biggest joys as George’s godmother – nouna – to be his Koumbara and represented his love of family and the importance of the role.
Beyond the selection of crowns, trays, candles, verses and so much more, George and Antonia kept with our family's tradition in so many fun areas. “The shaving of the groom,” a huge dinner with all the Greek food you could imagine, dancing that went on for ours – and finally, George in the chair and someone giving him a clean shave before his wedding, while others throw money at him for good luck. Then, a rehearsal at the church and a follow up dinner at the groom’s home. Followed by the bridal traditions of making their bed with linens so luxurious you wanted to crawl right in for a nap – and the flowers that created the perfect setting for a wedding night. More food, more dancing – and a wedding reception to write down in the story books. It warmed my heart to see so many traditions that have been part of my family and culture for so long included as part of this celebration.
My best for Antonia and George may they have a life of health, happiness, prosperity and love!
Oh, and as for the food, one of my favorite cookies they have at most Greek weddings is Kourambethes (white powered sugar butter cookie) Yum! There are many versions of this recipes. This is mine.
4-5 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups butter
½ cup sugar
2 egg yolks
½ cup mastiha liqueur or ouzo or brandy
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ pound powdered sugar
Set a side 1 cup flour
Mix the rest of the flour and baking powder
Cream butter until very light in color then add sugar and the eggs beat until creamy
Add liqueur and vanilla
Then slowly add flour
Make sure the dough is not to dry and not to moist