The Orthodox Cypriot Wedding
On a beautiful weekend afternoon, you are touring the rural villages of the Heartland of Legends. Outside the village church, you see a flock of people of all ages dressed up in their best. You have just stumbled on a Cypriot wedding; a traditional religious celebration followed by a grand feast. Feel free to go in. Everyone is welcome in our churches.
At a Cypriot wedding everything about the ceremony is related to the number 3, which symbolizes the Holy Trinity – for example the priest places the wedding crowns on the heads of the couple and then lifts them up and swaps them, from the head of the bride to the head of the groom and vice versa, crossing his arms. This ritual is repeated three times.
There are many symbolisms in the ceremony. The traditional, plain, gold wedding rings, have no beginning, middle or end, and symbolize the eternal love of the couple. Wedding rings are worn on the finger of the right hand, because Jesus Christ blessed the Marriage in Cana with his right hand.
The custom of the bride carrying a flower bouquet has its origin in ancient times. Women carried aromatic bunches of garlic, herbs and spices to ward off evil spirits. Thankfully, nowadays the bride chooses a fragrant flower bouquet instead.
At the Orthodox wedding ceremony, the priest blesses the couple’s stefana (wedding crowns). Wedding crowns are traditionally extremely important to the couple. They are made of silk or silver and are bound together by a long ribbon. Women used to place them in a special display, which hung above the marital bed. The blessed stefana are supposed to bring prosperity, happiness and many children to the couple.
During the ceremony, the priest gives the couple a piece of bread to eat and wine to drink. The groom and the bride take three bites of bread and three sips of wine, an act reminiscent of the Wedding at Cana, where Jesus turned water into wine. The act of sharing the same piece of bread and drinking wine from the same cup symbolize the fact that the couple will now share all their joys and sorrows.
Finally, holding up the book of the Holy Gospel, the priest leads the couple in a ceremonial walk called the Dance of Isaiah. It is a walk around the table that holds the items that are used during the ceremony and is repeated tree times. The best man and the maid of honor show their support for the couple by following closely behind holding the ribbon that joins the Stefana (wedding crowns). This “dance” celebrates their first steps as husband and wife.
When the ceremony is over friends and family wait for the couple outside the church and throw rice mixed with rose pedals at them to bring then longevity and happiness.