When couples ask me ‘what are the Greek wedding crowns’ – in fact when they ask me that question about any unity ritual – I always want to reply; ‘what do you want it to be?’ Because honestly, it can be anything you want it to be!
Let me explain
Let’s start at the beginning. The tradition dates back to ancient Greece. Two circles would be fashioned from vines or olive branches and fragrant lemon blossoms or laurel would be woven in. When the crowns were placed on the heads of the couple they were officially betrothed. They would wear the crowns for a week after the wedding and then there would be a second ceremony to remove the crowns. (Hey, the Greeks have always found ways to extend a celebration!)
Then along came Christianity and the Greek Orthodox church took over the job of marrying people, but some of the ancient traditions were adopted and incorporated into the religious ceremony. One of these traditions being the wedding crowns, or ‘Stefana’ as they are known. There are no words spoken by the bride and groom in the Orthodox ceremony and the placing of the crowns is still the moment of betrothal, as it was in the ancient Greek ceremony. The crowns are exchanged over the couples heads three times to invoke the holy trinity and this is performed by the koumbaros/koumbara (best man/woman) And guess what – some Greeks still carry on the tradition of the second ceremony the week after! The couple isn’t expected to wear the crowns for the week in between these days. Which is good, because it could be awkward with the ribbon joining them together…
So apart from the Stefana crowning the couple as king and queen of their marriage, the ribbon that joins the two crowns together is a symbol of unity.
That’s the gist of it. Now to my point of ‘what do you want it to be?’ Because you can take the basis of this tradition – the coronation of you both as joint rulers of the kingdom of your marriage with your crowns symbolically joined together by a ribbon or cord – and then fine-tune it to fit in with your ideals, beliefs and what you want it to stand for in your ceremony.
How to own your Greek Wedding crowns tradition
You could do this by the way that the crowns are used in the ceremony, as well as what they are made from or how they are joined. Let’s start with how they are used:
- who will place them on your heads? Here is an opportunity to involve significant people in to your ceremony. Do you want to ask your parents to do this, perhaps because their blessing and support for your marriage is really important to you? Or do you see this as more of a role for your bestman/woman? Perhaps you want your Celebrant to do it as part of their officiating role. There is no right or wrong here, just a beautiful opportunity to say something without words in your ceremony!
- Crossing them over your heads. This doesn’t mean making the sign of the cross by the way. The crowns are lifted up and switched over in the air. I like to include that this symbolises the interchangeable roles in your marriage, that you both stand together as equals.
I would usually put the crowning into the ceremony just before the wedding vows and ring exchange. It’s a beautiful visual image to see the crowns and the ribbon that joins them as you read or repeat your promises and intentions to each other.
What do the crowns look like and where can I get them
What type of crowns are you going to choose? If you are going to buy them you can find them online and of course in wedding shops here in Greece. They start from about 200 euros and are usually metal or decorated with pearls or diamonte. I recently came across a beautiful enterprise called ‘Story of Stefania‘ who make bespoke wedding crowns – check them out if this appeals to you! Or you could order them from your florist to get them made with flowers or traditional style with olive or vines (be sure to tell them you want the ribbon attached, greek style) or you could make them yourself! Trust me, it’s not difficult as I have made a few myself! I used a wooden embroidery ring as it comes in 2 pieces and simply covered it with ribbon and decorated them as per the couple’s wishes. Here are a few examples below of crowns and different ways they were personalised:
Joss & Jodie’s two ribbon hand made crowns:
In appreciation of their beautiful Greek surroundings at Villa Delenia in Evia, Joss and Jodie asked to incorporate the wedding crowns into their ceremony. Their crowns were simple wooden embroidery rings bound with white satin ribbon and decorated with pearl pins. We added two ribbons to join them together – one pink, one white – to represent their two children. So when they got crowned as King and Queen of their marriage, they also joined their children into the royal dynasty!
Photographs by Maxeen Kim Photography
Mike & Erena’s ’27’ eternity knot crowns:
Mike and Erena are a super romantic couple who renew their wedding vows every year in a different city! I got the honour of creating their ceremony when they chose Athens. Erena mentioned to me that the number 27 has a special significance for them and, as it turns out, 27 is a pretty special number by itself! Onto their wedding crowns, I attached a cobalt blue cord (cobalt is the 27th element by the way) with 27 eternity knots: 9 on each of the crowns and 9 on the ribbon between them.
Monique & Andrew’s ‘Sempre Viva’ Kytherian crowns:
Andrew (Andreas) is from the island of Kythera, which is one of only two places in the world where the robust and pretty little yellow flowers known as ‘Sempre Viva’ grow. This is a flower that never dies, ‘eternal life’. And it’s yellow, which just happens to be Monique’s favourite colour. Their wedding crowns were made from tiny bundles of the flowers and they were a perfect symbol of love and unity against the backdrop of Andrew’s ancestral home.
Rory & Zoe’s heirloom crowns:
Zoe and Rory held their ceremony on Mykonos and their crowns were lovingly given to them by Zoe’s parents who had used them in their own wedding ceremony!
Ted & Tory’s golden crowns:
Ted and Tory included the wedding crowns as a nod to Ted’s Greek heritage. Their crowns were gold coloured metallic crowns which fit together like a jigsaw puzzle, not unlike the way Ted and Tory ‘fit’ together too!
So you see – take them and make them yours! You can personalise them to represent something special to you, or you can choose them just because they are beautiful or unusual. As always, in a Celebrant led ceremony the decision is ALL yours!