The wedding ceremony
Weddings in Crete are usually a big occasion and cause for a large celebration and party atmosphere, meaning anything from 50 to 3000 guests. The orthodox wedding ceremony is a very complicated and serious affair, but at the same time, everything is very relaxed.
Since there is no room for all at once in the church, people just wander in and out, conversing and smoking.
After the ceremony the guests pass by the couple or their parents, congratulating and handing over the gift; an envelope containing 50 Euro and upward. The congratulation is “Na sisete” which means “may you live” The “fakelaki” (little envelope) means that the newlyweds are able to start family life with a good financial ballast.
At the door, on the way out of the church, a couple of family members hand out small gifts, often little tulle bags with sugared almonds.
Traditional wedding menu
After the service everyone is invited to attend the wedding dinner and dance.
The menu for a wedding is pretty much set, there is Pikilia (starters, already on the table) and plenty of wine and Raki. When the couple arrives later from the photographer, the Pilafi (a kind of Risotto rice made from lamb juices and lemon) and large pieces of very tender boiled lamb are served. Salad and a little later the roast lamb is brought out. At the end of the meal there is fruit and cake. The serving and eating of the meal will take several hours with lots of the family’s best wine and raki available, there is of course also soft drinks and water.
During the meal the dances begin, some times starting with the performance of a professional dance group. There is a great tradition for the Greek and Cretan dances, the children learn from young and also attend at any time possible. The traditional dances are an important part of a very living culture in Crete.
According to tradition, the bride’s family dances first, then the family of the groom, followed by friends of the bride, then friends of the groom. When these dances are over, the other guests are now free to join in the dancing. At these parties, it is customary that the dancing men make a donation to the musicians.
If you are so lucky to get invited to a wedding when visiting Crete, don’t be shy or worry about the proper dress code. You will be very welcome and the dress code is pretty relaxed, from beautiful gowns to jeans.
The most common Cretan dances
There are especially 5 dances, that each has a local character. These are found in most parts of Crete. Pediktos and Siganos originate from the area of Iraklion, Pentozalis, and Sousta from Rethimnon and Sitos Haniotiko from Hania. The dances are mostly into a 2/4 beat.
Pidiktos or Maleveuziotikos is the most common Cretan dance. It is a very fast and difficult dance – the steps are small and quick and typical for Crete; up on your forefoot!! It requires endurance. It is a chain dance and danced by both men and women.
Siganos is a wedding dance; originally it was the first dance after the ceremony at the church square.
Pectoralis meaning 5 steps, an exciting, and varied dance, and one of the most popular. It’s a very powerful dance, which requires endurance and skill. Especially for the leading man who jumps up high and with his hands, slaps thighs and feet in a fast and furious movement. The dance is also danced by women but in a subtler manner, and naturally without the high jumps.
Sousta, which in contrast to the other dances is a dance for pairs, can easily develop into a semi flirtation. Sirtos is also an extremely popular dance, danced to hundreds of different tunes and songs.