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Marriage or a Wedding in Greece

I'm honored to publish a guest blog article written by a professional celebrant, Sarah Hatjipavlis of Grecian Ceremonies. She thoughtfully shares the differences between marriage and a wedding ceremony, as well as what each option can make available to you and your partner. Sarah has been living in Greece for years longer than I have, and she's brilliant when it comes to finding out exactly what you need to know in order to coordinate a destination wedding ceremony in this beautiful country in the southeastern corner of Europe.

When planning a destination wedding in Greece, it is very important to understand the difference between a marriage and a wedding. This can be key information to assist you with how you plan your wedding ceremony in Greece.

So, what is the difference between a marriage and a wedding? What does this really mean to you as a couple when you are planning to travel half the way across the world for a destination wedding in Greece?

What is a marriage?

Marriage is defined as a ‘legally or formally recognised union of two people’ and that is precisely what it is, the legal bit. The part where you sign on the dotted line and are officially recognised as partners for life.

What is a wedding?

A wedding is defined as the ‘ceremony or celebrations and any accompanying festivities and nuptials’ to celebrate the marriage.

Now we have the boring bit out of the way, it is time to show you how this important information will assist you with planning a destination wedding in Greece.

Planning a destination wedding or an intimate elopement in Greece

A legal marriage in Greece can only be officiated by a Priest in Church, or the local registrar and, in either case, requires all the official documentation translated and legally stamped/apostilled. The paperwork needed can vary from place to place, Island to Island and a civil marriage can only take place at an authorised venue, such as the local town hall, or venues approved by the authorities. Once you have submitted all the documents at the appropriate time, you will have a legal marriage in Greece, accompanied by the standard civil ceremony. The list of paperwork required is different for all nationalities. It must be mentioned here that LGBTQ marriage is not legally recognised in Greece.

Legal marriage in Greece and a civil ceremony

The civil ceremony in Greece is the same for locals and foreigners alike. It is a simple generic script, which includes a ring exchange, vows, and the signing of the official registry. It takes about 10 minutes, will be performed by the local registrar, often the mayor of the municipality or their representative, it is read out in Greek and will be translated into your language by your wedding planner. Normally you can include a reading that will have been selected by the authorities and you can personalise your vows.

My wedding ceremony is the most important part of my day, are there other options?

What if I were to tell you that you could have a unique wedding ceremony anywhere in Greece, created and performed by a professional wedding celebrant! A wedding ceremony without any restrictions, which can be the ceremony that you always dreamed of. A celebrant doesn’t just show up on the day and read a generic script, they get to know you as a couple and will be beside you all the way during your wedding planning journey. Known in the industry as a symbolic wedding, there is nothing symbolic about it. It is the ceremony to celebrate your marriage. Find a celebrant who suits you, someone that you like. It is important to make this choice early on during the planning phase.

A bride and groom at a Greek-Egyptian ceremony in Greece, facilitated by Sarah Hatjipavlis, the celebrant of Grecian Ceremonies
Photo credit: Konstantinos Delis

Top tip: Don’t forget to plan your wedding ceremony, that special moment when you stand up together, exchange rings and lifelong promises, and move forward on your journey as partners for life.

No legal paperwork done on the day

With a celebrant led symbolic wedding or intimate elopement ceremony in Greece, the world is your oyster. Not only do you avoid the stress of all the official paperwork required for a destination wedding in Greece, but you can have a ceremony written just for you. Your ceremony, your way in Greece.

Most couples choosing a celebrant led wedding ceremony in Greece will pop to their local registry office before or after travel just to sign the marriage paperwork with no celebrations and this will free them up for an unrestricted ceremony in Greece.

No time limits, no venue restrictions, family participation, a mix of fun and emotion all overlooking the beautiful blue waters that only Greece has to offer. A professional wedding celebrant should be a chameleon, writing, and performing a ceremony in your style, a storyteller who will tell your story and include your family and friends. You can have your ceremony on the beach, poolside at your holiday villa, in a remote olive grove, on a private yacht, at your favourite taverna, I could go on and on! There will be fun, tears, and so much love! You have travelled thousands of kilometres, you have been planning your wedding for a long time, let us give you the wedding ceremony you truly deserve in Greece.

Celebrant led mixed faith ceremonies in Greece

For couples who would like to include a little of both at their wedding ceremony in Greece. Religious readings, symbolic elements, or traditions from your culture yes; you can have it all.

Non-religious and non-traditional ceremonies in Greece performed by a wedding celebrant

For couples who would like to include symbolic rituals at their wedding ceremony in Greece, such as unity ceremonies. Would you like to ‘tie the knot’ with a handfasting ceremony? How about a ring warming, or a rose ceremony? Sand ceremonies were trending in Greece last summer especially where couples wanted to include their children. Wine ceremonies, beer ceremonies, wish box, broom jumping. I think you get the idea!

LGBTQ ceremonies in Greece

You must NOT let the lack of legal legislation in Greece hold you back. You can have the wedding ceremony of your dreams in Greece led and created by a professional celebrant. Of course, I do admit to being just a little biased as I am a wedding celebrant in Greece, but this type of ceremony is just so much better!

Bilingual English/Greek ceremonies in Greece

For couples with Greek heritage, you can please everyone. Include some Greek traditions, very popular are the Greek favours, bombonieres, and a symbolic Greek crowning ceremony, using the ‘Stefana’, a very moving ritual and a fabulous photo opportunity. What about a unity ouzo ceremony? Now there is an idea!

Celebrants worldwide

There is a growing band of celebrants worldwide. In the industry, we call it a ‘sparkle’ of celebrants. People who celebrate! In the USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand celebrant led weddings have been the way to go for years. It is only a mindset that makes couples believe that they must sign the legal paperwork on the day.

As a wedding celebrant in Greece, I am often asked the following question by my couples...

Will my family and friends know it is not the real thing?

My answer is always the same, it is the ‘real thing’! It is the wedding ceremony to celebrate your marriage!

Many couples choose to have a symbolic parchment signing at their celebrant led wedding ceremony in Greece. You can tell your family and friends whatever you wish, that is up to you.

A civil marriage or a celebrant led wedding ceremony in Greece?

I met my other half, a local Rhodian, on a summer holiday nearly 3 decades ago. Yes, for those of you who remember the movie, I was the original ‘Shirley Valentine’. Back in the day, I had a Greek Orthodox wedding in Greece followed by a ‘blessing ceremony’ in the UK. I understood nothing at the Greek version and my other half little in the UK, there were no Celebrant options back then!

So, what would you like? A legal civil marriage ceremony or a celebrant led wedding ceremony in Greece? The choice is up to you!

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