Why Do Greek People Break Plates at Weddings? A Closer Look at Greek Culture

Greeks sure know how to throw a party, but why do they break plates to celebrate? The answer may surprise you.

Alizabeth Swain - Author

May 7 2024, Published 6:50 p.m. ET

why do greek people break plates at weddings
Source: Getty Images

At the heart of Greek celebratory traditions lies the vibrant and exhilarating practice of breaking plates at weddings, a custom that has intrigued and delighted observers for generations. This unique tradition, deeply embedded in Greek culture, transcends mere festivity, symbolizing joy, unity, and the ushering in of good fortune for the newlyweds.

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The act of shattering ceramics against the floor or against each other amid dances and music is not only a spectacle of jubilation but also carries with it layers of historical significance and cultural meaning. So, why do Greek people break plates at weddings? Here's what to know.

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Why do Greek people break plates at weddings?

Originally popularized through cinema, specifically after the release of the movie Never on Sunday, where plate breaking was featured as a celebratory act, this tradition has become a staple in Greek celebrations, symbolizing more than just a moment of joyous revelry.

Though it's unknown exactly when this became a custom, the act of shattering ceramics is rooted in the belief that it wards off evil spirits and negative energy, ensuring that the auspicious occasion remains pure and unblemished by malevolent forces.

This practice may also reflect an old belief that moments of intense happiness can inadvertently attract negative energies, and thus, the breaking of plates acts as a symbolic shield, protecting the wedding ceremony and its participants from unseen adversities.

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The tradition of breaking plates at Greek weddings may carry a dual significance, serving not only as a spiritual safeguard but also for some folks as a public display of wealth and prosperity. By hurling plates onto the floor or against one another, and even incorporating them into dance performances, folks can showcase their affluence and readiness to spare no expense in celebrating the union of two families.

What other wedding traditions do Greeks have?

Breaking plates isn't the only tradition you'll find in a Greek wedding. Per Wedaways Travel, the exchange of rings in Greek weddings is a pivotal moment that symbolizes the couple's commitment to each other. In Greek tradition, the rings are exchanged three times between the bride and groom by the best man (the koumbaro) or the maid of honor (the koumbara). This action signifies the Holy Trinity and the belief that the couple's lives are being intertwined as one, with their joys and burdens shared equally.

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One of the most distinctive elements of a Greek wedding is the crowning of the bride and groom, known as the Stefana ceremony. Connected by a ribbon, these crowns symbolize the coming together of two individuals into a single unified entity. The crowns are blessings from God for a long, happy, and fruitful life together. The priest places the crowns upon the heads of the bride and groom, which are then swapped three times to reinforce the couple's unity.

Another significant tradition involves the Lambadia, or wedding candles. These candles are lit during the marriage ceremony and represent the light of Christ, guiding the couple through their married life. It's believed that the flame symbolizes purity and the willingness of the couple to receive God's blessing. The Lambadia are often intricately decorated and can be kept by the couple as a memento of their wedding day.

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