Ancient Greek Wedding Customs

You might be surprised at Ancient Greek wedding customs. I thought it would make an interesting change to share this with you.

Getting Engaged

According to the Ancient Athenians, a woman could not marry at all unless a (male) relation or legal guardian publicly gave permission. She would normally have suitors, who would be in competition with each other to win her hand. They might bring presents for her or compete in various ways (physically or artistically). The choice would not normally be down to the woman.

Once the suitor was chosen, he and the girl’s father would shake hands and pronounce some ritual phrases. The engaged couple would then make a binding promise.


The marriage ceremony would start with a sacrifice to encourage the gods to bless the couple. Then the future wife would cut her hair signifying her previous virginity. The two would than take a ceremonial bath in holy water. The water would be poured from a loutophorus. Smaller ones might be given to the gods to bless the marriage. After the bath, a feast was prepared at the bride’s house. This was for the men, so the women would sit and wait until they had finished.

This same custom (men eating before the women) took place during other meals as well as the marriage feast. Women were allowed to control the conversation, once admitted to dine with the men.

The woman consecrated the marriage by moving into the suitor’s living quarters.] Once the woman stepped in the house, their pre-nuptial vows were legalized. A dowry was given to the husband from the wife. She often did not have any possessions to give, so the father or whoever gave her away provided a dowry, which was important for the couple.


Michael Gordon is a (more up-to-date!) wedding celebrant based in London