Weddings in Ancient Greece took place over three days. Some of the ancient customs are still seen at weddings today, but the Spartans did things very differently.
Facts about Greek Weddings Customs
- Girls were married around the age of 12 to 15>
- Offerings to the gods were made on the first day of the wedding
- A feast took place on the second day of the wedding
- A torchlight procession took the bride and groom to their new home
- Bread was handed out to guests as part of the wedding procession
- The new bride was given gifts on the third day of the wedding
- Spartan brides-to-be were kidnapped by their husbands
Most girls were between the ages of 12 to 15 years old when they married. The groom was usually much older and could be around 30 years old.
The bride’s father would provide a dowry. This was money or items of value that were given to the future husband.
The amount would be agreed between the bride’s father and the future husband’s father before the wedding.
Did you know… Most marriages were arranged by fathers and the bride may never have met her husband before the wedding.
Offerings to the Gods
On the first day of the wedding, the bride would offer a lock of her hair and her childhood toys to the gods.
This was to ensure the gods would look after her in her new role as wife in the same way they had protected her as a young girl.
The bride and groom would also make offerings to the gods to ensure their marriage would produce healthy children.
Did you know… The goddess Artemis was the protector of young children.
The Wedding Feast
The second day of the wedding began with the bride taking a bath. She would then put on her wedding dress and veil.
The wedding feast began with offerings to the gods and an animal was usually sacrificed. There was fine food for everyone and entertainers would sing and dance.
The bride and groom’s family and friends all took part. This was one occasion when women had permission to join in, but men and women sat at different tables.
Did you know… Honey mixed with sesame seeds was a special treat at weddings.
The Wedding Procession
After the feast, the bride was handed to the groom by her father in an important ritual. A procession then began with the bride and groom riding in a cart.
The bride’s mother carried torches to light the way and to ward off any evil spirits.
The procession ended at the groom’s home where he lifted his bride’s veil as he lifted her from the cart. The groom’s mother welcomed her new daughter into the home.
Did you know… At the end of the procession, the bride would set the cart on fire to symbolise that she would no longer return to her childhood home.
The Bread Basket
During the procession, wedding guests were handed bread from a basket. The basket was carried by a child wearing a crown of thorns and nuts.
This was to bring good luck to the couple and the bread from the basket represented a future child coming out from its cradle.
Did you know… Sometimes the whole town would come out to join the procession. Flowers were often thrown at the couple.
The Wedding Gifts
The bride and groom would spend the night in a bedroom guarded by a friend of the groom.
Some of the guests would stay awake all night and wake the bride and groom in the morning with songs.
The bride was given gifts such as fragrances or soaps, and the bride gave the groom a gift of handmade clothing.
The final part of the wedding celebrations was a meal cooked by the new wife. Only men attended the meal.
Did you know… To end the three days of celebrations, the new bride made offerings at a shrine to give thanks for the ceremonies and to bring her good luck in her new life.
Weddings in Sparta were very different. Girls were usually 18 before they would marry and they could agree or disagree with the choice of husband.
Once agreed, she would shave off her hair, dress in men’s clothing, and lie down alone in a dark room at night.
Her husband would then sneak into the room and carry her off over his shoulder. The pretend kidnapping was followed by a feast, and that was the ceremony over.
Did you know… Spartan men and women lived separately. Men in army barracks and women at home.
Questions and Answers
What would a bride offer to the gods before her wedding?
A lock of her hair and her childhood toys.
Which goddess was the protector of young children?
True or false: Only men attended the wedding feast.
False. Women also attended and joined the celebrations.
True or false: A Spartan bride wore a special wedding dress for her ceremony.
False. Spartan brides dressed in men’s clothing.
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