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EU > Greece > Thessaloniki

Love and marriage

Thessaloniki, GR (View on map)

Greeks have little appetite for rules, but they are fond of traditions. They don`t like anybody to decide about what they do, but will calmly consider obeying when the authority in question is a family member. Paradoxically, they like to see everybody as their family member. Maybe that explains why the Greeks are so eager to marry. Or would it just be because a wedding is an excuse for just another party?

Spiros (28):

..will soon be welcoming his Lithuanian girlfriend to Thessaloniki
Until 10 years ago, an average wedding in Greece could last up to several weeks and involve entire villages. The entire celebrations were paid for by the wedding couple and their parents, but inhabitants of the village would be happy to contribute by providing food, entertainment and accommodation. Modern life has made traditional weddings too expensive to be held in cities, but couples from small villages may still opt for the extended version.

When Kostas (27) got married, he had a `medium-sized` wedding with 300 guests celebrating the event for five days. `Beside the official part of the wedding, we had traditional music, food, dancing, conversations, exchange of presents, everything. Yes, such weddings are fairly expensive and that is why they are no longer as lengthy as they used to be in the old days. The real Greek wedding traditions only persist on Greece or in small villages in the North of the country. In those areas, a wedding used to be the only ever event worth celebrating. The rest of local life consisted of nothing but working and working.`

Kostas explains me that a Greek marriage needs quite some preparation. Not in the least place for the financial element. `The wedding couple and their parents pay for all of the expenses. I have already started putting money aside for my two children, so that they can afford to get married by the time they are old enough.`

The cost of the wedding celebration is one of the reasons why many guests will offer the couple money as a present. It is also common for couples to go to a big shop and leave a list of wishes behind to prevent getting hundreds of different plates and a couple of microwaves.

Kyriaki (23) tells me that few Greek couples live together without being married. `Most people leave their parents when they go to the army or to university, but if they do not find a job or get married before the end of their mission, they are likely to return to their parents. Not having a place of your own can be inconvenient when you start seeing somebody. Parents are usually reluctant in letting the boyfriend or girlfriend stay over in the same room, so if we want to sleep together before getting married, we have to find somewhere else to do it. In a car, in the park, in a hotel or even in a church, anywhere but the house of your parents.`

Spiros (28, photo) tells me that few girls aim to marry as a virgin, which was quite common for the generation who is now over 40. `Since the wedding celebrations lasted for several days, the couple had time to prove that the woman was a virgin before the wedding night. How? On the morning following the wedding, they would show the bed linen from the balcony of their sleeping room. The linen was supposed to show traces of blood to serve as a proof of the girl`s virginity. But even in those days it was often chicken blood anyway.`

`While it is acceptable for men to have had several partners before getting married, it is not seen as something positive for girls. Still, they are becoming more and more independent`, Spiros says, `a few years ago, it would almost be impossible for a girl to buy a guy a beer. But it is starting to happen, because the girls prefer to take the initiative instead of waiting. They are not only forced to take more initiative in the relation, but also in working life. Buying a house is almost impossible on one single income, so the old Greek housewife will start to get phased out in the years to come.`

Distribution of tasks
Vasia (24) does not agree to the development that drives Greek wives out of their house. `The man was supposed to use his arms to support the family, the woman was giving her heart. Now, they both need to work. There`s less time for emotions. We are becoming more European than we should be.`

Dimitris (28) tells me that women were happy to rely on their husbands for economical support in the past. `If something happened to the man, the wife could count on support from other family members. If the husband died, his employer would maybe even offer a job to the woman if he saw the slightest possibility.

Dimitris does not like the European way of family planning. `I don`t want to wait to have children until I have reached financial stability. If I want to get married, that has nothing to do with money. The same for children. If I want children, then I will make sure that they will get what they need. The other way around is feels unnatural. I can`t understand why somebody would list his priorities in that order.`

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