Living in Greece

A practical guide to moving, living, working & traveling in Greece, plus musing and misadventures from an American in Athens

Tourist weddings barred on Greek islands of Santorini, Syros and Crete

Getting Married on Myrtos?
Due to the non-spiritual nature and commercialization of island wedding packages, a Greek Catholic bishop said that tourists could no longer be married on the islands of Santorini, Syros and Crete.

Hundreds of couples from the United States, Canada, UK and Australia come to Greece each year to be married at sunset with Oia, old forts and emerald seas as their backdrop. Travel operators are cashing in, rather than respecting the church’s holy sacrament and examining the legality of documents, with some taking bribes in exchange for ceremonies that would otherwise not be performed. Bishop Frangiskos Papamanolis decided to put a stop to that.

Wedding packages run upwards of 4,000 euros, some of which include clichè additions such as donkeys for transportation and wedding crowns (stefana) made of olive branches.

Original source is “No more big, fat Greek wedding” from Agence France-Presse (AFP) — article removed.

Related posts

Getting married in Greece — for visitors
Once upon a wedding” – from Mel’s Diner


  Dora wrote @ July 15th, 2008 at 16:52

My son was married 2 weeks ago here in NY. Both our families are Greek Orthodox and hail from various Greek islands. With all the headaches of planning and festivities, I don’t know how we could have the guests haul themselves to one of our islands (which one?) and squeeze into a tiny church for the wedding.
The event was amazing anyway. My husband’s cousin told him, with tears streaming down her face, of the 45 years she has spent here in the US, she never attended such an “island” wedding like my son’s with such Greek music including island violin and laouto. My son played laouto and sang an island song about the bride while we danced a ballos. Who needed to be in Greece?

  dwain wrote @ July 15th, 2008 at 17:09


Thanks so much for stopping by my site and for the heads up about trees wearing white “pants.” My wife and I are anxious about the move because of how much of a pain it’s been so far, but we’re also quite excited about it. I’ve stopped by your site quite a bit in search of news and advice, so thanks for the service!

Oh, and we’re definitely not taking our dog if they’re not treated well!



  maria v wrote @ July 15th, 2008 at 21:55

does this concern only catholic weddings or does it apply to greek orthodox weddings too?

  George wrote @ July 15th, 2008 at 22:38

Hi Dora,

I was touched by simply imagining what the wedding must’ve looked like. Does your son play the laouto professionaly (part of a band). I live in Montreal and am part of a cultural institute for Greek traditional dance, music and song. I’d like to make contact with your son and maybe have him come for performances, when possible. My weakness is island music, as I come from Chios. 🙂

Best regards,


Note from Kat: If you (Dora and George) would like to be in touch, I can give your information to each other privately off the Website. It’s no problem, just need your consent.

  Dora wrote @ July 15th, 2008 at 23:41

Hi George! Thanks, Kat, for letting us communicate through you! My two sons and I dance with the Greek American Folklore Society in Astoria, NY. My oldest plays many traditional instruments and with various musicians from Greece and the US. He travels to play for dance groups in competition in different states and it’s possible you may know him. We are from Patmos.

In the traditional Greek dance, music, etc community, most of the better artists know each other well and/or have heard of each other. It’s possible we do too.

  melusina wrote @ July 16th, 2008 at 18:49

Wow, you know, I never even thought there were any Greek Catholics. Ok, well, I supposed there might be some but I didn’t think there were Greek clergy.

So I’m assuming that it was the Catholics performing all these ceremonies in the first place? With all the rules and regulations for Greek Orthodox weddings I can’t really imagine any Greek Orthodox priests performed tourist weddings. Why can’t tourists have civil weddings on Greek islands? It seems stupid to think that people can’t get married at all if they want – as long as they don’t drag religion into it (obviously, religious leaders have the right to not perform weddings if they want).

  Kat wrote @ July 16th, 2008 at 19:40

D – That does sound lovely. I think as long as you have the right people coupled with deep emotions, it doesn’t matter where in the world you marry. It’s very difficult to ask people to attend a wedding in another country, especially when friends and family are spread throughout the globe. Thank you for sharing your son’s event with us.

Dwain – Welcome and thank you! I’ll stop in and see how you are from time to time, and please feel free to come here anytime. It is a very exciting time in your lives, but I’m sorry your little one won’t be accompanying you. He’s darn cute.

M – The article did not say, and I don’t want to interpret AFP’s article and/or communicate false information, but I get the feeling only civil ceremonies will be allowed for pure tourists. Greek Orthodox Christians and Catholics who can prove they are indeed faithful to these religions I’m sure will be accommodated. It sounded to me that people were asking for religious customs and blessings when they had no clue, nor respected it (aka, showing up drunk).

D and G – One of the great things about this site is it not only connects me to all of you, but all of you with each other. Building bridges and community is wonderful thing. Dora, I passed your email address to George per your permission.

Mel – I wouldn’t assume that, as the article does not say either way. According to commentators on this site and people in forums, there are indeed many people who weren’t Greek Orthodox who got married in Greek Orthodox churches without being baptized or the promise to convert. That isn’t surprising being this is Greece, where rules are optional and breaking them is expected. In fact, people had the nerve to brag about it and told me I was wrong (I wasn’t) when quoting religious law straight from the Archdiocese, which says indeed both parties must be Greek Orthodox or promise to convert after marriage and seek a mentor.

Civil, spiritual and symbolic ceremonies are still fine. Nowhere in the article did it say those were banned. It was only those trying to falsely incorporate the sacrament that are barred, and understandably.

  graffic wrote @ July 16th, 2008 at 21:08

I really don´t understand.

Weddings, where people spend a lot of money in the celebration…. Is that spiritual?

And then Greek islands that take a big % of their income from the tourism. Now they don’t want tourism.

Flop! Flop! (slapping myself) Ahm! That we’re talking about church. Sorry for my comment then.

Irony off. 🙂

  spyros wrote @ July 17th, 2008 at 11:54

I see nothing wrong with these weddings. Since, anyway, today the whole thing is more like a show, why not? The income for hotels, local people, etc is significan, plus they still keep some tradition (eg: dances, music)
I’d rather have all that, that get married in a KEP or dimarxeio!

  melusina wrote @ July 17th, 2008 at 20:39

I just wondered about Greek Orthodox because I had to jump through all kinds of hoops to marry one since I am a heathen non Orthodox. But, definitely, religious leaders shouldn’t allow tourists to marry under such circumstances, if there is no respect for the religion.

  A wrote @ July 18th, 2008 at 00:47

I don’t understand – can you get a priest to marry you on a beach in Greece? I thought they can only marry you in a consecrated church.

In my NY and midwest experience, I think the churches have always required that a person who is not GO, Catholic or Protestant either prove the baptism and chrismation or get baptized GO. I have never heard that you can promise to convert later. I have never seen a church marriage between a GO and a non-GO without a big brouhaha over the non-GO – either provide a baptismal certificate or get baptized GO (which I have seen done the day or so before the wedding, even though I think the 40 day rule applies to that). But if you are GO and don’t have a religious marriage (like me), you are in bad form for a lot of other stuff. I think the only thing not prohibited is a funeral mass in the church for you (i take it a deathbed confession is presumed).

According to the American Arch:

Though the Church would prefer that all Orthodox Christians would marry Orthodox Christians, it does not insist on it in practice. Out of its concern for the spiritual welfare of members who wish to marry a non-Orthodox Christian, the Church will conduct a “mixed marriage.” For this purpose, a “non-Orthodox Christian” is a member of the Roman Catholic Church, or one of the many Protestant Churches which believe in and baptize in the name of the Holy Trinity. This means that such mixed marriages may be performed in the Orthodox Church. However, the Orthodox Church does not perform marriages between Orthodox Christians and persons belonging to other religions, such as Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, or any sectarian and cult group, such as Christian Science, Mormonism, or the followers of Rev. Moon.

  Rob wrote @ July 18th, 2008 at 03:38

Hi, this is off topic, but I just want to say that this site is the most comprehensive and coolest I have yet to find for expats. My wife, who’s German, and I (American) live in Portland, Oregon. Greece has seduced us both — “Adventurer types” but we always have practical reasons not to heed our inner voice.

I’ll keep reading what is a very well-written blog. Thanks for sharing this wealth of info and experience.


P.S. Favorite spot: Milos Beach in Aghios Nikitas. Favorite friend in Greece: Brigitte, the Herb Lady in Lefkada.

  Victoria wrote @ July 18th, 2008 at 13:08

Kat~thanks for stopping my blog a few days ago.
i’ve added you to my rss reader!

  Kat wrote @ July 19th, 2008 at 15:46

G – I do believe some big weddings lose the spiritual meaning of making a lifelong commitment. But it depends on the couple. I can’t give any insight on that because I’m not one of those women who dreamed of her wedding, and I still don’t.

S – Hotels and tourism would still benefit without wedding planners taking bribes for weddings.

M – Lots of people I know had to jump through hoops, but I know just as many who brag about not doing it. Religious law as written is only Orthodox Christians can marry each other, but the church is bending it in order to accommodate today’s modern climate. Some places are still strict, so it depends on where you are and who you consult.

A – I’ve had all kinds of people tell me they married on a beach near a church or some setting without a church with a priest. I think the answer is, “it depends.” There are people I know who confirm they converted after the wedding. And yes, GOA USA has bent religious law as many others have. They were afraid of many leaving GO, so instead became more accepting. Still, as I said to Mel above, some still insist on GO marrying only GO. That’s how it’s written.

R – Many thanks for your kind compliments and saying ‘hello’ today. Practicality is a good reason to not be seduced. 🙂

  A wrote @ July 20th, 2008 at 05:00

Here, in NY, whether the wedding is religious or civil makes a huge difference if you want to get a divorce. You cannot get a divorce from a religious wedding in NY (and about 10 other states) unless you “take steps to remove barriers to remarriage” which means contractually agree to an annulment or proffer a “get” if such a thing is religiously required for remarriage. But then again, in NY, a person who has capacity to officiate a religious marriage can also become registered to officiate a civil marriage (which is what has happened among my GO friends who do not marry in a consecrated place).

  Helena wrote @ October 7th, 2009 at 12:22

It is a shame that some have spoiled the idea of marrying in Greece and furthermore, banned the possibility of a Catholic wedding on certain islands.

In my opinion, it’s not about where you get married. It is about where you want to get married. Whether you celebrate in your home town or select a destination elsewhere, there are always multiple reasons behind why these decisions are made.

Yes, destination weddings are a business. However, they wouldn’t be so popular and offered in so many countries if there wasn’t a high demand for it. Weddings are big business everywhere. Not just in Greece. Imagine the money going into home town weddings…

Who should be responsible for the misconduct of a couple (such as showing up drunk to their ceremony)? This does happen elsewhere… Is it any worse than couples showing up hungover? Both situations are unacceptable. Perhaps the priest/celebrant should refuse to perform the ceremony.

Who should be responsible for the offering/accepting of bribes (in reference to marital paperwork)? This happens everywhere whether for marriages or for other institutional reasons. Perhaps we should be investigating the priests/authority who accept the bribes and not blaming where the sacrament takes place.

I am Catholic, but married to a Greek Orthodox and reside in Greece. We married in a Greek Orthodox church in the USA, had a Greek reception with traditional food & bouzouki band. We loved our priest and his extra words post-ceremony were very much heart felt by all. If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing because this is what we wanted.

Present day, I am a wedding planner in Greece. I love what I do and kind of fell into the profession 9 years ago.

To set the story straight:
1) Greek Orthodox Christians may only marry other baptised Christians.
2) Greek Orthodox weddings should only take place within the church. However, some priests will make exceptions and celebrate just outside the church (especially if the church is too small to accommodate the immediate persons involved in the ceremony)
3) The main difference regarding marital paperwork at home vs. abroad is the need for authentication and translation of documents.
4) There is no such thing as getting a “marriage blessing” from a priest when the couple is not of the same faith. So don’t pay for it. If you’re not Greek Orthodox, it is not permitted to receive a marriage blessing from a Greek Orthodox priest.
5) There are no non-denominational ministers in Greece who have the authority to legally marry you (in order to issue your marriage certificate in Greece). Either you will have a priest or the person responsible from the Town Hall.

Note from Kat: I agree with everything except #3. It’s a lot more than just authentication and translation, especially for non-Greek, non-EU citizens. The Greek marriage license alone has way more bureaucracy than most countries and requires visiting several locations.

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