In a few weeks time, I will be one of the 3 Koumbaras at my sister-in-law’s wedding. In Greece, being asked to be the Koumbara is held in similar high regard to being the Maid of Honour or Bridesmaid in an English wedding. Traditionally, the Koumbara is often also the same person who will be Godmother to the couple’s future children.
The role has great significance in the Greek Orthodox Church, as the Koumbara plays an active part in the ceremony and is chosen as someone who the newly married couple will look to for religious guidance throughout their lives together. The duties she has to perform include exchanging the wedding rings and the wedding crowns for the couple during the ceremony, as well as holding the ribbon tying the crowns as they take their first steps around the altar as married people.
Traditionally, the Koumbara also covers all of the costs for the religious aspects of the wedding, such as the marriage crowns, the fee for the priest and the silver cup and tray used in the ceremony.
However, this wedding will be a non-religious affair and in a much less formal setting to compliment the couple’s life together with their twin boys. Although many cultural traditions will remain, the responsibilities of the Koumbara in this instance are more in line with those of a Maid of Honour and are tenfold:
1. To support the bride-to-be in all aspects of wedding planning
This is not as easy as it sounds. Support can be interpreted in many different and not always obvious ways. As well as helping to shop for the perfect dress and shoes, you may also need to lend a shoulder and a kind ear when the caterer, florist or dressmaker mess up. Which of course they won’t! You are a beacon of positivity and light.
Repeat after me: Everything will be fine, it will be the most wonderful day and the BEST PARTY EVER. Everything will be fine, it will be the most wonderful day and the BEST PARTY EVER. Everything will be fine, it will be the most wonderful day and the BEST PARTY EVER.
2. Keep the bride calm and cheerful in the stressful weeks leading up to her big day
Planning a wedding is stressful and with the couple also having to host family arriving from Greece and the Groom’s native New Zealand, there is much to organise. Maybe send her a few YouTube videos of cats doing funny things. Or that one with the gorilla who is reunited with the human who raised him. Hold on, there was a dog eating at a restaurant that was HILARIOUS! No no no, the one with the Japanese girl band – they are AWESOME! She’d love that one. I probably spend too much time on YouTube…
3. Organise the hen night
It is important that the hen plans reflect the personality of the bride. Stripper poles, plastic willies and L-plates were strictly prohibited in the briefing email. This is why we organised a very civilised day of pampering at a fancy hotel ahead of getting her tipsy on cocktails that we made her drink through willy shaped straws. Tacky? Most definitely. But it highlighted what a great sport she is.
4. Get her into the dress
I don’t want to give too much away on this before the wedding, so I’ll just say that there is a dress and we will be getting her into it.
5. Make sure she arrives at the Chapel… on time!
This bit makes me nervous! So much could go wrong. The car could get stuck in traffic, it could breakdown, the driver could get lost! Must not panic. Remember am a beacon of positivity and light. Everything will be fine, it will be the most wonderful day and the BEST PARTY EVER.
6. Be sociable and welcoming to all of her guests
Not too sociable though. No need to get rat arsed on champagne and drape yourself all over the rellies when a simple air kiss on each cheek will suffice.
7. Make sure she does not have food in her teeth or red wine stains on her lips
I will be following her around with a packet of face wipes, toothpicks and lip gloss all day. Or, maybe just encourage her to only consume white food and drinks…
8. Give a speech to the toast the happy couple
We have written our speech! We have rehearsed our speech. Now all that is left is for us to make our speech *pours more wine*
9. Get everyone up on the dance floor
I am delegating this responsibility to the bride’s sister and fellow Koumbara, BB, as the only effect I have ever made on the dance floor is to promptly clear it.
10. Be the last to leave the party
The bride cannot be the last one dancing, clutching a bottle of Prosecco, singing along to The Power of Love. That is our job.