A book titled “The Citizens of Athens 1900-1960” by Athens University Professor Eugenia Bournova describes the wedding customs and demographics of Athenians in the first 60 years of the 20th century, before the city became the modern capital it is today.
The bulk of the professor’s study is dedicated to the grooms and brides of Athens, the strange superstitions on the marriage date, the places where weddings were held, demographics and the profiles of those who were about to come into the communion of marriage.
The book is also trying to bridge the past with the future, to bridge the religiosity and superstition of early Athenians with secularism that came from the West.
For example, in the first decades of the 20th century there were no marriages taking place during periods of fasting, religious holidays, or during leap years.
In the first years of the 20th century, marriages were held at home, in hotels, public halls or even in hospitals, as contagious diseases were abundant at the time. However, from the 1940s and onward, the church became the only place a couple could wed.
Weddings at home were primarily held at the bride’s house, unless the bride and the groom were of different religions, in which case they wedded at the grooms’ home.
Before the 1940s, weddings were held at the Old Royal Palace, City Hall, the Lyceum Club of Greek Women, but most of them were held in hotels. While in the first decades of the 20th century 30% of brides were not working and were from Athens. However, the vast majority of grooms were not from the City of Athens.
The difference in age between the man and the woman remains a stable characteristic, and applies throughout the Mediterranean. It is attributed mostly to population movements and the time the future groom needed to become stable in his work or establish his business, something that women did not have to worry about since they were not working. Most men were around 30 and women around 25 at the time of marriage.
Regarding social status, in the 1910-1960 period, the men of Athens who were middle or upper class made 50% of the male population, with professions ranging from ship owners and factory owners to food retailers and hoteliers.
The women of Athens were primarily civil servants or private sector employees, many of them being language or music teachers, but also lawyers, doctors and engineers.
The book is available for free (in Greek only) at the address below: