There are several things that are customary to Greek weddings, but a Cretan wedding is a whole different matter.
A Cretan wedding is not only characterized by an abundance of food, drink and song. There are at least 10 things that can only be found during a celebration on Greece’s biggest island.
1. Most Cretan weddings are held in large halls that accommodate many people; the more the merrier.
2. There is a pre-wedding which takes place two-to-three days before the actual ceremony. The groom calls his friends at home or at some place where there is entertainment to celebrate his last day of freedom. It is a bachelor party, essentially, but remains a very old tradition.
3. The wedding bread (gamokoulouro). Specially kneaded breaded for weddings. It is placed on the party table.
4. The wedding pilaf (gamopilafo). The traditional food of Cretan weddings. It is a rice dish with goat and rooster meat. It is not the main dish, as plenty of roasted meats follow, but it is required to be served.
5. Celebratory gunshots in the air (balothies). No self-respecting Cretan would celebrate the wedding of a loved one without shooting their shotgun in the air.
6. Everyone wears a white scarf. Celebrants wear it either on the head or around the neck and sometimes the groom wears it as a tie.
7. There is a tray at the end of the wedding party. At the end of the wedding, the bride is holding a tray where the guests place an envelope with money, as a wedding gift.
8. The wedding band gets tipped. At the wedding party, the couple and relatives will dance to specifically requested songs and tip the band generously.
9. Pasta with Cretan gruyère is served at dawn. It is served after four in the morning so the food will take away the taste of too much raki consumed at the wedding party.
10. The wedding party always closes with a mantinada. Mantinadas are Cretan songs that are sometimes improvised. Several mantinadas will be sung at the wedding party, but the celebrations have to close with one.