What really happens at a Big Fat Greek Wedding?

Angelo Marcos_Big Fat Greek Wedding

“Hey Angelo,” people often shout at me in the street, “what really happens at a big fat Greek wedding?”*

“Glad you asked, random stranger,” I always reply with a tip of my hat. “Glad you asked…”**

So, by popular demand, here is my guide to big fat Greek weddings.

The Dressi-

Actually, wait a sec.  Before I begin, let’s get one thing out of the way.

We don’t smash plates.


Sorry to be the one to ‘shatter’ (see what I did there?) that particular illusion, but that’s just how it is.

Anyway, for anyone who has ever wondered, here is a guide to what really happens at a big fat Greek wedding…

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The Dressing Ceremony

This is a very old tradition, although not everyone does it.

In fact I don’t think anybody in Cyprus even bothers with this anymore, let alone anywhere else.

Basically, on the morning of the wedding, the friends and family of the Bride and Groom go to their houses. They stand in a circle, the Bride or Groom stands in the middle, music is played, and the fun begins!

Firstly, the Maid of Honour/Best Man will dress the Bride/Groom in their wedding garments, although nowadays this really only consists of putting on the Groom’s blazer or the Bride’s veil.  Presumably that’s because not everyone likes to be naked in front of their family and friends.


Years ago, in the villages in Cyprus, the Best Man would also shave the Groom, although most people don’t opt for that anymore. A bleeding face screams a lot of things, but ‘Please marry me’ isn’t one of them.

The Kabnistiri and the Red Scarf

After the dressing is all done, each of the family members will take it in turns to bless the Bride or Groom with the kabnistiri, which is a small vessel – usually silver – in which olive leaves are burned.

(This might not sound very nice, but the smell is genuinely amazing.)

Then a red scarf is wrapped around the waist of the Bride/Groom, three times each, by members of their family.

This symbolises fertility, so if you ever get married to a Greek and don’t want kids, maybe avoid this step.

Best Men (Koumbari) and Best Women (Koumeres)

Why have one Best Man/Woman, when you can have ninety? seems to be the theory behind this particular tradition. There’s still a ‘best’ Best Man and ‘best’ Maid of Honour, but then loads of other slightly less ‘best’ people too.

It’s a pretty good trade-off for the couple really – they get money from all these ‘best people’ (and get to set the amount), and in return they give each of them a small flower.

The flowers themselves have significance too. Single people wear them upside down, meaning they’re free [insert John Inman joke here], and those in relationships wear them the right way up, meaning they’re the opposite of free.  So, trapped, I guess.

There is of course always a ‘hilarious’ person who’ll wear the flower upside down even though they’re in a relationship.  It all gets very wacky, as you can imagine.

The Church – Exchanging the Rings

A key feature of the marriage ceremony itself is the exchanging of the rings.

This is where the Koumbari and Koumeres go up to the front of the Church and exchange the rings of the Bride and Groom (as in, they exchange the rings with each other – they don’t exchange them for other, cheaper rings.)

If you ever do this, make sure above all else that you do not drop the ring. There’s always somebody that pretends to – usually the same guy in a relationship but wearing his flower upside down – but it wouldn’t be a good idea to actually do it.

Not unless you want to be chased out of the Church by a bunch of angry Greeks.

All named Nick.

The Church – The Crowns

During the ceremony the Greek Orthodox priest takes two ‘crowns’ which are joined with ribbon and swaps them three times (to signify the Holy Trinity) on the heads of the couple.

The priest then walks the couple around a table at the altar, again three times.

At this point it’s traditional for the Koumbari to slap the back of the Groom. Most of them choose to do this as hard as they can as a show of either machismo or anger.  I can’t always tell which.

This can get pretty painful for the poor Groom.  A friend of mine got married two months ago and still can’t sleep on his back.

The Church – Sugared almonds

At the altar is a tray of sugared almonds tied with red ribbon. Back in the village, single people would place the sugared almond from a wedding under their pillow that night and dream of their future betrothed.

Nowadays people just eat the almonds, throw away the ribbon, and use a dating app.

Whatever works, I suppose.

The Reception and Wedding Breakfast

The reception at a Greek wedding is the same as the reception at any wedding in the world – a bunch of people wolfing down canapes, moaning about having nowhere to sit, and drinking way too much free booze.

Later, once everyone has staggered into the main room and taken their seats for the wedding breakfast, the band loudly announce the Bride and Groom, who come in and walk around the dance floor three times.

At least, that’s what’s supposed to happen.  At one wedding I went to, the Bride and Groom walked around once, plonked themselves down at the head table, and started eating the dips.

None of us complained.  It meant we could all start eating too.

Hey, it’s not called a big fat Greek wedding for nothing…

The Money Dance

This involves the Bride and Groom slow dancing as their guests pin money on them – which is why putting on weight before the wedding (so as to increase surface area) is probably a good idea.

Surprisingly, the dance can actually be less fun than it sounds, probably because being surrounded by a hundred people stabbing you with pins is quite, well, painful. The heat inside the circle of aforementioned people also gets to highs of about 30-40 thousand degrees (give or take), so it’s not the most comfortable environment to be in.

But hey, you’ve got money pinned all over you, get over it.

Cutting the Cake

Possibly the most pointless part of any wedding in the world.

The Bride and Groom cut the cake = approximately three seconds.

Then everyone takes pictures = ten minutes.

The result is what can only be described as a plethora of increasingly desperate facial expressions and actions, as the Bride and Groom try to work out exactly what they’re supposed to be doing in between cutting the cake and everybody going away again.

I’ve been to weddings where the couple have just repeatedly cut the cake, in an attempt to do something.

The end result looked like a massacre in a bakery.

Greek Dancing

Later in the night, the Bride and her Koumeres all do a dance together. It’s called the Kalamathkianon, and is all very nice and civilised. Cue lots of hip-twisting, hand-moving and general showboating.

The serious showboating comes later however, when the Groom and his Koumbari take to the floor in a display of what some may call ‘dancing’, but what is probably more accurately described as ‘a bunch of drunk Greeks, kicking’.

It starts with the Groom dancing with each Koumbaro in turn, although this inevitably ends up as a big free for all.

One of the best dances at this point of the evening is the Zembekiko (also known as the ‘drunk man’s dance’). If I had to choose a favourite type of Greek dance, then this would be it.

It’s maudlin, melancholy, and you make it up as you go along.

What’s not to like?

The end of the night

This is where all the old Greeks get up to dance, and all the young Greeks run up to them and slap money on their heads.

(Notes, not coins.  That would be mean.)

At the end of the night, the money is all collected and given to the band.  This comes from the old tradition of ‘tipping’ the band, which is another way of helping out the newlyweds (as the more money the guests pay the band, the less the couple have to). Not sure where the sticking money to peoples’ actual heads thing came from, but I’m sure there’s a tradition behind that too somewhere.

This part of the night is also where my Uncle Chris usually gets up and dances with a glass of whisky balanced on his head. We’re pretty sure he uses some kind of adhesive, but nobody’s managed to catch him applying it yet…


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So, there you have it – what happens at an actual, genuine big fat Greek wedding.

There’s other stuff too of course – arguments over table plans, older female relatives who look like Joe Pesci – but I just wanted to give a brief outline of what to expect.

And not a smashed plate in sight.

Told you.


*This has literally never happened to me.  Or anyone, probably.

**Obviously this part is false too. Although to be fair I do sometimes wear a hat.


Flash Fiction – New Home

Flash Fiction_Angelo Marcos_New Home

Ok, one more 100 word flash fiction piece….


New Home

The man with the keys led me to my home for the next six months.

He was whistling a tune I couldn’t quite place. The unknown melody echoed off the walls, mixing with the sounds of the damned.

We reached the door. He unlocked it and gestured me inside.

What a gent…

I looked around. I wasn’t exactly expecting a coffee maker or ocean view, but this was ridiculous.

He saw the look on my face and chuckled.

“You’ll be fine.”

Easy for him to say, he didn’t have to temp in this dump for the next twenty-four weeks.

Flash Fiction – Feline Sleepy



Flash fiction_Angelo Marcos_Feline Sleepy

Thought I’d do another 100 word flash fiction piece.

As ever, I’m not going to say much about it – mainly because any description would probably be as long as the story itself… – but it features a couple of characters from my novel Sleep No More.


Feline Sleepy

I was awakened by the sunlight streaming through the window.

Stretching long and hard, I felt a slight weight on my feet. The bundle of fur stirred, then demonstrated his own morning stretch.


“One minute, Harry.”

He sauntered up to my pillow, then sat expectantly.


“One minute, Harry!”

I lay back, trying to gather my thoughts for the day.


“Alright! Fine!”

I threw off the covers and got out of bed, knowing who’d be getting their breakfast first this morning. I trundled over and opened the door, ready to let Harry downstairs.

He’d gone back to sleep.

Cardboard for all!

This is somehow too much packaging, yet not enough packaging, all at the same time.

Well played, Amazon, well played…


It’s a letterbox draught excluder by the way – which, if it had been packaged properly, probably would’ve fit through the actual letterbox.

Apparently someone at Amazon likes irony, and hates trees.


Fun and Games on the train…


Every so often I have ridiculous conversations with people on London Underground. Today was one of those days…

Ok, so after finally managing to squeeze onto a rush hour train, I felt someone behind me pushing my arm.

I turned around to see a girl that looked like Missy Elliott (which is ironic because I shared Missy Elliott’s new video on Facebook yesterday), and she’s pushing me.

With both hands.

Me: (taking off my headphones and shrugging her off) What are you DOING?

Attitude Girl: You’re standing too close! Move!

Me: Are you crazy?! You just pushed your way onto a rammed train, how is it my fault that there isn’t enough room?

Attitude Girl: Is it your train?

Me: (talking slowly) No, it’s not my train, but it is my arm. Just say ‘excuse me’ instead of pushing.

Attitude Girl: I need to get to work.

Me: Oh, that’s funny, the rest of us are all going cinema…

Attitude Girl: Just move man.

Me: (putting headphones back on) Alright, whatever, you keep talking I’m not listening.

Attitude Girl: (keeps talking but I can’t hear cos of the headphones)

Me: (taking headphones off) Seriously, you’re arguing with yourself here. I’m done with this conversation. (put my headphones back on)

Attitude Girl: (keeps talking for a few seconds then stops when she realises I’m genuinely not listening)


The only consolation?  I got a few laughs from the ‘cinema’ line.

(Hey, I take laughs where I can get ’em…)

Sleep Paralysis and, um, the Evening Standard

Ok, so the good news is that the London Evening Standard printed my letter about sleep paralysis.

The bad news?

snm evening standard letter

They edited the vast majority of it, and also removed the name of the book I tried to crowbar into it.

I mean, come on people, what kind of free publicity is this?!*

For anybody that is interested in what I originally wrote, here it is in full…..

Having suffered from sleep paralysis for years, I’m glad to see some awareness is being raised of this horrible condition.
It was only while researching sleep paralysis for a novel I wrote that I realised how prevalent it actually is, having been reported as a phenomena in just about every culture throughout history.
In Fiji, it is known by a term which translates as ‘eaten by a demon’; in China, ‘ghost pressing down on the body’; and in Nigeria, ‘nocturnal warfare’.
The most common explanation is that – crudely put – our brains paralyse us when we sleep so we don’t act out our dreams, but sometimes we get ‘stuck’ in that state for a while.
Not much of a consolation, I’ll admit, but at least if more people are aware of it they’ll know they’re not alone when/if it happens.
Angelo Marcos, author of Sleep No More


*At least they didn’t call me ‘Angela’ I suppose, which happens surprisingly often.

Even over the phone…

Sleep No More is my psychological thriller about a young woman whose vivid nightmares begin leaching into reality. Sleep deprived and desperate, she begins to doubt her own mind – and finds herself in a deadly race against time…

Click here to find out more

Hashtag Games – Bad Blind Date Conversations

Hashtag games_Angelo Marcos

Anybody that follows me on Twitter will know that:

1. I spend way too much time on there where I should be writing/doing something productive
2. I think hashtag games are cool

For anyone that doesn’t know, hashtags are used on Twitter as a way of locating a particular topic or phrase quickly. So if I wrote a tweet about, say, bowling, I’d use a hashtag (#) before the word bowling so that anybody looking for tweets about it would see mine.

A hashtag game takes things a step further, as all the associated tweets are designed to follow certain rules. So, for example, if the hashtag game was #filmsbeginningwithP then you could join in by writing ‘Predator’, or ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’.

Or ‘Inception’, if you’ve completely misunderstood the game.

The fun part is where you get to make stuff up. So, #FilmsAboutFood might have responses like ‘Silence of the Hams’ or ‘Hunt for Bread October’. Not hilarious, admittedly, but its free entertainment when I’m bored so I’m not going to be too picky.

“So, Angelo,” I hear you ask, “Why are you giving us this incredibly interesting information, you big handsome thing, you?”

Glad you asked.

A while ago there was a hashtag game about (fake) bad blind date conversations, wittily named #BadBlindDateConv, which I had fun with, getting more retweets than I ever have on Twitter (FIVE whole retweets!! It’s like I’m famous, you guys!!).

So I thought I’d share them with you, because I’m nice.

And here they are – my contributions to the #BadBlindDateConv hashtag game:


Hmm, I guess I’ll pay, but tap water ONLY. And no dessert.

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I wasn’t sure whether to go smart or casual, then I thought, ‘Well everybody loves speedos, right?’

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Wow! Breadsticks! I haven’t seen these in years! Watch!
*does vampire impression*

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Sorry I’m late. Spent ten minutes convincing the wife that I’m “working late”. Hey, nice boobs.

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“This soup is cold”
“It’s a finger bowl. You’re not supposed to drink it.”
“Well why did they make it so delicious?”

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Oooh, no wine for me, thanks. I’m still drunk from work.

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So there’s a NEW York? What?! When did that happen?

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I never used to be able to get waiters’ attention either. Now I do this…
*blasts foghorn, flashes torch*

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So apparently they’re only effective 99% of the time. But hey, you look pretty clean.

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Sorry for changing the restaurant at the last minute, I didn’t realise the other one was within 100 yards of a school…

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Wow! This is like… I mean, I’m on a DATE! With a REAL LADY! Let’s do a selfie cos nobody at the clinic will believe this!

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“Pull my finger.”
“Are you… serious?”
“Oh I’m SORRY, your MAJESTY!”

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Wow. Well, I guess let’s just hope our kids don’t inherit YOUR nose or MY foot thing, amirite?

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Let’s sit in the BACK row of the cinema. In case we want to…
*raises eyebrows, thrusts pelvis, nods head*

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When your friend dropped you off, did she see me? I mean, enough to – hehe – identify me? Hehe…

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Ok, ok, I know I don’t look THAT much like Ryan Gosling, but I do ‘drive’. And I have used a ‘notebook’. So…Blog line white purple

I know you’re vegetarian, but I hope there’s SOME meat you like to eat.
*sleazy grin*

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“Hey, nice perfume.”
“Thanks. It was a gift from my mo-“
“I meant the waitress.”

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I mean, I’m not saying it was a competition or anything, but Tootsie was MUCH sexier than Mrs Doubtfire.Blog line white purple

“Watch this!”
*stands up*
“I’m Spartacus!”
*sits down, giggles*
“I know! Aren’t I just too much?!”

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Know what I’ve really been getting into recently? Drinking. Do YOU have any hobbies?

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“This is like that TV show with blind dates!”
“Blind date?”
“No. TV show.”
“I’m pretty sure that was called-“

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The last time I was in a place this fancy I was the defendant. I didn’t do it by the way. Insanity plea. *winks*

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Ok, now over to you. Feel free to post any made up – or real (!) – bad blind date conversations in the Comments below.  And as we’re not on Twitter, they can be as long as you like.

Ready, set…