The metropolitan bishop of Fthiotida has caused a stir after banning wedding and baptism decorations both inside and outside the region’s churches earlier this month. According to Bishop Nikolaos, extravagant decorations created by wedding planners trying to satisfy their clients’ vanity expose the Church of Greece to negative comments.
“We see illuminated potted plants bedecked with ribbon and tulle, arches of fake flowers, children’s inflatable toys, figures from fairy tales and much more making up the decor of certain ceremonies and this is not only very costly, but is also provocative at such a time of economic constraint and a blatant sign of disrespect,” said the cleric.
“The above is not a exhortation or a recommendation, it is an order which you are all duty-bound to comply with,” Bishop Nikolaos said in a circular addressed to all the priests under his jurisdiction, announcing the ban.
Couples getting ready for the big day and professionals in the wedding industry – one of the few that continues to grow despite the crisis – received the news with mixed feelings.
“Two years ago, double ceremonies – meaning a couple’s wedding followed by the baptism of their child – were also banned in the prefecture, but the couples were allowed to hold both ceremonies on the same day as long as they were at different churches,” says Maria Diamanti of the Olvion company, which helps with arrangements for weddings and christenings in the city of Lamia, central Greece.
“We had all stopped bringing decorations into the church anyway, limiting our work to the courtyards,” adds the event planner, who has posted an open letter on Facebook to the bishop.
Diamanti explains that these days, largely because of the crisis, many couples opt for a small party outside the church after the wedding ceremony, serving wine, soft drinks and cake, rather than having an expensive reception.
“The priests always attend these small parties and don’t seem to mind,” says Diamanti. The sextons, however, can often be heard grumbling, “People don’t have money for the collection box, but somehow they do for flowers and sweets.”
“Four of my clients have already canceled their plans,” laments Diamanti. “It’s becoming a survival issue for us.”
“We have come to this because of the extravagance of some of our colleagues,” says Maria Hatzopoulou from Caramelino Art in Maroussi, northern Athens. “One of them is currently in a legal battle with a priest.”
Balloons decorated with photographs of Byzantine monasteries, life-size decorative horses, fake luggage bearing fake labels from honeymoon destinations and fake exotic fruits are but some of the features that have been seen at weddings, insulting the sensibilities and taste of the non-pious as much as the pious.
“Every metropolitan region has its own rules and regulations, so we don’t know what’s what,” says Hatzopoulou. “For example, there are certain sextons who insist that any item that touches the baptismal font must remain in the church forever. I have known them to hold onto towels and linens, but also a flower garland worth 200 euros.”