Crisis forces Greeks to skimp on weddings, funerals

Thu Feb 21, 2013 1:37pm EST
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By Deborah Kyvrikosaios

ATHENS (Reuters) - Fewer Greeks are walking down the aisle as their country's deep economic crisis takes a toll on their famously lavish weddings, an age-old ritual that has become an unbearable cost for those struggling to make ends meet.

Religious wedding ceremonies in bell tower chapels overflowing with flowers, meter-high candles and candy wrapped in tulle, are a deeply ingrained tradition in Greece, where the powerful Orthodox Church plays an influential role in society.

But as recession slides into its sixth year, unemployment rises and poverty spreads, a church wedding is a luxury many couples can no longer afford.

For 28-year-old bride Nafsika Koutrokoi, who works at a butcher shop, fulfilling her dream of marrying her fiancé, a cable technician, in church was a difficult decision that required huge sacrifices.

"Things are quite tough right now," she said after the wedding. "We cut down on many things, from invitations to the reception, on everything."

The number of Greek couples who tied the knot in church tumbled to 28,000 in 2011, two years into Europe's debt crisis, compared to the pre-crisis level of 40,000 in 2008, according to the country's statistic service ELSTAT.

In contrast, the number of low-key civil unions skyrocketed to 26,000 in 2011 from about 8,000 a decade earlier.

As Greece's crisis deepens and successive governments are forced to impose wage cuts and tax rises in exchange for the foreign aid keeping the economy afloat, the wedding industry's countless shops and planners are also feeling the pinch.   Continued...

A couple kiss in front of the parliament building during an anti-austerity rally in central Athens November 14, 2012. REUTERS/John Kolesidis