My girlfriend of  eight and a half years is currently on a boat with her father, enjoying some of the finest lakes The Netherlands has to offer. Besides having the house to myself and having to sleep alone for the week, my girlfriend's absence raises some interesting religious questions for me. During my daily prayers, I will pray for both of us. I will use 'our oikos' and 'us'. Now my girlfriend is away, I want to be clearer that whatever I pray to the Theoi for, I also pay for that for the wonderful woman on a boat who belongs to my oikos.

I haven't done the research on this but I assume that when the husband left home in ancient Hellas, his task as kurios was taken over by either his father or his son. Women rarely left the house for long periods of time, and probably not without her husband if she did, so the ancient Hellenes probably never had the challenge I am facing now: including a female significant other in prayers when you are not married by law.

During ritual, I call my girlfriend my wife. I don't doubt the Theoi's ability to understand the concept of same-sex romantic girlfriend, but in a religious sense, she feels like my wife to me. We have shared our oikos for five years now, and as far as I can tell, we are heading into a live-log commitment. I want to marry her, and by law, we are allowed. It just hasn't happened yet for practical reasons.

Marriage in ancient Hellas, and ancient Athens specifically, was a family affair. The father of the groom--who was often in his thirties by the time he got married--opened negotiations with the family of a bride in her teens. The two families came to an agreement about dowry, a contract was signed by the father of the groom and the father of the bride in front of witnesses, and the groom met his new wife--often for the first time--at the marriage ceremony before taking her to bed.

Wedding rituals were diverse, and were directed towards a large number of deities. Zeus Teleios, Hera Teleia, Aphrodite and Artemis would have received sacrifice the night before the wedding. Artemis was offered the girl's toys and playthings, so as to signal the end of her childhood. Both bride and groom took a purificatory bath.

On the day of the wedding, the houses of both parties were decorated with olive and laurel branches. The father of the bride held a sacrifice and banquet. The bride was veiled and wreathed. A young boys whose parents were still alive went 'round with bread in a basket and a thorny wreath on his head, saying 'he had banished evil and found good' as a purification rite. The bride brought a pan, a young boy a sieve, and a mortar and pestle were hung by the door to the bedchamber. The couple received gifts.

A torchlight procession took the bride from the house of her father to the house of her new husband. Songs were sung to Hymen, God of marriage as the bride was transported by cart. The groom's parents would welcome her, feed her cake of sesame and honey, and show her around the house. then, she was introduced to the hearth, and she was showered with nuts and dried figs to signal she was now part of the oikos. Then, the pair retired for the night, for anything but sleep, presumably.

The next day, there was another banquet, and further sacrifice. The pair would also get more presents. Then, the two were officially husband and wife, and procreation could commence.

Spartan wives were older, and their hair was shaved off before the ceremony. They were dressed up in a man's cloak and sandals, and waited in a dark room of her future husband's house for him to 'capture her'. Elsewhere, we find evidence of false bards, phallus objects and other role-reversal tools, probably intended to establish exactly the typical gender roles.

I hope to have a somewhat traditional Hellenic wedding some day, although my girlfriend is not religious, and the religious part is thus going to be a private affair. I am alright with that, really. It is what it is, and there are two people (and a boatload of friends and family) involved in the ceremony. To be fair, my girlfriend would feel equally uncomfortable with a Christian-style wedding. It's the religiosity of it that is the issue, not the deity of deities prayed to.

We will have our private ceremony, she has agreed to that, and perhaps I will have found other Hellenists in the area willing to preside over it, and bar witness. I don't think my girlfriend would mind that.

Would you like a traditional wedding, or have you had one? I would love to hear your stories!