The Holy Mystery of Marriage is one of the two main paths or arenas of salvation open to Orthodox Christians, the other being the life of monasticism. From the beginning, God said that it is not good that a person should live alone but that each of us should have the comfort, strength, and accountability of community offered by other persons. For the monk or nun, this takes the form of living in a community of obedience under the direction of an abbot or abbess and in relation with his or her monastic brothers or sisters, wherein he or she seeks to work out his or her salvation. This is no less the case for marriage, though in marriage, a man and a woman enter into a relationship with one another that is blessed by the Church so that they may both learn to overcome their own self-love in loving and serving one another and have one another, and any children they may be blessed with by God, as co-strugglers on the path to salvation. The serious Orthodox Christian does not enter upon Marriage lightly, but must discern whether or not he or she is called to this vocation within the Church. To assist with that, it is recommended that he or she first read and meditate on one or both of these beautiful articles on the topic of Orthodox Christian Marriage before approaching the parish priest to discuss the possibility of entering upon a marriage.
The Orthodox Christian Marriage by Hieromonk Ambrose Young (click here)
Marriage: The Great Sacrament by Archimandrite Aimilianos of Simonopetra, Mt. Athos (click here)
If you have read these and prayerfully discerned a call to the marred life with someone, the next step is to make an appointment with the parish priest, Fr. John to discuss the stages of preparing for the Holy Mystery of Marriage and to address any requirements before setting a date.
- Before any date is set for a wedding, the couple must speak to the priest. There are many days in which weddings are not normally performed, unless an emergency exception is granted by the bishop and printing wedding invitations prior to confirming the date of the wedding will not constitute such an emergency.
- At least one of the partners must be a member in good standing of the parish. If the other partner is not an Orthodox Christian, he or she must at least believe in the Holy Trinity, and agree that any children born to the couple will be raised in the Orthodox Faith. Furthermore, in such cases, a blessing for the marriage will have to be first granted by the Bishop.
- If either partner has ever been previously married in the Church, and subsequently has divorced, they must have obtained an ecclesiastical divorce, and will need to have the blessing of the bishop prior to another wedding taking place.
- The couple will need to obtain a civil marriage license prior to the wedding and have it on hand before the service.
- The couple must be willing to meet with the priest to discuss the seriousness of the sacrament of marriage and to prepare them for entering into marriage. The parish priest will require the couple to read some materials and meet with the priest to discuss both practical and spiritual matters related to the Orthodox vision of the married life as a path to salvation.
Preparing for the Service
- There must be two sponsors, one of each sex, who are Orthodox Christians in good standing. You may have non-Orthodox friends or family that you may wish to have stand with the wedding parties, but the actual sponsors must be Orthodox Christians. Sponsors must be physically present at the wedding to serve as sponsors.
- Unlike traditional western weddings, the bride is not “given away” by her father, although the father may escort her to the Narthex of the Church.
- Rings are exchanged, and unlike the usual western practice, wedding rings are worn on the right hand, rather than on the left.
- The parish has Russian wedding crowns, which the couple is welcome to use. If they wish to obtain and use their own Russian- or Greek-style wedding crowns, that is acceptable too.
- If Russian crowns are used, the sponsors hold the crowns over the heads of the couple for a portion of the service.
- The service is done entirely according to the Orthodox Tradition, and so within the Church, there will be no special music selected by the couple, and no special vows for them to compose for the service.
- Photos and video may be taken of the service, but if you have a non-Orthodox photographer, you should probably discuss ahead of time what they will be doing during the service so that they do not interfere with the solemnity of the occasion.
- The parish hall is available for use for a reception, at no charge for the couple.
- As with any sacrament, there is no charge for the service. The couple may make a donation of whatever amount they may desire, but this is not obligatory.
Any questions not addressed by this information may be addressed directly to the parish priest, Fr. John. You can reach him by email at frjohnboddecker (at) gmail (dot) com or by phone at 716-634-6712.