…man is made in the Image of the Most-holy Trinity, created for love and union, for relationships. Except in certain special cases (such as being a hermit, for example), we are not intended by God to live alone, but in a family situation (and it should be noted that the exalted and holy state of monasticism provides this).
Just as God made Adam and Eve—male and female, complementary (physically, emotionally, spiritually)—each a helper fit, equal and appropriate to the other—to be fruitful and multiply, so too the Church not only blesses the union of a man and a woman, but sanctifies and transforms that union in the Marriage service. Just as the offered bread and wine are changed by the power of the Holy Spirit during the Holy Liturgy when the priest and faithful gather and pray for this change, so also there is a wonderful and mysterious potential for transfiguration that comes upon the bride and groom at the wedding service.
That Holy Matrimony has divine sanction from the creation to be part of the original Paradise comes no less from the words of the Lord Himself, Who says: “Have you not read that He Who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’ (Gen. 2:24) So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matt. 19:5-6). The Holy Apostle Paul sees this mystical union of husband and wife as reflecting the mystical, intimate, sacrificial, and total union of Christ with His Church. He writes: “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church, His body… Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her… to be “the head” is not about being superior or authoritative or subjecting one’s wife to himself—it is to be in the image of Christ, who “gave himself up.” It is a responsibility of sacrifice and a martyrdom of giving. “Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the Church, because we are members of His body.... This is a great mystery, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church.” (Eph. 5:22-25, 28-30, 32).
—Fr. Lawrence, adapted
REQUIREMENTS FOR MARRIAGE ~ SOME CONSIDERATIONS
A. SETTING THE DATE:
The date of the wedding should be set with the priest. Sundays are the primary marriage day. When scheduling your wedding please be aware that no marriages are permitted during the following fast periods:
- All Saturdays
- From November 14 (Eve of the Nativity Fast) until Jan. 7
- Sunday of Meatfare, Great Lent through Bright Week
- Pentecost Sunday
- The eve of or during the Apostles’ Fast after Pentecost
- Dormition Fast during August 1—15
- The Beheading of St. John the Baptist, Aug. 29
- September 14 —a strict fast day in honor of the Holy Cross of the Lord
B. THE CHURCH MARRIAGE:
In order to have the Sacrament of Marriage performed in the Orthodox Church, the following requirements must be met:
- Proof of Baptism: Both parties must preferably be Orthodox Christians. However, exceptions are made in some cases if the non-Orthodox party was baptized in the Name of the Holy Trinity and in good conscience can accept the implications of the Orthodox wedding Service. Both parties must present to the Priest their baptismal certificates when they set up the wedding date. The non-Orthodox party is invited to learn about and join the Orthodox Church.
- Members of Other Parishes: If the Bride or Groom are from another parish, they must present a letter from their Priest stating that there is no existing impediment to marriage and that they are free to marry in our Church.
- Co-habitating: Couples must not be co-habitating, and are expected to remain celibate (in other words, to abstain from sexual relations of any kind), and live according to the norms and teachings of the Orthodox Church and be in good standing sacramentally.
- Second Marriages: Those who are seeking a second marriage (either because of divorce or being widowed) will need to have it blessed by the Diocesan Bishop. Please speak to the priest about how to go about this.
- Pre-Marital Counseling: All couples must attend at least three pre-marital counseling classes. At these classes, you will discuss various aspects of the Marriage Service, married life, and take a survey which will provide points for discussion. Again, there will be at least three meetings with the priest.
- Confession and Holy Communion: On the Saturday evening prior (or in the days before) both will make their confession. On the Sunday of the wedding, the couple (assuming both are Orthodox) attend the Divine Liturgy and receive Holy Communion (only after preparing by fasting and Holy Confession).
C. MIXED MARRIAGES:
In the event of a mixed marriage (when one of the parties is not of the Orthodox faith) the non-Orthodox party must have been baptized—in water—in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and accept the Nicean Creed.
Marriage in the Orthodox church, however, does not render the non-Orthodox party a communicant of the Orthodox Church and said party may not receive any other sacraments of the Church.
A non-Orthodox party, having voluntarily sought the blessings of the Orthodox Church must make the concession of permitting the children from the marriage to be baptized and reared in the Orthodox faith. However, if a non-Orthodox Christian wishes to become a member of the Orthodox faith, he/she can become a catechumen (learner) and receive Baptism and Chrismation in due time. A person wishing to be confirmed must make the request of his/her own free will and must attend special catechism classes. Likewise, a non-Christian may marry in the Orthodox Church by first being baptized in it. A ceremony in a church of another faith and subsequent to the Greek Orthodox sacrament is not permitted.
D. FOR THOSE MARRIED OUTSIDE THE CHURCH:
Those members of the Orthodox Church who are married outside the Church are urged to have a Church sacrament of marriage. Otherwise, they are not entitled to participate in any other sacrament: cannot receive Holy Communion (the Precious Blood and Body of our Savior) or to become sponsors at baptisms and weddings or to be buried in the Church.
Those couples married outside the Church can have their marriage blessed.
E. DRESS CODE:
We would like to stress the importance of using discrimination in selecting the clothes of the bride and her attendants. Simple dresses in good taste, and restraint in use of cosmetics will create a more natural and refined appearance.
The Bride in selecting her gown and the gowns of the bridesmaids, must keep in mind that the gowns must not be revealing. Strapless or low cut dresses will not be permitted without a shawl. One always dresses properly when entering the Church.
There are no special fees or charges for the Sacrament of Marriage, providing that all are contributing Members of the Orthodox Church.
G. WEDDING REHEARSAL:
The wedding rehearsal is for the purpose of acquainting the bridal party with the order of the Service. This rehearsal will take place the evening before the wedding, directly after Vespers on Saturday.
H. DECORATIONS, MUSIC AND PHOTOGRAPHS:
1. Floral decorations in the Church are permitted.
2. The Wedding Service is a Sacrament of the Church, and the order, the hymns, and the ritual are already set and not to be changed.
3. Photographs may be taken by a photographer, who should speak to the priest about what is appropriate.
The candles, rings and crowns to be used in the sacrament are given to the Subdeacon to be placed on the Altar BEFORE the morning Divine Liturgy.
I. INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE BEST MAN AND MAID OF HONOR:
1. Either the Maid of Honor or the Best Man must be an Orthodox Christian living in accordance with the teachings, moral life and sacramental expectations of the Orthodox Faith. He or she must be a contributing member of his/her parish. If married, they must have been married in the Orthodox Church.