Congratulations on your upcoming wedding! In the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, a husband and wife are united to each other just as Jesus Christ is united to the Church. Marriage is not simply a legal bond between two people, but a reflection of the love that God has for his creation.
In order to be married in the Orthodox Church, at least one member of the couple must be an Orthodox Christian in good standing with the Church. Today we find that an increasing number of Orthodox Christians are marrying non-Orthodox Christians. Although traditionally this was not the case, today we may perform inter-Christian marriages as long as at least one member of the couple is an Orthodox Christian. We are not able to perform inter-faith marriages in the event that one member of the couple is a non-Christian.
In planning your wedding, please make sure to confirm the date with Fr. Jeremy before you begin booking venues for your reception and honeymoon. It is too common that couples will book these venues in advance, only to find out that the Church is not available on the date they had in mind. If you would like the priest to attend your wedding reception after the ceremony, please send an invitation as you would to other guests.
Marriages may not be celebrated on the following days:
- September 14 (Exaltation of the Holy Cross)
- December 13-25 (Nativity)
- January 5 and 6 (Theophany)
- Great Lent and Holy Week, Pascha (Easter)
- August 1-15 (Dormition Fast and Feast)
- August 29 (Beheading of St. John the Baptist)
A couple who wants to be married in the Orthodox Church must have a koumbaro, a witness who will attest to their faith and love for each other, and who will sign the marriage documents along with the couple. The koumbaro must be an Orthodox Christian in good standing with the Church. Other bridesmaids and groomsmen do not need to be Orthodox Christians.
On the day of their wedding, the couple or their family brings the following items to the Church:
- Their wedding crowns (stephana)
- Their wedding rings
- A tray (usually silver) to hold the crowns and rings
- Their wedding candles
- Their civil marriage license
With the exception of the marriage license, these items may be purchased from online marketplaces like Blessed Celebration, or from elsewhere.
Following the wedding, the priest will sign the civil marriage license and present the couple with their ecclesiastical marriage certificate. This is an important document that should be filed in a safe place.
For a marriage in the Orthodox Church to take place, all of the following must be true:
- Neither of the parties in question are already married to other persons, either in this country or elsewhere
- The parties in question are not related to each other to a degree that would constitute an impediment
- If either or both parties are widowed, they have presented the death certificate(s) of the deceased spouse(s)
- If either or both of the parties have been previously married in the Orthodox Church, they have obtained ecclesiastical as well as civil divorce(s)
- The party or parties who are members of a parish other than the one in which the marriage is to be performed have provided a certificate declaring them to be members in good standing with that parish for the current year
- A civil marriage license has been obtained from civil authorities
A note on "Marriage Blessings"
It is the expectation of the Orthodox Church that her members will not engage in wedding ceremonies or other Sacraments outside of the Orthodox Church. An Orthodox Christian who becomes married outside of the Orthodox Church (whether in a non-Orthodox congregation or in a civil ceremony) is no longer considered to be 'in good standing', and may not receive the Sacraments or act as a sponsor at a Baptism or wedding until the situation has been resolved.
Thankfully, there is an easy way forward in these situations. The couple may request to have their non-Orthodox wedding blessed in the Church. The couple will then receive a full Church wedding ceremony, after which they will be considered 'in good standing' again. This requirement does not apply to converts to the Orthodox Christian faith who were already married when they were received into the Church, although they also may request a marriage blessing if they desire.