MARRIAGES IN THE ORTHODOX CHURCH
“A great mystery is being celebrated. How is it a mystery? They come together, and the two are made one. They have not become the image of anything earthly, but of God Himself. They come in order to be made one body; behold the mystery of love!” (St. John Chrysostom, Homily 12 on Colossians)
Marriage is truly a “great mystery,” the mystery of the meeting of human love and divine love, the very sign and image of God’s presence with humanity. In the Old Testament, Israel was referred to as God’s “spouse,” while in the New Testament, the Church is referred to as the “bride” of Christ. These images attempt to convey in human categories what the Church Fathers refer to as the “frenzied love” of God for His people.
Marriage is much more than a merely private transaction or contract between two individuals; it is an event in which Jesus Christ Himself participates through the presence of the sacramental minister, the priest, and that of the praying community, the church. In view of this “ecclesial” dimension of marriage, therefore, a wedding must be performed within the context of the Orthodox Church in order for the Church to recognize and affirm the validity and authenticity of the marriage.
Pre-Wedding Day Preparations
The bride and/or groom who are of the Orthodox Faith are encouraged to prepare spiritually for the Holy Sacrament of Marriage through prayer, charity and fasting, and by participating in the Sacraments of Holy Confession and Holy Communion before their wedding.
Membership for the engaged couple:
The Orthodox member(s) of the engaged couple must be a member in good canonical and stewardship standing of the Greek Orthodox Church. He/she must be a pledging member and must be up to date on his/her pledged financial commitment. Most importantly, he/she should consider their commitment and participation in the life of the Church. Do you attend worship and receive Holy Communion regularly? Have you been to Holy Confession? Do you strive to uphold a spiritual life connected to Jesus Christ the Son of God?
If one or both members of the engaged couple have been previously married and divorced, he/she must present a copy of the civil divorce decree. Furthermore, if a previous marriage took place in the Orthodox Church, the divorced spouse must also have received an ecclesiastical divorce. Please be advised, this process for Ecclesiastical divorce can take a few months. Please speak with the priest.
Membership for the Koumbaro:
The koumbaros/koumbara is the one who stands as witness on behalf of the Orthodox Church during the ceremony. It is imperative that this person be an Orthodox Christian in good standing with the Church; there are no exceptions to this rule. The koumbaros/koumbara must also be a member in good standing of the Orthodox Church. If he/she belongs to another Orthodox parish, the priest must receive a letter of introduction from their parish priest. As stated above, membership in good standing is a broad term: if he/she is married, the marriage must have been blessed by the Orthodox Church; if divorced (after marriage in the Orthodox Church), an ecclesiastical divorce must already have been issued.
No invitations should be printed until the date has been approved by the church office.
In order to provide the engaged couple with every opportunity to enjoy all the blessings of married life, a three session program of pre-marital counseling is provided by the priest prior to the wedding. Please note that these sessions are not optional. Wedding rehearsals are part of the pre-marital preparation. They take place on Thursdays unless special arrangements are made. During the rehearsal, the bridal party and immediate family will be briefly guided through the basic procedures of the Holy Sacrament of Marriage. This will take about 30 minutes. There is a dress code in effect at all times. The rehearsal will not be conducted if participants do not adhere to this policy. It is essential that the rehearsal begin on time, as there are usually two or three scheduled appointments that night.
Ecclesiastical Marriage License:
Six to eight weeks prior to the wedding, the bride and groom are required to schedule an appointment to meet with the priest in order to apply for the ecclesiastical marriage license. At this time, the following must be presented:
Copies of their baptismal certificates
If the bride and/or groom have come from Greece or some other foreign country after their 18th birthday, he and/or she must present a “Certificate of Eligibility for Marriage” from the bishop/Metropolis of their original town and state
If the Bride or Groom is from an Orthodox parish in some other city, he/she must present a letter from his/her priest attesting to eligibility for marriage
If the Bride or Groom was married before in a civil service, a CERTIFIED civil divorce with the effective date must be presented
If the Bride or Groom was married before in the Orthodox Church, that marriage must have been officially dissolved by an Orthodox Church Spiritual Court. The original document attesting to the Church Divorce must be presented
If the Bride, or Groom is a member of some other Christian Church, a letter from their church pastor stating that he/she has been baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity in water and that he/she is eligible to marry must be presented
If the Bride or Groom are widowed, a death certificate of the deceased spouse must be presented.
Civil Marriage License:
A Civil Marriage license needs to be obtained six to eight weeks prior to the wedding date. In the province of Ontario the License expires after ninety (90) days. As such, it should not be obtained earlier than ninety (90) days prior to the wedding date. You should bring this license with you when meeting with the priest in order to apply for an Ecclesiastical Marriage License.
The goal of the Orthodox Church is to give each married couple the best opportunity for a blessed and fulfilling marriage; hence, the Church can never condone living together prior to marriage. Not only is there no question from a biblical standpoint that any sexual relationship outside of marriage is inappropriate, but statistics gathered by secular professionals clearly show that there is a 50% HIGHER divorce rate among couples who have lived together prior to their weddings than those who have not! The Church must make every attempt to give couples a healthy, appropriate start. Therefore, any couple wishing to be married that is currently cohabitating are strongly encouraged to do everything they can to remain abstinent and uphold this Orthodox Christian practice until their wedding date. This decision is made in a loving spirit of concern for the health and stability of the future marriage.
Location of the Wedding Sacrament:
The appropriate place for a Holy Sacrament of the Orthodox Church is the Holy Sanctuary. It is not customary to perform sacraments outside the Church. For example, in a home, back yard, or local park. On extremely rare and unique occasions, exceptions have been made, but these are usually due to other exceptional or extenuating circumstances.
Wedding Day Preparations
Items necessary for the wedding day:
Wedding Crowns (Stephana)
Rings for both the bride and the groom
Two large white candles (lambathes)
Civil marriage license
If desired, a platter with white Jordan almonds (koupheta) are traditionally prepared for the wedding
Bottle of red wine (mavrodafni)
Flowers are allowed in the church:
The Sanctuary of an Orthodox church is magnificent in its own right, and does not require further “decoration.” Flowers are permitted in the nave or the narthex area but must be approved by the parish priest. Flowers can be delivered up to a half hour prior to the wedding unless there is a Holy Sacrament previous to your wedding. In this case, flowers can be delivered just before the wedding. Confetti and rice are not allowed in the Church at any time. Flower petals can be used on a runner (from the Florist).
Photographs and video are permitted as long as they do not interfere with the Holy Sacrament of Marriage and the rules of the Church are respected.
The Bridal Party- Bridesmaids’ dresses/Groomsmen attire:
Regardless of fashion and societal custom a sense of modesty and chastity is required in the Church. Every wedding takes place in front of an icon of the Ever-Virgin Mary and Theotokos, whose humility and modesty requires a corresponding sense of decorum; bridesmaids are asked therefore to have their shoulders covered in Church. If the bridesmaids’ dresses have bare shoulders, a wrap or jacket for use in the church must be provided. At the reception, the bridesmaids may of course wear whatever they wish. Groomsmen should be dressed in Church attire.
Invitations to the Reception:
If you wish to have the priest attend your reception, please send an invitation to him and his presbytera in advance. Too many people simply assume that the priest will come and then casually mention it following the service. Due to the large size of the Greek Orthodox Community of Sts. Peter and Paul Church, it is very difficult for the priest to attend every reception. He will make every attempt to be present to bless the meal.
In some circles it is “fashionable” to be late. But in a parish of over 400 families, this wreaks havoc with schedules. Frequently, two or even three weddings or baptisms are scheduled for the same day. Other parishioners should not be punished due to one person’s tardiness; every effort should be made to be prompt on your wedding day. You must be aware, if the wedding is delayed for any length of time, the priest might have to adjust the schedule accordingly; in extremely rare circumstances, your wedding might be delayed until the end of the day.
The Orthodox Christian Faith blesses interfaith marriages under the following conditions:
The non-Orthodox Bride/Groom must be a Christian who has been baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity in water in the non-Orthodox Church which are recognized by the Orthodox Church
The couple should be willing to baptize their children in the Orthodox Church
The marriage must take place in the Orthodox Church according to the prescribed form of the Service Book, the Orthodox priest being the sole celebrant
Should the presence of a non-Orthodox clergyman be requested, the following must be clarified:
a) The Orthodox priest, after receiving permission from the bishop, will issue an invitation to the clergyman.
b) The Orthodox wedding ceremony does not permit the active participation of non-Orthodox clergy, this being made explicit to all concerned.
c) At the conclusion of the Orthodox ceremony, the guest clergyman, advised as to appropriate vesture and as agreed previously, will be properly acknowledged and may give his benediction and good wishes to the couple.
The following regulations concerning interfaith marriages must be observed:
a) Non-Orthodox persons may act as ushers or bridesmaids at the Orthodox Marriage, but the koumbaros/ koumbara must be an Orthodox Christian.
b) An Orthodox Christian whose marriage has not been blessed by the Orthodox Church is no longer in good standing with the Orthodox Church and consequently is not eligible to participate in the Holy Sacraments of the Orthodox Church, including receiving Holy Communion, acting as a sponsor at an Orthodox wedding, baptism or chrismation (confirmation).
c) A non-Orthodox Christian who marries an Orthodox Christian does not automatically become a member of the Orthodox Church, and is therefore not permitted to receive Holy Communion or the other Holy Sacraments of the Orthodox Church.
Days when marriages are not permitted:
January 5 and 6
Great Lent and Holy Week
August 1 – 15
December 13 – 25
All Holy Days of our Lord (Despotikes Eortes: Christmas, Epiphany, Pascha, etc.)
The eve of Christmas, Epiphany, or Pentecost.
Parents with their own children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren
Brothers-in-law with sisters-in-law
Uncles and aunts with nieces and nephews
First cousins with each other
Foster parents with foster children or foster children with the children of foster parents
Godparents with Godchildren or Godparents with the parents of Godchildren.
It is always a pleasure to see new beginnings commence in union in the Orthodox Church. At this time, we thought it would be helpful to inform you of the obligatory fees to the community. The list below applies to all those who participate in Sacraments at the Greek Orthodox Church of Saints Peter and Paul, Kitchener.
The Wedding Fees are as follows:
$ 100 for Groom
$ 100 for Bride
$ 100 for Koumbaros/a
All baptized and confirmed Orthodox Christians who are 18 years of age or older participating in the Wedding Sacraments must be in good standing of Saints Peter and Paul Greek Orthodox Church, having paid their current annual dues to the community. The Membership Fees are as follows:
Single Adult………………….. $200
Single Senior………………… $150
Married Senior Couple……….$175
Students…………………….…*Free (Under 22 years)
*The Parents or Sponsors of Students under 22 years of age, who are participating in Holy Sacraments, are subject to Membership Fees. In the event that parents or sponsors are not members of our Community, the student will be required to pay a Membership Fee of $100.IMPORTANT REMINDERS:
*Although some of the membership fees are waived, the Bride, Groom & Koumbaros/a, all must pay their respective Wedding fees.
*Your Koumbaros/a may be unaware that he/she is required to pay a fee especially if he/she is coming from another Community. You should advise him/her so they can budget for this before the Wedding Day.
* All fees must be paid at the Community Office at least 2 weeks prior to the event. The Priest will not proceed to the Wedding service if the dues have not been paid. Also, no one will accept these dues at the time of Wedding.
For more information please contact our office at 519-579-4703 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
We would like to express our best wishes to you and your finance(e) as you plan your wedding!
Marriage Preparation Seminars 2014
Hosted and Directed by Rev. Fr. Konstantine Chatzis
@ Sts. Peter and Paul Greek Orthodox Church
527 Bridgeport Rd. E., Kitchener, Ontario
mobile: 519 – 573 – 1033
All couples being married at Sts. Peter and Paul Greek Orthodox Church are cordially invited to register for the Marriage Preparation Seminars that start on Thursday June 19, 2014 at 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m and take place in the Board Room next to the Church Hall. These Seminars are designed to assist those preparing for their Marriage Ceremony and their new life as a married couple. The Seminars are given in English. Refreshments will be served. Please e-mail us at the above contact info to register. The following topics will be discussed in the Seminars, which start at 7:00 p.m.
SEMINAR I – June 19th
Introduction: Preparing for Marriage!
Church Regulations and Guidelines. What is Marriage? What am I getting myself into? Expectations & Reality!
Communication Challenges & Conflict Resolution
The art of settling conflicts, arguments and differences. Achieving a win-win result!
SEMINAR II – June 26th
What does Love have to do with it?
The Expression of love and respect for each other; Raising Children and Parenting Skills; Dealing with Parents, In-Laws, and relatives.
The Greek Orthodox Wedding! Faith & Culture!
Greek Wedding Customs and Traditions: All you wanted to know about the Greek Orthodox Faith and customs, but were hesitant to ask! Questions and Answers about the Ceremony!
SEMINAR III- July 3rd
Your Wedding Ceremony and The Wedding Day!
An In-depth Explanation of the Wedding Ceremony and your participation.
Fine-tuning the Ceremony: Language needs; music; role and duties of the Koumbaroi (Sponsors). Meeting with each couple to discuss and fine-tune their Ceremony!