“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 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.
One or both members of the engaged couple must be a member in good standing of The Greek Orthodox Church of Holy Cross; he/she must be a pledging member and must be up to date on his/her pledged financial commitment. If one of the spouses has 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 can take a few months.
2. Membership for Koumbaroi
The koumbaros/koumbara is the one who stands as witness on behalf of the Orthodox Church during the ceremony. Hence, it is imperative that this person be an Orthodox Christian; 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 the 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 cleared by the church office.
4. Pre-Marital Counseling
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. If the engaged couple so chooses, they may seek professional pre-marriage counseling with a qualified therapist; in this case, the couple should inform the church office of their choice in advance.
5. Ecclesiastical Marriage License
At least four 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:
6. Civil Marriage License
7. Living together
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 the 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 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 must do everything they can to separate until their wedding date; this decision is made in a loving spirit of concern for the health and stability of the future marriage.
8. Location of the Wedding Sacrament
The appropriate place for a 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.
9. Sacramental preparation
The bride and/or groom who are of the Orthodox Faith are encouraged to participate in the sacraments of Holy Confession and Holy Communion the week before the wedding
1. Items necessary for the wedding day:
2. 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 sanctuary or the narthex area but must be approved by the parish preist and done in good taste. If a candle stand is to be placed down the aisle (in the event of an evening wedding), approval must be obtained in advance from the priest.
3. Bridesmaids’ dresses
Regardless of fashion and societal custom a sense of modesty and chastity must be maintained in the Sanctuary. Every wedding takes place in front of an icon of the ever-virgin Theotokos, whose humility and modesty requires a corresponding sense of decorum; bridesmaids must therefore 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.
4. Music in the Sanctuary
If an organist is desired either to play prior to and after the wedding service, or to play the wedding march plus recessional, arrangements must be made through the Church office. Additional instrumental music or vocal soloists are permitted to perform in the sanctuary but must be approved by the parish priest.
5. 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 community, it is very difficult for the priest to attend every reception. He will make every attempt to at least make an appearance and give the blessing before the meal.
In some circles it is “fashionable” to be late. But 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:
1. The non-Orthodox Bride/Groom must be a Christian who has been baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity.
2. The couple should be willing to baptize their children in the Orthodox Church.
3. 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.
4. Should the presence of a non-Orthodox clergyman be requested, the following must be clarified:
5. The following regulations concerning interfaith marriages must be observed:
Days when marriages are not permitted:
1. January 5 and 6
2. Great Lent and Holy Week
3. August 1 – 15
4. August 29
5. September 14
6. December 13 – 25
7. All Holy Days of our Lord (Despotikai Eortai: Christmas, Epiphany, Pascha, etc.)
8. The eve of Christmas, Epiphany, or Pentecost.
1. Parents with their own children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren.
2. Brothers-in-law with sisters-in-law.
3. Uncles and aunts with nieces and nephews.
4. First cousins with each other.
5. Foster parents with foster children or foster children with the children of foster parents.
6. Godparents with Godchildren or Godparents with the parents of Godchildren.