"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.
Pre-Wedding Day Preparations:
One or both members of the engaged couple must be Eastern Orthodox christian parishioner of Serbian Orhodox Church, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Fair Oaks CA. 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.
Membership for Kumovi/Godparents
The Kum/ 1st Witnes 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 Kum need to 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 Prisest.
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 parish priest of their choice in advance.
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:
- 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 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 and letter of consent from the parents must be presented.
- If the Bride or Groom was married before in a civil service, a CERTIFIED civil divorce 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 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 clergyman stating that he/she has been baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity 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
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 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.
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.
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.
Wedding Day Preparations:
Items necessary for the wedding day:
- Rings for both the bride and the groom.
- Four wedding candles.
- Civil marriage license.
- White cloth napkin
No flowers in the church
The sanctuary of an Orthodox church is magnificent in its own right, and does not require further "decoration"; buth if you like to ad some flowers approval must be obtained in advance from the priest.
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 Jesus Christ and of the ever-virgin Theotokos , whose humility and modesty requires a corresponding sense of decorum.
Music in the Sanctuary
No instrumental music are permitted to perform in Church. If you would like to have a singer perform, the reception might be considered as a more appropriate forum.
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.
In some circles it is "fashionable" to be late. 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.Every effort should be made to be prompt on your wedding 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.
- 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:
- The Orthodox priest, after receiving permission from the bishop, will issue an invitation to the clergyman.
- The Orthodox wedding ceremony does not permit the active participation of non-Orthodox clergy, this being made explicit to all concerned.
- 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:
- An Orthodox priest, if invited, may attend the marriage ceremony in a non-Orthodox church, but only as a guest. He may not participate in the service nor offer any prayer.
- Non-Orthodox persons may act as ushers or bridesmaids at the Orthodox Marriage, but the Kum/ Kuma, God Father or God Mother must be an Orthodox Christian, as stated earlier.
- 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 Sacraments of the Orthodox Church nor an Orthodox funeral.
Days on which marriages are not performed:
- On Wednesdays or Fridays of any week of the Year
- On the Feast of Beheading of St. John the Baptist
- On the Elevation of the Holy Cross (Krstovdan)
- During the Faasting Seasons (Lent, Advent, Sts. Peter & Paul Fast,
- Fast before the Failing Asleep of the Blessed Virgin Mary}
- From Meat-fare Sunday to St. Thomas Sunday
- On any Great Feast of the Church.
- 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..
- Godparents with Godchildren or Godparents with the parents of Godchildren.