What are the requirements for Marriage in the Orthodox Church?
At least one Orthodox Christian must be in good standing, having had a recent confession and communion to be married in the Church. The other may be a Christian baptized in the name of the Trinity and able to produce a record or certificate of baptism from their non-Orthodox faith. See also the questions about Inter-faith marriages below.
Legal Issues: The Church's understanding and teaching is that an Orthodox Christian marriage must be blessed by God and can only be accomplished between a biological male and a female. The couple must otherwise abide by the requirements of legally recognized marriage in their state, and present a valid marriage license before the service to be completed by the Officiant. Couples are not to cohabitate (live together) before marriage. Couples who have been civilly married before the church wedding must still present their legal documents and a copy of a completed marriage certificate.
What about Inter-faith marriages?
Inter-faith marriages: An Orthodox Christian may marry another Orthodox Christian or a Christian of a Trinitarian faith (e.g. Roman Catholic, Oriental Orthodox, and most Protestants) but not a non-Christian (e.g. Jewish, Muslim, Hindu), non-Trinitarian Christian (e.g., Jehovah’s Witness, Mormon, Unitarian), or atheist (including lapsed Christians). A non-Orthodox partner is encouraged to be received into the Orthodox Church (see Adult Baptism/Chrismation above) or, short of that, to be in good standing with their own chosen Trinitarian Christian tradition. One of the greatest gifts you can give to each other is a united life in Christ and a shared understanding of the purpose of your life together as husband and wife.
What kind of pre-marital education and preparation is required?
Pre-Marital Education: Long before the wedding day, a couple should have met with the Parish Priest or other designated catechist for pre-marital education. Couples are asked to attend either 2-3 meetings or a Saturday workshop depending on schedules and need on the basics of Orthodox approach to married life and the wedding service. In addition, couples will complete and on-line assessment and meet with the Parish Priest. Lastly, couples are asked to complete Financial Peace University either at St. Mary's or at another location. (See adult education for more info) Understanding the Scriptural basis of marriage, the symbolism of the Orthodox wedding service, and the key skills to making your marriage thrive will make your wedding day and the years that follow all the brighter!
What about alternate locations for the wedding service?
Orthodox wedding services are meant to be conducted in an Orthodox Church. If there is not an Orthodox Church located in the city/town where you will be married or require a larger venue than St. Mary, please discuss with the Parish Priest about options.
Under what circumstances might I need a dispensation for the wedding service?
A Marriage Dispensation from the diocese is required in certain circumstances: a) marriage to be held on a Saturday (the traditional day is Sunday); b) a second marriage for either partner; c) a mixed marriage between an Orthodox and non-Orthodox but Trinitarian Christians (as above). In the case of a second marriage please be ready to present a valid certificate of divorce. In the case of an inter-faith marriage, please be able to present a baptismal certificate for the non-Orthodox partner. In the case where both husband and wife are previously married, it is typical to use the Rite of Second Marriage, which is slightly shorter in length. The Priest will assist you through this simple process, and there is a small fee ($20) involved.
Do I need sponsors/ Godparents for an Orthodox wedding? Wedding Party?
Sponsors (Rom. Nasi): A couple requires at least one, but usually has two Orthodox sponsors (members in good standing) who will assist in the service. A married Orthodox couple is preferred and traditional. Like the Godparents at a Baptism, these sponsors assist in the wedding service itself and lead you through your first steps as husband and wife. As the Sponsors will be standing up with you and your wedding party during the service, please remember to coordinate with them dress style, candles, flowers, and color schemes, etc., as they have a prominent role in the service. Their duties do not necessarily overlap with the "Best Man" or "Maid of Honor" and may be different people altogether, since those roles do not have a liturgical/religious component. Wedding Parties may be as expansive and inclusive as you like, or limited to just you and your sponsors, or anywhere in between. In cases where a large attendance is expected, we recommend that 2 or more designated Ushers be assigned to assist your guests in seating.
What are the guidelines on dress for a wedding service?
Please remember that the wedding is a church service and attire should remain modest. No strapless, deep-plunge, or see-through bodice gowns/dresses. If strapless is the only option of fashion, a wrap/shawl should be worn to cover the upper arms/shoulders during the service. The bride will be walking around the wedding table with the groom and sponsors, so please take into consideration the length of the train and size of the skirt when selecting the gown. It is highly recommended to wear low heel shoes/flats for the sake of comfort. The wedding party will be standing the entire time.
What do we need to bring to the wedding service?
The service requires a pair of rings and candles. The parish does not supply elaborate candles for baptisms/weddings, so you may wish to purchase your own. These are often supplied by the Sponsors. Crowns are provided by the church but many couples also purchase their own (or receive them as gifts from their sponsor(s)). There are many options of style: floral or metal wreaths, tiaras, and Russian crowns. St. Mary has silver tiaras, white and ivory Greek style wreaths, and larger Russian style crowns. Tiaras and wreaths are worn on the head. If you plan on using Russian crowns, which float above the head, please discuss with your sponsors if they have any physical issues they may hinder them from holding heavy crowns for a portion of the service. Icons may also be brought to the service, possibly carried by the Sponsors, and/or set on the service table. Some traditions include the sharing of Jordan almonds or biscotti with the common cup, but that is for the couple to provide.
May we decorate the sanctuary?
Some couples wish to decorate the church with floral arrangements, bows, or use floor runners and flower petals during the service. As long as things are done tastefully and someone from your family/party is clearly assigned to cleaning it up, this is generally permitted.
What about photography in the church during the service?
Photographers and videographers are welcome but must observe the protocols set for them by the Parish Priest. Taking group photos after the service in the church is welcome and we encourage you to make sure you give it sufficient time in your schedule.
What about Rehearsal and getting ready at the church before the service?
A wedding rehearsal is recommended, especially for those who have never attended or “stood” as part of the wedding party in an Orthodox wedding service. You may have specific customs you wish to observe in entering the church or as part of the service and should be finalized at this time.
Getting Ready: Classrooms downstairs are available for the bridal party as needed.
Are there any fees associated with weddings?
There no set fees but donations/gifts to the church/clergy/chanter/choir are all appreciated.