Marriage in the Orthodox Church
Fr. Thomas Hopko writes, “Jesus taught the uniqueness of human marriage as the most perfect natural expression of God’s love for men, and of his own love for the Church.” Marriage in the Church is a sacrament, a mystery through which we participate in the life of God. Human love alone cannot sustain a life-long commitment of sacrificial love between two naturally self-centered people. This problem is only overcome in Jesus Christ, who on the Cross proved His love for His bride, the Church. In a Christian marriage, within His Church, “the Holy Spirit is given so that what is begun on earth does not ‘part in death’ but is fulfilled and continues most perfectly in the Kingdom of God.” (Hopko)
Sadly, we have become very “unorthodox” in our approach to marriage, prying the sacrament away from its true context in Church life. Affected by the extreme individualism of our day, we think of our wedding as a private affair that we can personally customize, and sometimes even treat the ceremony as a show for our family and friends. This approach tragically divorces marriage from its holy setting. On a basic level, someone who uses the Church for their own gains is guilty of taking advantage of the parish, the choir, and the priest, and more. More seriously, they deprive themselves of life in the body of Christ – the only Eternal sustenance for their marriage. In order to protect people from abusing the sacrament, thereby condemning themselves, St. Philip cannot allow the Church to be used to marry people not committed to the Church. Marriage in the Church is reserved for those Orthodox who embrace it as the beautiful and joyous reflection of the mystery of Christ and the Church.
Guidelines for getting married at St. Philip are as follows:
• Based on the conditions above, the priest will determine whether a couple is eligible for marriage in the Orthodox Church, before a date can be set.
• A minimum of six months to one year’s notice is required to set a wedding date.
• Premarital counseling with the priest is strictly required.
• At least one of the persons getting married must be an Orthodox Christian and a member of St. Philip’s in good standing. The other party, if not Orthodox, must be a Christian. (Please speak to the priest about specific norms for “mixed marriages.”)
• At least one of the sponsors must be a committed Orthodox Christian.
• The wedding date must be cleared with the Church. The best time is Sunday afternoon. If the wedding needs to be on a Saturday, it must start no later than 3:00 p.m. Understanding that the liturgical day begins at the Vesper Hour (sunset), weddings are not permitted at the following times:
– every Wednesday and Friday
– the eve of every Sunday and Great Feast
– eves/days of the Feast of the Elevation of the Cross (Sept. 14) and the Beheading of John the Forerunner (Aug. 29)
– during Great Lent, including Cheesefare Week and Bright Week; i.e., Meatfare Sunday-Thomas Sunday
– during the Nativity Fast (Nov. 15-Dec. 25)
– during the Dormition Fast (Aug. 1-15)
• Only Orthodox hymns prescribed by the rubrics of the Church, no flash photography and no clapping are permitted. All other music is forbidden. All liturgical celebrations are parish celebrations, and so the St. Philip choir and chanters generally lead the musical responses.
• In the case of candidates who have been divorced, the process of reconciliation with the Church is done through the parish priest. All necessary information is submitted to the Metropolitan in writing for his final approval.
• The Removal of Crowns takes place at the end of the Divine Liturgy the next Sunday that the couple attends (usually following the honeymoon).
You will find a Marriage Form below. Please fill it out and click send. You may also read the following articles regarding Marriage in the Orthodox Church.
- The Orthodox Wedding Ceremony
- The Mystery and Meaning of Love and Marriage – by Archbishop Lazar Puhalo
- Marriage as a Spiritual Path – by Dr. Stephen Muse