The Sacrament of Marriage
Your Wedding in the Greek Orthodox Church
The purpose of the information contained in this booklet is to acquaint you, the bride and groom, with the requirements of the Archdiocese, the Church of Saint Eleftherios and the State of New York. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to call us. Everyone here at Saint Eleftherios will do their utmost to make your wedding day the most beautiful and perfect day in your lives.
Setting The Date
The date of the wedding should be set in advance by calling the Church Office at (212) 924-3919. When scheduling your wedding please be aware that no marriages are permitted during the following fast periods:
- New Year's Day January 1st
- The Great Lent (Tessarakosti)
- Easter Sunday
- Pentecost Sunday
- The fast of the Dormition, Aug. 1-15
- The Beheading of St. John the Baptist, Aug.29
- The last two weeks of Advent, Dec. 13-25
- Christmas Day, Dec. 25th
The Church Marriage
In order to have the Sacrament of Marriage performed in the Greek Orthodox Church, the following requirements must be met:
- State Marriage License: A marriage license issued by the State of New York must be obtained for the solemnization of the marriage by the Church. The license may be obtained in any town or city in the State of New York and may be used anywhere in the state. The license may not be used until 24 hours after its issuance and is valid for 60 days. A male under 21 years of age and a girl under 18 years of age require the consent of parents to obtain a marriage license. One month before the wedding, both the Bride and the Groom must make an appointment to meet with Father Nicholas. At that time, they must present their state marriage license to the Priest and sign the Church license application which is sent to the Archdiocese for approval.
- Proof of Baptism: Both parties must be Christians, baptized in the Name of the Holy Trinity. One of the parties must be of the Greek Orthodox faith. Both parties must present to the Priest their baptismal certificates when they set up the wedding date. The baptismal certificates must be original ones and not photocopies. We will photocopy them and return them to you.
- Certificate of No Marital Impediment:
- a)Members of Other Parishes: If the Groom is from another parish, he must present a letter from his Priest stating that there is no existing impediment to marriage and that he is free to marry in our Church. The Bride must be a member of our Church.
- b)Foreign Citizens: If one or both of the Greek Orthodox parties are not American citizens, a certificate must be obtained from the Diocese (Mitropolis) of their origin, attesting to the fact that they are free of any marital impediment and may contract a marriage here in the United States. If difficulties are encountered in procuring such documents, the Priest should be contacted for further assistance.
- Parish Membership: All Greek Orthodox Communicants, male and female, 18 years of age or older, must have met their Fair Share obligation to their Church. In the case of a mixed marriage only the Orthodox party need be a contributing member. Membership must be established before scheduling the wedding date.
- Pre-Marital Counseling: All couples must attend the pre-marital counseling classes. At these classes, all couples listen to a discussion on marriage and their relationship with the Church as husband and wife. The classes are offered four times a year and couples are notified in advance as to the date, time and place.
- Holy Communion: The Sunday before the wedding it is recommended that the couple (only those members of our faith) attend the Divine Liturgy and receive Holy Communion (only after preparing by fasting and Holy Confession).
In the event of a mixed marriage (when one of the parties is not of the Orthodox faith) the non-Orthodox party must be a baptized member of one of the Christian faiths. In other words he/she must have been baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Marriage in the Orthodox church, however, does not render the non-Orthodox party a communicant of the Orthodox Church and said party may not receive any other sacraments of the Church.
A non-Orthodox party, having voluntarily sought the blessings of the Orthodox Church must make the concession of permitting the children from the marriage to be baptized and reared in the Orthodox faith. However, if a non-Orthodox Christian wishes to become a member of the Orthodox faith, he/she can through Confirmation. A person wishing to be confirmed must make the request of his/her own free will and must attend special catechism classes. Likewise, a non-Christian may marry in the Orthodox Church by first being baptized in it.
A ceremony in a church of another faith and subsequent to the Greek Orthodox sacrament is not permitted.
For Those Married Outside The Church
Those members of the Orthodox church who are married outside the Church are urged to have a Church sacrament of marriage. Otherwise, they are not entitled to participate in any other sacrament - cannot receive Holy Communion (the Precious Blood and Body of our Savior) or to become sponsors at baptisms and weddings or to be buried in the Church.
For those couples married outside the Church can have their marriage blessed.
A duplicate license must be obtained from the office of the city clerk for the religious ceremony. If the civil ceremony was performed in another state, a new license must be issued by the State of New York for an Orthodox Church Wedding. When applying for the state license, the wedding certificate is necessary.
For Those Who Wish A Second Marriage
For those marrying for a second time must in addition to the six requirements also produce the following:
- In the event that any of the interested parties were previously married in the Orthodox church and subsequently separated by a Civil Divorce or Annulment, then an Ecclesiastical Divorce must be obtain from the Church. This must be done through your Priest.
- For those who were married outside the church, they must present their original Civil Divorce papers.
- For those who were widowed, then a death certificate must be submitted.
Degree Of Kinship
Our Church does not permit the marriage of persons of close kinship, either by blood or marriage. This kinship is computed along two lines:
Direct lineal kinship - Our Church forbids marriage prior to the sixth degree of kinship.
To trace the degree of kinship, it is easiest to find the common point of kinship and to count the number of births after it to the contemplated marriage. For instance, if the couple has a common great-grandfather, the number of births are counted as follows:
- 1. his grandfather, 1. her grandfather
- 2. his father, 2. her father
- 3. he, 3. she
Thus we find that there are six births from the point of kinship and that this contemplated marriage is permitted by our Church now.
In the indirect kinship, a brother (or sister) cannot marry a sister-in-law (or brother-in-law) because our church considers them as brother and sister, but otherwise a kinship of the fourth degree or more does not preclude a marriage.
Degree Of Spiritual Relationship
The Orthodox Church does not permit a marriage if there is a Spiritual Relationship. For example a godchild cannot marry his or her godmother or godfather.
- First Group: Parents with their own children, their own grandchildren, their own great grandchildren.
- Second Group: Brothers-in-law with sisters-in-law.
- Third Group: Uncles and aunts with nieces and nephews.
- Fourth Group: First cousins.
- Fifth Group: Foster parents with foster children, foster children with children of foster parents.
- Sixth Group: Godfather with godchild, godfather with mother of godchild, or vice versa, godmother and godson, etc.
We would like to stress the importance of using discrimination in selecting the clothes of the bride and her attendants. Simple dresses in good taste, and restraint in use of cosmetics will create a more natural and refine appearance.
Brides must wear a bridal veil.
The Bride in selecting her gown and the gowns of the bridesmaids, must keep in mind that the gowns must not be revealing. Strapless or low cut dresses will not be permitted. One always dresses properly when entering the Church.
There are no special fees or charges for the Sacrament of Marriage, providing that all are contributing Members of the Greek Orthodox Church. The Bride must be a Member of our Church. In the event that the Bride is not an Orthodox, then the Groom must be a member of our Church.
As for gratuities, this is on a voluntary practice. It is traditional that the Koumbaro/a give the offering. If you plan to offer a gift to the Priest, Chanter and Sexton, please do it in a dignified way. The gift should be put in an envelope.
The Engagement Period
Engagement Period is a special period in the lives of a couple preparing for marriage. During this period one usually prepares for the marriage by making arrangements for gowns, receptions, parties, photographers, apartment hunting or the purchase of a home, etc.
Couples should also use this period to better know one another. To discuss their good habits and their bad ones, to also prepare mentally and spiritually for married life. To discuss their future together.
Engagement Party: If an engagement party or dinner is given and a Priest is invited to bless the rings, it must be understood that the prayers and good wishes recited by the Priest at this party are not the official betrothal ceremony and so are not regarded as binding by the Church. The actual betrothal Service takes place the day of the wedding.
Necessary arrangements for the wedding rehearsal should be made with the Organist. The wedding rehearsal is for the purpose of acquainting the bridal party with the order of procession and recession and their places in front of the Altar. Every effort should be made not to produce a theatrical effect.
Decorations, Music And Photographs
- Floral decorations in the Church are permitted. Also candlesticks or candelabras are permitted in front of the Altar where they lend an effect of beauty and dignity.
- The Wedding Service is a religious sacrament, therefore hymns other than Church hymns are not permitted before, during and after the Sacrament.
- Photographs will be permitted to be taken only by one photographer designated by the bride. We will not permit members of the family or guests to leave their pews and take photographs. We will also permit the taking of Video, providing that the camera man is stationed in one place and does not move around. Because the church may be dark, lighting may be needed. Your camera man must bring stationary lights that will be set up before the service begins. Lights on the camera will not be permitted.
- In both cases the photographers must introduce themselves to the officiating Priest for further instructions.
The Wedding Day
The bridal party should arrive at the Church approximately 15 minutes before the appointed time. The candles and crowns to be used in the sacrament are given to the sexton.
It is the duty of the ushers to seat the guests; for this reason, they should arrive at the Church a half hour before the Wedding.
The conduct of the ushers should be dignified and quiet. They escort the bride's family and friends on the left and the groom's on the right.
At the proper time, the groom's mother is escorted down the middle aisle by the head usher and takes her place in the second pew on the right. The groom's father follows alone and takes his place beside her.
The head usher returns and escorts the bride's mother to the second pew on the left. He than returns to take his place in the procession.
At the sound of the processional music, the groom and the koumbaro/a take their place at the right hand side of the aisle. The procession advances as follows: The ushers will enter first one by one. Then the ring bearer, bridesmaids, the maid of honor, the flower girl, the Bride holding her father's left arm.
When the bride, escorted by her father, reaches the front of the table she turns towards her father, he lifts her veil and kisses her, then he takes his place next to his wife in the second pew on the left.
The Betrothal Service and the Marriage take place. At the end, after the groom and bride are congratulated by the Priest, the recessional begins.
Instructions For The Koumbaro/a
- The Koumbaro/a must be an Orthodox Christian living his or her faith. He or she must be a contributing member of his/her parish. If married, they must have been married in the Orthodox Church.
- In the event that the Koumbaro/a is not a Member of the Church of Saint Demetrios, then two weeks before the wedding, the Koumbaro/a must submit a letter signed by the priest where they belong and with the church seal stating that he/she is a active Member and that there are no impediments. A SAMPLE LETTER IS INCLUDED WITH THIS PACKET.
- The Koumbaro/a provides two crowns connected by a ribbon, two decorated candles, traditional tray and white jordan almonds.
- The system of fixed fees for the Sacrament of matrimony is no longer in effect and has been replaced by the system of voluntary contributions. As for gratuities, this is on a voluntary practice. It is traditional that the Koumbaro/a give an offering. If you plan to offer a gift to the Priest, Chanter and Sexton, please do it in a dignified way. The gift should be put in an envelope.
- The Koumbaro/a is responsible to present the rings to the officiating Priest.
- At the end of the Sacrament, the Koumbaro/a must sign the State and Church license.
- The couple must meet with the Priest to set the date. An application for marriage is completed and all necessary papers (baptismal, membership, etc.) are submitted.
- Attend the Pre-Marital classes.
- One month before the wedding: The State license is presented to the Priest and the Application for the Church license is completed and signed. Arrangements for the rehearsal are made at this time. This can be done by calling the organist and making the final arrangements.
- Two weeks before the Koumbaro/a submit his/her Membership.
- Sunday before the wedding prepare and receive Holy communion.
- Wedding day: Arrive at the church fifteen minutes before the scheduled time. Please be on time!
What is the attitude of the Orthodox Church towards birth control?
No universal disciplinary decision on this question has ever been taken by the Orthodox Church, as the Church never possessed the tendency to regulate all areas of human life according to one single pattern. The practical attitude of Orthodox Christians must therefore be determined by the general doctrine of the Church concerning marriage.
It should be noted that the Church definitely teaches that marriage implies childbirth. The woman, says St. Paul, "will be saved through bearing children, if she continues in faith and love and holiness, with modesty" (I Timothy 2:15). However, nowhere in the Scripture is it said that childbirth is the only aim of marriage. Marriage is essentially an inseparable union, both spiritual and carnal, of two beings. St. Paul teaches: "For the wife does not rule over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not rule over his own body, but the wife does. Do not refuse on another except perhaps by agreement or a season, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again." (I Cor. 7:4-5).
It is clear therefore that such a union - (an image of the union between Christ and the Church) - should not be broken when reasons of medical, or moral nature prevent repeated childbirth. Such reasons do often arise, since human nature, in its present state of corruption due to original sin, does not always follow the law of God. Promotion of unlimited childbearing cannot, therefore, be based upon the idea that "we should follow nature." Fallen nature can and must be corrected, not only by prayer and abstention, but also by human means.
Orthodox Christian couples should, therefore, consult their own conscience, and, even better, their Father Confessor at those times when they are considering measures of birth control. Then they may decide whether these measures are justified, or whether they would not simply indicate a lack of confidence in God and faith in His help. In the latter case, such measures would be sinful.