Congratulations on your engagement ! We are glad you are considering having your wedding at St. Catherine Greek Orthodox Church. Before planning a wedding, please read the following:
A wedding in the Orthodox Church is a sacrament. Among other things, this means that in order for your service to take place in our parish, either the bride or the groom must be an Orthodox Christian in good standing in an Orthodox parish. In addition, the non-Orthodox spouse must be a Christian.
Wedding service. God has blessed and fortified innumerable marriages through the Orthodox Christian sacrament of Marriage and the same text and structure of the service has been used for many centuries. That said, please note that neither the text nor the structure of the service may be altered in order to suit individual preferences.
Koumbaro/a- While you may select whomever you wish to serve in your wedding party, it is necessary to have an Orthodox Christian in good standing serve as your koumbaro/a – official sponsor or witness- for your wedding. Please feel free to ask a priest if you have any additional questions about this.
Scheduling- Please make sure that your anticipated date of marriage is available from the standpoint of the Church and the priest(s) before you make other arrangements. Typically, weddings are performed on Saturday afternoons and rehearsals are conducted on the Friday before.
Rehearsal. It is highly recommended that a wedding rehearsal take place prior to your wedding. Please check with your priest to schedule a rehearsal and encourage all members of your wedding party to attend the rehearsal in a punctual manner.
Civil marriage license- Each couple must have a civil marriage license prepared prior to their wedding. It is highly recommended that the couple bring their civil license to the Church on the day of the rehearsal if not sooner.
Pre-marital sessions- Couples are required to participate in pastoral care/counseling sessions, prior to their marriage, with an Orthodox Priest. In these sessions, the priest will primarily help to prepare the couple for marriage from a spiritual, theological and practical standpoint. In addition, the priest will assist the couple with their questions about the service and help them fill out the required ecclesiastical paperwork. Please note, it is the couple’s responsibility to schedule their sessions with a priest. Couples are strongly encouraged to arrange for these sessions well in advance of the wedding, so as to have a goodly amount of time to prepare themselves for the wedding, as well as get everything in order.
Days When Marriage Is Not Permitted
Marriages are not performed on fast days or during fasting seasons; these include the Great Lent and Holy Week, August 1-15, August 29 (Beheading of St. John the Baptist), September 14 (Exaltation of the Holy Cross), and December 13-25. Nor are marriages celebrated on the day before and the day of a Great Feast of the Lord, including Theophany (January 5 and 6), Pascha, Pentecost, and Christmas (December 24 and 25). Marriages may be performed on these days only by permission of the diocesan Bishop.
It is a fact that, the more a couple has in common, the more likely they are to live together in peace and concord. Shared faith and traditions spare couples and their children, as well as their extended families, many serious problems, and help to strengthen the bonds between them. Even so, the Orthodox Church will bless marriages between Orthodox and non-Orthodox partners, provided that:
The non-Orthodox partner is a Christian who has been baptized, in water, in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; and
The couple should be willing to baptize their children in the Orthodox Church and raise and nurture them in accordance with the Orthodox Faith.
A baptized Orthodox Christian whose wedding has not been blessed by the Orthodox Church is no longer in good standing with the Church, and may not receive the Sacraments of the Church, including Holy Communion, or become a Sponsor of an Orthodox Marriage, Baptism or Chrismation. A non-Orthodox Christian who marries an Orthodox Christian does not thereby become a member of the Orthodox Church, and may not receive the Sacraments, including Holy Communion, or be buried by the Church, serve on the Parish Council, or vote in parish assemblies or elections. To participate in the Church’s life, one must be received into the Church by the Sacrament of Baptism or, in the case of persons baptized with water in the Holy Trinity, following a period of instruction, by Chrismation.
Canonical and theological reasons preclude the Orthodox Church from performing the Sacrament of Marriage for couples where one partner is Orthodox and the other partner is a non-Christian. As such, Orthodox Christians choosing to enter such marriages fall out of good standing with their Church and are unable to actively participate in the life of the Church. While this stance may seem confusing and rigid, it is guided by the Orthodox Church’s love and concern for its member’s religious and spiritual well-being.