Dear Bride & Groom,
We rejoice to learn that you intend to be joined in marriage in the holy Greek Orthodox Church. We provide for you here the forms and information necessary to prepare for this Holy Sacrament and to set the date for your marriage. Please note that these materials require your immediate action to secure your selected date. You should make no other plans for the wedding until you have completed these materials and confirmed with the Church that the date is secured.
Below this introduction you will find a brief reflection on Orthodox Christian marriage, which we urge you to read and consider as you prepare to enter into this most holy Sacrament.
Below that you will find an outline of the requirements for marriage, and of the potential impediments which must be ruled out before marriage. In summary, at least one of you must be an Orthodox Christian and member in good standing of the Saint George parish, and the other must at least be a Christian baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity. You must be free to marry, legally and ecclesiastically, and must not be related either naturally or spiritually. Your Koumbaro/Koumbara must be an Orthodox Christian in good standing, spiritually and financially.
Linked for download here you will find the wedding information form. Please download and complete it, and then you may either print and mail it to the Church (St. George Greek Orthodox Church, 16300 Dix Toledo Road, Southgate, MI 48195), or save it and email it (firstname.lastname@example.org). We cannot make any plans for your marriage without the information on this form. We must ensure that there are no impediments to your marriage, and that your selected Koumbaro/Koumbara is eligible to serve in that capacity, before we can schedule your wedding date at the Church.
Linked for download here you will find the Affidavit for License to Marry, which is the application for an Ecclesiastical Marriage License. It is not possible to perform a wedding in the Church without an Ecclesiastical Marriage License. You do not need to sign this affidavit at this time - we will finalize the information on the form, and you will sign it in the presence of the Priest at one of your meetings with him. Please download and complete it, and then submit it along with the wedding information form.
Linked for download here you will find the Wedding Restrictions form. This is an agreement between you and the Church that you understand the restrictions of having a ceremony in the Church and will abide by them. Please download it, sign it, and then bring it with you to your first meeting with Fr. Anthony.
In addition, if you have not completed a Commitment Card for the current year, you can find it for download here. Please complete it and submit it along with the other three forms. This affirms your membership in the Saint George Church. If you have already filled this out, please instead call and confirm that you are in good standing.
After you have submitted these forms, please call the office to confirm that we have received them, and to schedule your first of six mandatory pre-marital meetings with Fr. Anthony. In these meetings, we will resolve any outstanding issues and discuss the challenges and the joys of marriage, offering our support to you in this journey upon which you are now embarking. If, however, you have any questions prior to or outside of these meetings, please do not hesitate to contact us directly.
Please Note: no musical instruments other than the organ are permitted in the church; only music that is customarily done is allowed (traditional), other music is permitted only at the discretion of the clergy. You will need to phone the Church office and request the contact information for an organist.
We look forward to seeing you and anticipate your upcoming marriage with joy. May God bless your impending union.
With love in Christ,
+Fr. Anthony Cook
Orthodox Christian Marriage in the Modern Day
"As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,…" (Ephesians 5:24-25)
There is in these modern days a sad disconnect between the ideal of Christian marriage and the reality of romantic relationships between men and women. The divorce rate seems to climb ever higher as fewer and fewer couples choose to enter even into civil marriage, and cohabitation before marriage is now more the rule than the exception. The Church's ideal of chastity before marriage is considered by society to be an irrelevant and unrealistic relic of a primitive past, a set of prohibitions whose day is long gone.
What is forgotten in the midst of all this is that the Christian understanding of marriage is not negative, but positive, focused not on prohibitions, but on a deep and fulfilling understanding of the blessings and joy to be found in this union in Christ of a man and a woman. At the heart of this understanding is the reality of divine Love.
When love is spoken of in the modern world, it usually refers to the passionate feelings which bring two people together, the erotic and romantic desire to lose one's self in another. The reality of these feelings cannot be denied - but when they pass, as they inevitably do, too often a couple has nothing left binding them to one another, and the relationship comes to a painful end. The Christian understanding of love is a much deeper matter.
Divine Love contains and includes this erotic and romantic reality, but focuses far more on love as action and sacrifice than love as a feeling - indeed, the experience of the Church over two millennia is that only by consistent action and sacrifice can the feeling of love be preserved and nurtured over the years and decades that make up a marriage. In this understanding, we take as our model the love of Christ for mankind, which is played out throughout the Gospel narratives, but reaches its culmination in the Lord's sacrifice of His very life on the Cross for the sake of our salvation. It is by the Lord's death, by means of which Christ, our God and our Bridegroom, unites Himself in full to His creation, that harmony and unity between us, the creation, and Christ, our Creator, is established. And in the Lord's Resurrection, we see the prize won by the Lord's sacrificial love for us, the victory over death, and the promise of everlasting life to us and to all Creation.
Christian marriage, then, is distinct from the committed union of a cohabiting couple, or even the contractual union of a couple married only legally. In Christian marriage, that mutual commitment, together with that publicly recognized contractual union, is brought to Christ and His Church to be blessed, to be sanctified, and to receive a far higher calling. For the Christian husband, and the Christian wife, are given an explicit exhortation, a manifest grace, to love one another as Christ loves us.
Indeed, when we consider the manner in which Marriage is a Sacrament, we would do well to consider it in the light of Ordination. The priest is ordained to be a minister of the grace and the love of God to an entire community, to bring the love of the Lord to the Christian people in particular and established ways. In the same way, the husband and wife are ordained as ministers of the grace and the love of God to one another, to the children which we pray will be the fruit of their union, and, as a Christian family, to the entire world.
It is this positive vision of Christian marriage which must be at the forefront of the minds of any who contemplate Marriage in the Orthodox Church. For Marriage is both a call and an opportunity for two people in love to become a living beacon of the love of God to the world, both a blessing and a responsibility. For in Marriage, as in each of the Sacraments of the Church, we encounter the living and loving Person of Jesus Christ. The Marriage, then, is not merely an ancient, romantic, religious ceremony, but a moment of high significance and critical importance, after which nothing can be the same again for those who enter into it.
Written by: +Fr. Anthony Cook
Guidelines for Weddings within the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
For the union of a man and woman to be recognized as sacramentally valid by the Orthodox Church, the following conditions must be met:
- The Sacrament of Matrimony must be celebrated by an Orthodox Priest of a canonical Orthodox jurisdiction, according to the liturgical tradition of the Orthodox Church, in a canonical Orthodox Church, and with the authorization of the Archbishop or Metropolitan.
- Before requesting permission from the Archbishop or his Metropolitan to perform the marriage, a Priest must verify that: a) neither of the parties in question are already married to other persons, either in this country or elsewhere; b) the parties in question are not related to each other to a degree that would constitute an impediment; c) if either or both parties are widowed, they have presented the death certificate(s) of the deceased spouse(s); d) if either or both of the parties have been previously married in the Orthodox Church, they have obtained ecclesiastical as well as civil divorce(s); e) the party or parties who are members of a parish other than the one in which the marriage is to be performed have provided a certificate declaring them to be members in good standing with that parish for the current year; and f) a civil marriage license has been obtained from civil authorities.
- No person may marry more than three times in the Church, with permission for a third marriage granted only with extreme oikonomia.
- In cases involving the marriage of Orthodox and non-Orthodox Christians, the latter must have been baptized, in water, in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Church cannot bless the marriage of an Orthodox Christian to a non-Christian.
- The Sponsor (koumbaros or koumbara) must provide a current certificate of membership proving him or her to be an Orthodox Christian in good standing with the Church. A person who does not belong to a parish, or who belongs to a parish under the jurisdiction of a bishop who is not in communion with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, or who, if married, has not had his or her marriage blessed by the Orthodox Church, or, if divorced, has not received an ecclesiastical divorce, cannot be a sponsor. Non-Orthodox persons may be members of the wedding party, but may not exchange the rings or crowns.
Days When Marriage Is Not Permitted
Marriages are not performed on fast days or during fasting seasons or on the feasts of the Church as indicated: September 14 (Exaltation of the Holy Cross), December 13-25 (Nativity), January 5 and 6 (Theophany), Great Lent and Holy Week, Pascha (Easter), Pentecost, August 1-15 (Dormition Fast and Feast), and August 29 (Beheading of St. John the Baptist). Any exceptions are made only with the permission of the respective hierarch.
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 notreceive 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.
The following types of relationships constitute impediments to marriage:
- Parents with their own children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren, or godchildren of the same godparents.
- Brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law.
- Uncles and aunts with nieces and nephews.
- First cousins with each other.
- Foster parents with foster children or foster children with the children of foster parents.
- Godparents with godchildren or godparents with the parents of their godchildren.
Freedom to Marry
If the bride or groom is a member of another parish, they must have a certificate stating that they are free to marry. If their home parish is in another Metropolis, that letter must be signed by their parish priest and verified by the hierarch of the Metropolis in which the parish is located. If the bride or groom is a member of another parish within the Metropolis of Detroit, the Certificate of Freedom to Marry can be signed by the parish priest without the verification of the Metropolitan.
Additional Guidelines & Recommendations
We recommend that the bride and groom participate in the sacrament of Confession in the weeks prior to their marriage. Marriage will transform you in every way as you build your life together, and this great sacrament of repentance, which in Greek, signifies a change of mind and of action, is a beautiful and effective way to begin that transformation in Christ as husband and wife.
Organist / Musical Instruments
The couple is responsible for securing an organist, if they would like one. The church office has names of competent organists for your information. No musical instruments other than the organ are permitted in the church. Only music that is customarily done is allowed, other music is permitted only at the discretion of the clergy.
Visiting Orthodox Clergy
Visiting Orthodox clergymen must observe the necessary protocols in requesting permission to participate from our clergy, their own hierarch, and our Metropolitan. The participation of non-Orthodox clergymen must be discussed with our priests. These and other matters will be discussed during the couple's pre-marital meetings.
As the Orthodox wedding is unique, we recommend that your photographer should attend your rehearsal, so that he/she will be prepared to capture the most significant moments of the service.
We remind you that rose petals may not be thrown in the church. Nor may rice, rice substitutes, or candied almonds be thrown on the steps outside the church. If any of these items are found after the wedding, we will be forced to bill you $200 for the cleanup.
Bubbles are an acceptable substitute.
Due to the small size of the Narthex, we are unable to accommodate receiving lines in the church. This should be done at the reception.
The church is not responsible for any rental items.
Checklist for the Wedding Day
(the crowns, candles, koufeta, & tray are by custom the responsibility of the Koumbaro)
The civil license (must be acquired no more than one month before the wedding)
The wedding rings
The wedding crowns
The wedding candles (two decorated candles with white ribbon)
A silver tray (Koufeta/Jordan almonds are customary)
Fee for the organist (amount is set by the organist)
Honorarium (recommended) donation of at least $75 for the Chanter (Ψάλτης)
Honorarium (recommended) donation for the Neokoros/Sexton (Νεωκόρος) (responsible for setup and basic cleanup after the wedding)