From Catechumen To Convert Part 6: An Orthodox Wedding Ceremony

orthodox wedding ceremony

My wife and I were married in an Orthodox wedding ceremony. It was the first I’d ever seen, other than the one featured in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

The Orthodox position on remarriage was a concern of mine when I began to explore this faith. I wanted assurance that the Church would sanction my remarriage if I were to convert. In fact, what I was asking was whether the Church would conform to my views on marriage, instead of the other way around.

Marriage is a loaded topic in this post-Christian world, and I intend to write more on it in the future. For now I will say that the Orthodox Church does allow for the fallen nature of Man in its position on remarriage. As noted on the website of the Orthodox Church in America:

While the Church stands opposed to divorce, the Church, in its concern for the salvation of its people, does permit divorced individuals to marry a second and even a third time.

I have been married before, and I had no sense of the sacramental nature of a wedding beyond the references to “what God has brought together.” That’s not to place blame on my upbringing or my religious training. My sins are mine alone. I failed to treat marriage as a sacrament. If divorce is a national shame, I am part of the problem.

Preparing for Marriage

I proposed to my fiance after about a year of attending an Orthodox Church. Around this time I took a new job, and we moved to a new city. We would be attending a new church with a new priest.

We began a series of conversations with the new priest at church and in our home. He wanted to understand where we were in our journey. He wanted to see where he needed to offer guidance in our continuing education. And he wanted to see for himself that we were truly committed to this journey.

Our priest rightfully required that we be received into the Church before we could be married in an Orthodox wedding ceremony. We lived together, and could not receive Communion as an unmarried, co-habitating couple. He instructed us over the weeks leading up to the wedding, not only in the faith, but in the Orthodox sacrament of marriage.

I was nervous as the day approached. I worried about this new responsibility, despite having been married before. There was the added anxiety over converting to a new faith and leaving my old self behind. And of course, I worried that I would stand in the wrong spot or in some other way foul up the ceremony.

“Don’t worry,” our priest said, calming my fears. “This is your first Orthodox wedding; it isn’t mine.”

Our Orthodox Wedding Ceremony

The Orthodox wedding ceremony itself is a beautiful affair. The rite of betrothal includes an exchanging of rings. Golden crowns were then held above our heads as the ceremony progressed, which signified our status as king and queen in our family. They also represent the crowns of martyrdom.

We shared from a common cup of wine, symbolizing that all things in a marriage are shared equally. Our priest was generous and allowed our daughter to take part in this portion of the ceremony. She wiped our lips with a cloth after we drank from the cup.

The priest then took our hands, and led us around the sacramental table three times. We were taking our first steps as a married couple.

There are no vows in an Orthodox wedding ceremony. Orthodoxy sees a marriage as a union, not a contract. It is sacramental, not legal. We are truly bound by God, and not by promises that can be explained away and broken.

We’re approaching our first wedding anniversary, and each day we are growing closer as a married couple and as Orthodox Christians. We pray and attend Divine Liturgy together, and are growing in the faith each day. We’re also having an Orthodox child together.

Our wedding was the final step in our journey to Orthodoxy, but what came just before the wedding was the most important step:

My wife, daughter and I were received into the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

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