MARRIAGE AND WEDDING IN THE ORTHODOX CHURCH

(for a short introduction, check Matrimony)


  Marriage is a one of the Sacraments of the Church, yet, because of its legal implications, it is regulated not only by the canons of the Church but the state laws as well. For the NY State regulations, see the New York City Clerk's Office site. General regulations of the Orhodox Church regarding marriage are as follows:

  • Each couple must seek the blessing, guidance and advice of' their pastor in planning and preparing for their marriage. Pre-marital counseling is an essential pastoral responsibility. Couples are obliged to contact their parish priest before setting their own final plans and pastors, in turn, must be available to care for the members of the flocks entrusted to them. Initial counseling must include the very simple matter of establishing whether or not, in the case at hand, a marriage in the Church is possible at all. With this in mind, the pastor should begin by reviewing the following requirements with the couple:
  • They must freely consent to the marriage.
  • At least one of them must be a member of the Orthodox Church, and the other be a baptized Christian.
  • Circumstances surrounding previous marriages must be examined, and documents substantiating divorce must be presented.
  • Any legal or canonical obstacles to marriage, such as blood relationship, must be resolved.
  • The marriage date must be set for those days and seasons approved by the Church for marriage.
  • Specific local requirements of blood test, marriage license and rings and membership in the local parish should be reviewed.
  • Parents, if possible, should be involved in marriage preparations of their children.
  • Couples should be made aware that Church sacraments are not individual but corporate events performed in, by, and for, the whole Church.
  • Couples should plan their weddings for dates on which the Church allows weddings to be performed.
  • Couples should participate in the Sacraments of Confession and Communion prior to their marriage.
  • Pastors should assist couples in preparations for, and explanation of, the wedding ceremony, provide the choir for assisting wedding ceremony, and give a sermon on Christian marriage at each wedding.

For the Encyclical's guidelines regarding other related issues (marriage outside the Church, mixed marriages, 2nd and 3rd marriages, divorce & remarriage, family life, birth control, abortion), consult the text itself.


Among the important rules to consider are the following:

  • Wedding ceremony cannot be conducted during the following periods:
    • evenings before Wednesdays and Fridyas all year;
    • Saturday evenings all year;
    • evenings of Great Feasts or patronal feasts fo the parish;
    • during four fasting periods: Great Lent (40 days before Easter), Apostles' Fast (from 2nd Monday fater Pentecost until June 29), Dormition Fast (Aug. 1-14), Nativity Fast (Nov. 15 - Dec. 24);
    • from Sunday of Meatfate to Sunday of Cheesefare,
    • during Bright Week;
    • From Nativity (Dec. 25) to Synaxis of John the Baptist (Jan. 7);
    • on the eve and day of Beheading of John the Baptist;
    • on the eve and day of Elevation of the Cross (Sept. 14).
  • The Orthodox Christian cannot marry a non-Christian in the church.
  •  Baptismal certificates or letters of status verification (if from another parish) should be presented by both parties prior to the ceremony.
  • Non-Orthodox Christians should present a letter of verification from their pastor or a notarized affidavit signed by two family members reryfing their eligibility to marry.
  • Divorced parties should present a civil decreeof divorce and - if married in the Orthodox Church - an ecclesiastical decree of divorce.
  • Vidowed parties should present a death certificate of former spouse.
  • The best man should be an Orthodox Christian of verified status (if from another parish - by a letter from his priest). A non-Orthodox Christian is not allowed to witness for the Church. The Orthodox witnesses are expected to present letters of membership verification from their parish priest(s), and sign the marriage license prior to the ceremony.

For important pastoral issues, related to marriage, consult also: