The Sacrament of Marriage
What is the Sacrament of Marriage?
The Sacrament of Marriage is a holy act of divine origin through which the grace of the Holy Spirit is imparted, through a priest or a bishop, to a man and a woman who unite themselves to one another freely in matrimony. This holy act sanctifies and elevates the natural bond of marriage to the dignity of representing the spiritual union between Christ and the Church. (Fr Dumitru Stăniloae)
The groom and the bride must be baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity (cf. Matt. 28:19), and at least one (but preferably both) must be Orthodox Christians.
The Church does not bless or perform marriages between Orthodox Christians and non-Christians - ex. Muslims, Jews, Atheists. This is because the sacramental nature of the marriage bond requires the couple to not only pledge their love and lives to one other but also to Christ. If half the couple does not believe in Him, how can they pledge their lives to Him together?
*Note: the priest may request baptismal certificates to prove that baptism in the name of the Trinity truly took place. He may also request valid birth certificates.
Where Can the Wedding Take Place?
The Sacrament of Marriage must take place in the church building, not at a private home, beach, park, etc. Since marriage is a sacrament intimately tied to the life of the Church, it must be administered within the Church, which resides in the physical building, under the authority of the bishop.
Can We Separate the Betrothal from the Wedding Service?
The betrothal (logodna) and the wedding are united in one Sacrament and can never be separated.
In addition, the officiating clergy cannot serve at the marriage of multiple brides and grooms at the same time.
IMPORTANT: We strongly encourage the bride and the bridegroom to confess prior to getting married.
The Sponsors (Nașii)
The Sponsors have to be married in the Orthodox Church and in good standing (attending services on regular basis, confessing, and receiving regularly.)
When Can a Wedding Take Place?
Schedule with your priest/spiritual father a day for your church service prior to scheduling/finding a wedding reception venue.
Are there dates when the Church does not officiate weddings? Yes, please see the list below.
All Wednesdays and Fridays (unless they are during feast periods)
Any evening that comes before one of the Twelve Major Feasts
During any of the four extended fasting periods
Nativity Fast (Nov. 15 – Dec. 24)
Great Lent (dates change each year)
Apostles’ Fast (the Monday after All Saints to the feast day of Sts. Peter and Paul on June 29)
Dormition Fast (Aug. 1 – Aug. 14)
Aug. 28/29 (the Beheading of St. John the Baptist)
Sept. 13/14 (the Exaltation of the Holy Cross)
Impediments to Having a Church Wedding
Are there situations that may prevent a man and a woman from getting married?
Yes - first off, neither the man nor the woman can be currently married to another; this applies to marriages blessed by the Orthodox Church and to secular marriages. If either of them received a civil divorce, typically they must first receive a blessing from the bishop, recognizing the divorce and allowing remarriage.
Additionally, if you or your future spouse is widowed, you must produce a legal death certificate for the deceased spouse.
Additional Marriage Restrictions
The Orthodox Church also prohibits the following marriages:
Parent with child/grandchild
Brother-in-law with sister-in-law
First or second cousins
Aunt/Uncle with niece/nephew
Godparent with Godchild
Godfather/mother with parent of Godchild
Foster parents with foster children
Same sex relations
Required Legal Documents for an Orthodox Marriage
The priest/spiritual father will provide an application for an ecclesial marriage license (marriage in the Church). You must obtain the following documents to complete the application:
Baptismal certificates for both you and your future spouse
A copy of your civil Certificate of Marriage (if already civilly married)
Civil divorce papers (if previously married in a civil service)
Original ecclesial divorce certificate (if previously married in the Orthodox Church)
*Note: In order for a priest to marry you in the Church, by law, you must obtain a civil marriage license.
Required Items For an Orthodox Wedding Service
Lastly, on the day of your wedding, do not forget to bring with you the wedding bands/rings and two white candles. If you wish to decorate the church with flowers, we will be able to accommodate this.
As you prepare to receive this beautiful Sacrament of the Church, please take to heart Elder Aimilianos's (1934 - 2019) wise words:
“When two people get married, it’s as if they're saying: Together we will go forward, hand in hand, through good times and bad. We will have dark hours, hours of sorrow filled with burdens, monotonous hours. But in the depths of the night, we continue to believe in the sun and the light.”