Marriage is one of the sacraments of the Orthodox Church.
Orthodox Christians who marry must marry in the Church in order to be in sacramental communion with the Church. According to the Church canons, an Orthodox Christian who marries outside the Church may not serve as a sponsor, i.e. a Godparent at a baptism of an Orthodox Christian or as a sponsor at a wedding in the Orthodox Church.
The Orthodox Church permits the marriage of an Orthodox Christian and another Trinitarian Christian through the Orthodox concept of economia (a type of theological dispensation.) The Church’s concern is for each person’s salvation, and therefore does not desire to place an insurmountable obstacle before her faithful by denying the Sacrament of Marriage to those who seek an inter-Christian marriage.
Orthodox Christian Marriage Guidelines
PREPARATION & INFORMATION
Dates on which Marriages cannot be performed
During Great Lent and Holy Week
On the Eves or Feastdays of our Lord
Baptism of our Lord: January 5-6
Fast Period of the Assumption and Feast Day of the Assumption: August 1-15
Feast of the Beheading of St John the Baptist: August 29
Feast of the Holy Cross: September 14
Christmas Fast: December 13-25
Episcopal permission must be acquired at least one month in advance.
Civil marriage license must be obtained prior to the wedding and a copy be given to the priest prior to the conduct of the wedding.
Marriage must be conducted by an Orthodox priest in an Orthodox Church according to Orthodox Liturgical tradition.
Bride & Groom must provide documentation showing they are unmarried.
Either the Bride or Groom and the Sponsor must be members in good standing of an Orthodox parish.
Orthodox marriage will not be permitted if either party is not a Christian baptized in the name of the Trinity.
Divorcees must obtain an ecclesiastic divorce prior to application for permission to marry.
No individual may marry more than three times in the Church.
Prohibited Marriages Among Believers
First Group: Parents with their own children, grandparents or great-grandchildren.
Second Group: Brothers-in-law with sisters-in-law.
Third Group: Uncles and aunts with nieces and nephews.
Fourth Group: First cousins with each other and second cousins with each other.
Fifth Group: Foster parents with foster children or foster children with other children of common foster parents.
Sixth Group: Godparents with godchildren or godparents with the parents of godchildren.
Marriage Preparation Seminars
Marriage Preparation Seminars serve to provide engaged couples practical information regarding the elements of an Orthodox marriage in the hopes of helping to contribute to a successful marriage. The seminars are required by all couples who are marrying at the community of the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, Rochester, NY. At the seminars, the religious, social, physical, emotional and moral issues of marriage are examined as well as what marriage means to Orthodox Christians. Marriage, in the Orthodox faith, requires a sacrificial love, which, as many things in life, is a learned experience, so that the couple becomes one in thought, one in action, one in flesh. Holy Matrimony is a life-long Sacrament at the time of the ceremony; it is a Sacrament that continues to be experienced throughout the couple's life. The couple is also encouraged to receive the Sacrament of Confession and the Sacrament of Holy Communion as part of their preparation for marriage. By doing so, they have the opportunity to bring a new vitality, a spirit and bond into their marriage that will enhance and deepen their lives.
OBLIGATIONS OF THE Sponsor (Koubaro/Koubara)
What are the requirements to be a Koumbaro or Koumbara?
In the Greek Orthodox Church, the Koumbaro(a) is the official sponsor for the wedding. This means that he or she has to be a Greek Orthodox Christian in good standing. Tradition also states that the godparents of the groom and then the bride should be asked first. However, people often depart from tradition to select a close friend or sibling. Please consult with your priest for more information. Your Orthodox priest will provide you with a Letter of Good Standing as proof.
How do I become a Greek Orthodox Christian in good standing?
If you are an active member of your Orthodox Christian Church, it is likely that you won’t have to worry about this. However, your priest can guide you as to what it means in your specific case. Generally, “good standing” indicates that you are current with your financial pledge to your chosen Orthodox Church and also that you abide by the canonical rules put forth by the church. If you are able to participate in the sacraments of the church, you are in good standing from a canonical perspective.
What is expected during the wedding ceremony?
The Koumbaro or Koumbara does play an important role during the marriage ceremony because their role absolutely needs to be performed by an Orthodox Christian in good standing. He or she is responsible for exchanging the wedding crowns, or Stefana, three times during the ceremony. In addition, the sponsor also performs the ring exchange.
What does the Koumbaro or Koumbara need to pay for?
In order to successfully perform the wedding ceremony, the priest needs certain items. It is up to the sponsor to provide these items. Though they aren’t overly expensive, the cost can add up. These items include the Stefana (wedding crowns), the silver tray on which to put the Stefana, two candles, and the gratuities for the priest and chanter.
If the bride or groom has asked you to be the Koumbaro or Koumbara, it is most certainly an honor. However, there are certain commitments that are attached to this role. Understanding what the role entails can certainly help you make a decision as to whether or not you will accept.
What to Bring
The couple is requested to bring the following articles on the day of the Wedding:
Rings for both bride and groom
Crowns /Stefana (these can be according to the couples tradition)
White candles (1 large and 2 small)
Sweet red wine
Secular Marriage Licence