Wedding Requirements & Information
"A great mystery is being celebrated. How is it a mystery? They come together, and the two are made one. They have not become the image of anything earthly, but of God Himself. They come in order to be made one body; behold the mystery of love!"
(St. John Chrysostom, Homily 12 on Colossians)
Marriage is much more than a merely private transaction between two individuals; it is an event in which Jesus Christ Himself participates through the presence of the sacramental minister, the priest, and that of the praying community, the church. In view of this "ecclesial" dimension of marriage, therefore, a wedding must be performed within the context of the Orthodox Church in order for the Church to recognize and affirm the validity and authenticity of the marriage.
I. Requirements Prior to the Wedding
One or both members of the engaged couple must be a member in good standing of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church and be a pledging Steward for the current year.
More importantly, the couple should be attending services on a regular basis. Preparing for a wedding can be a very trying time for couples. It is a time when remembering the mystical reason for the occasion often becomes obliterated by arrangements being made. This is an opportunity to begin a lifelong commitment to actively living ones’ Christian faith.
Previously Married Couples:
If one of the spouses has been previously married and divorced, he/she must present a copy of the civil divorce decree. Furthermore, if a previous marriage took place in the Orthodox Church, the divorced spouse must also have received a “Decree of Ecclesial Divorce” document and submit the original along with the marriage application. Please be advised, the process of an ecclesial divorce can take a few months.
The Orthodox Christian Faith blesses interfaith marriages under the following conditions:
• The non-Orthodox Bride/Groom must be a Christian who has been baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity. A copy of the certificate is required.
• The couple should be willing to baptize their children in the Orthodox Church.
Choosing a Sponsor or Koumbaros/Koumbara?
In the wedding ceremony the Orthodox Church requires a Sponsor (koumbaros - male, Koumbara - female). The Sponsor is the one who stands as witness on behalf of the Orthodox Church during the ceremony. Hence, it is imperative that this person be an Orthodox Christian; there are no exceptions to this rule. The Sponsor exchanges the rings and the crowns during the ceremony. By participating in the sacrament in this manner, the sponsor is making a pledge to be a guide and support to the marriage.
The Role of the Sponsor
By custom, the Sponsor is the one who (if spouses agree) may eventually baptize the first child of the couple. Usually one Sponsor exchanges both the rings and the crowns. If there are two sponsors, one may exchange the rings and the other the crowns.
Requirements to Serve as a Sponsor
• The koumbaros/koumbara must also be a member in good standing of the Orthodox Church.
• If he/she belongs to another Orthodox parish, the priest must receive a letter of good standing. from the parish priest.
• If he/she is married, the marriage must have been blessed by the Orthodox Church; if divorced (after marriage in the Orthodox Church) an ecclesiastical divorce must already have been issued.
Best Man & Maid of Honor
Couples may still designate a Best Man and Maid of Honor who are not members of the Orthodox Church. If this is the case, the Sponsor stands next to the groom or bride.
Reserving and Setting a Wedding Date with the Church
Reservations for wedding dates are made at a scheduled appointment with the priest by the person being married. Do not reserve hotels or print invitations without confirming with the priest that the date is available. Due to the time required for pre-marital preparation at least 3-4 months are needed to complete the required program in order to be married in the Church.
II. Items Needed for the Wedding Day:
The couple may decide which of the following items are to be provided by the Sponsor or themselves:
• Two Wedding Rings (always provided by the spouses)
• The Crowns or Stephana. Typically, provided by Koumbaro or Koumbara
• Two decorated candles (usually come with the Stephana)
• A wedding tray filled with koufeta (Jordan almonds). The Church can provide a tray if needed.
III. Pre-Marital Requirement:
In order to provide the engaged couple with every opportunity to enjoy all the blessings of married life, participation in pre-marital counseling is mandatory.
This seminar will:
a. Explore the sacramental nature of marriage as viewed by the Orthodox Church
b. Give awareness to many of the practical issues and problems that may surface in the initial years of a marriage concerning romance and intimacy; in-laws; finances; family life; communication; conflict such as frustration, disagreements, arguments, disappointments, etc.)
c. Speak on the religious expression of marriage
d. Present the guidelines for marriage at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church
e. Distribute the Ecclesiastical Affidavit and petition the Metropolitan of Detroit for marriage.
IV. Documents Needed for the Ecclesial License to Marry
At the first consultation with the priest you will apply for the ecclesial license to marry. The following items are required to complete the application to be married in the Church.
• Baptismal certificates/dates for the Bride and the Groom.
• If the Bride or Groom was previously married in a civil service, a copy of the civil divorce must be presented.
• If the Bride and Groom are already civilly married, a copy of the Certificate of Marriage must be presented.
• If the Bride or Groom was married before in the Orthodox Church, they must present the original ecclesial divorce certificate.
V. Civil Marriage License
Couples are also required by law to obtain a civil marriage license from the city in order for a priest to marry them in a Church. The License will be signed at the conclusion of the Wedding ceremony by the Priest, the Bride and Groom and two witnesses. You may be required to provide a driver's license as proof of age. Both parties must be present to obtain a marriage license.
Civil Marriage Licenses can be obtained by visiting http://www.allencounty.us/marriage-licenses
VI. Preparation for the Sacrament
The Bride and/or Groom who are of the Orthodox Faith are encouraged to participate in the sacraments of Holy Confession and Holy Communion the week before the wedding.
Sexual Relations Prior to Marriage
Marriage in the Orthodox Church is a sacrament and Jesus Christ is the celebrant. He is being asked to bless your marriage and life together. As with any sacrament one’s life must be lived according to the teachings and gospel of Christ; this includes abstinence before marriage. As part of preparing for the wedding day, couples engaging in sexual relations are asked to cease. Sexual abstinence is a spiritual discipline that married couples use to deepen their faith in Christ by dedicating themselves to prayer.
The goal of the Orthodox Church is to give each married couple the best opportunity for a blessed and fulfilling marriage; hence, the Church can never condone living together prior to the marriage. Statistics gathered by secular professionals clearly show that there is a HIGHER divorce rate among couples who have lived together prior to their weddings than those who have not!
Frequently Asked Questions
Invitations to the Reception
No invitations should be printed until the date and time have been confirmed with Father.
If you wish to have the Father and his Presvytera (wife) attend your reception, please send them an invitation in advance to their home address.
As long as the couple has been a steward of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church the year prior to the wedding and current stewards, there is no fee for the wedding. Parishioners not stewards the previous year must become current stewards and provide $300.00 to Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church. This payment is due at the signing of the wedding papers.
Please note that this fee is NOT considered an honorarium for the priest or chanter. A separate honorarium is traditionally offered to these individuals.
All weddings require a chanter who should be given a minimum honorarium of $50.00 made payable to the chanter.
Music Options for your Wedding
Other options for music during wedding processional & recessional:
• A CD can play classical wedding music (only traditional wedding music is allowed) over the sound system
• A “string quartet”
• The Chanter can sing a traditional byzantine wedding hymn
Additional instrumental music or vocal soloists are permitted.
Purchasing Crowns & Candles for the Wedding
Please consult the internet to order the Stephana and Candles.
Location of the Wedding Sacrament
Weddings are not permitted to take place at any venue other than the Church i.e. at a home, resort, hotel or local park. When an Orthodox Church is available it must be used for the ceremony.
Flowers in the church
Floral decorations are allowed on the pew ends or in front of the sanctuary. The florist must contact the Church Office and make arrangements for the Church to be opened prior to the ceremony. One hour prior to the wedding is the usual time given.
Flash photography is allowed, however, most professional do not need to use a flash at Holy Trinty. A videographer is also allowed, however, they must not have bulky and oversized stands and equipment. You do not want your wedding to look like a movie set. The photographer should be instructed to speak with Father concerning restrictions just prior to the ceremony.
A sense of modesty must be maintained in the Sanctuary. Every wedding takes place in God's holy house and requires a corresponding sense of decorum.
Groomsmen & Ushers
Non-Orthodox persons may act as ushers or bridesmaids at an Orthodox Wedding, but the koumbaros/koumbara must be an Orthodox Christian, as stated earlier.
Length of the Wedding Ceremony/Arrival Time
The wedding ceremony is approximately 40 minutes long. Each wedding party will have up to one hour prior to the scheduled wedding time for access to the Church.
Non-Orthodox clergyman presence is permitted under the following conditions.
• The Orthodox wedding ceremony does not permit the active participation of non-Orthodox clergy during the ceremony.
• At the conclusion of the Orthodox ceremony, the guest clergyman, will be properly acknowledged and may give his benediction and blessings to the couple.
The first part of the wedding ceremony is the betrothal or the "Service of the Promise" in which the couple’s commitment to each other is being sealed with their commitment to Christ. There is not an exchange of vows as part of the marriage ceremony at Holy Trinity.
A Christian from another church who desires to marry an Orthodox Christian does not automatically become a member of the Orthodox Church. If they would like to become a member of the church please speak with Father. If they have been baptized in the name of the Trinity they are received through the sacrament of Chrismation.
Days when marriages are not permitted:
January 5 and 6 - The Eve of Epiphany
Great Lent and Holy Week
August 1 - 15 - Fast of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary
August 29 - Feast of the Beheading of John the Baptist
September 14 - Feast of the Cross
December 13 - 25 - Christmas Fast
All Holy Days of our Lord