Canonical Requirements for the Sacrament of Marriage
For the union of a man and woman to be recognized as sacramentally valid by the Orthodox Church, the following conditions must be met:
The Sacrament of Matrimony must be celebrated by an Orthodox Priest of a canonical Orthodox jurisdiction, according to the liturgical tradition of the Orthodox Church, in a canonical Orthodox Church, and with the authorization of the Metropolitan.
Before requesting permission from the Metropolitan to perform the marriage, the Priest must verify that:
a) Neither of the parties in question are already married to other persons, either in this country or elsewhere;
b) The parties in question are not related to each other to a degree that would constitute an impediment;
c) If either or both parties are widowed, they have to present the death certificate(s) of the deceased spouse(s);
d) If either or both of the parties have been previously married in the Orthodox Church, they have obtained ecclesiastical as well as civil divorce(s);
e) The party or parties who are members of a parish other that the one in which the marriage is to be performed have provided a certificate declaring them to be members in good standing with that parish for the current year;
f) A civil marriage license has been obtained from civil authorities.
No person may marry more than three times in the Church, with permission for a third marriage granted only with extreme oikonomia.
In cases involving the marriage of Orthodox and non-Orthodox Christians, the latter must have been baptized, in water, in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Church cannot bless the marriage of an Orthodox Christian to a non-Christian.
The Sponsor (koumbaros or koumbara) must provide a current certificate of membership proving him or her to be an Orthodox Christian in good standing with the Church. A person who does not belong to a parish, or who belongs to a parish under the jurisdiction of a bishop who is not in communion with the Orthodox Church, or who, if married, has not had his or her marriage blessed by the Orthodox Church, or if divorced has not received an ecclesiastical divorce, cannot be a sponsor. Non-Orthodox persons may be members of the wedding party, but may not exchange the rings or crowns.
Days when Marriage is not Permitted
Marriages are not performed on fast days, during fasting seasons, or the day before and day of a Great Feast of the Lord which include:
Great Lent and Holy Week (date varies)
August 1-15 (Dormition Fast and Feast)
August 29 (Beheading of St. John the Baptist)
September 14 (Exaltation of the Holy Cross)
December 13-25 (Nativity Fast)
Theophany (January 5 and 6)
Pentecost (date varies)
Exceptions can only be made with the permission of the respective hierarch.
Planning the Wedding
Appointment with the Parish Priest
The prospective bride and groom should make an appointment with the parish priest to discuss the sacrament of marriage as soon as possible. No later than one month prior to the wedding date another appointment must be made with the priest to complete the application for a Church License to marry in the church.
1. Baptismal Certificates: If the originals have been lost, a transcript or affidavit signed by the authorized clergyman of the Church in which the baptism was performed will suffice.
2. Stewardship: If you have not already done so, please fulfill your Stewardship Pledge for the current year. This is an obligation that should be done at least two weeks before the Sacrament, not on the day of the Sacrament.
3. Verification of Eligibility to Marry: If an Orthodox party is from another parish a letter from his/her parish priest stating he/she is free to marry must be submitted.
An Orthodox party born in Greece and arriving in the United States when 18 years or older must present verification from the Metropolitan in which he/she was born.
Divorced parties, Orthodox and non-Orthodox, must present either the original copy of the Church Decree of Divorce (if previously married in the Orthodox Church) or a Civil Decree of Divorce (if previously married in a church of another denomination or by a civil official).
Widowed parties must present the death certificate of their former spouse.
THE CHURCH WITNESS, KOUMBAROS/KOUMBARA
Only an Orthodox Christian who is spiritually and financially in good standing with the church may witness for the couple at the ceremony by exchanging the rings and the crowns. To be spiritually in good standing, one must adhere and live according to the tenants of the Orthodox faith. This includes, but is not limited to the requirement that they have been married in the Orthodox Church and if they are divorced that they have been granted a divorce by the church. If the witness is from another parish, a letter from his/her priest certifying current membership and eligibility to witness must be presented to the officiating clergyman prior to the ceremony.
1. Rehearsals, if deemed necessary, may be arranged through the Church Office.
2. Pictures may be taken during the processional (entrance) and recessional (exit) of the bridal party. If picture taking during the ceremony is desired, the photographer should be instructed to speak to the officiating clergyman before the wedding.
Group pictures may be taken in the church after the ceremony if no other service or Sacrament follows. However, please advise your photographer to be expeditious and your bridal party to be respectful while in church. VCR Photography is acceptable.
3. Arrangements for an organist (fee is between the couple and the organist) and for a cantor (fee is $50) shall be made by the church. We ask that they be compensated for their services on the day of the Sacrament.
4. Use of other musical instruments or a vocalist is not permitted according to the Orthodox Christian Tradition.
If you have not already done so, please fulfill your membership obligation for the current year. This is an obligation that should be done at least two weeks before the Sacrament, not on the day of the Sacrament. Please complete and return the enclosed Stewardship Card to the Church Office and note the level (Orthodox Family) that applies to you.