Guidelines for Marriage in the
Saint George Greek Orthodox Cathedral
Your wedding is the most important
wedding ever. It is an historic event that will be remembered by
you for the rest of your life. Because it is so important, we want
to do everything we can to make it as special and as wonderful
as we can. In order to accomplish this, we need to work together
and to keep in close communication in the coming weeks. If you
have any questions please call Father Tom at 233-8531.
Marriage preparation counseling is mandatory to help support a successful
marriage. A minimum of four premarital counseling sessions are required
before the marriage. At the initial meeting between the priest and
the couple, dates and times will be set. During these sessions the
religious, social , physical, emotional and moral issues of marriage
will be discussed. It is important to learn what marriage means to
Eastern Orthodox Christians.
The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is one of the Holy Mysteries of our
Greek Orthodox Church. It unites both spiritually and physically
a man and a woman into one cohesive unit, respecting and proclaiming
each one’s individual personality, yet mystically drawing together
man, woman, and the Holy Spirit into one family.
Setting the Date
The first step a couple should take after the decision to get married
is to call the parish priest to verify if the Church calendar is
open for the date requested and to set up a meeting time for the
couple and the priest to review requirements. Please, DO NOT begin
plans nor order any invitations until after meeting with the priest.
The Church has set aside certain times and dates when marriages
are not permitted to be performed. These dates include Lenten periods
and various Feast days of the Church calendar.
The following are additional days when marriages may not be performed:
December 24 and 25 (Christmas)
January 5 and 6 (Epiphany)
February 1 and 2 (The presentation of Christ to the Temple)
August 29 (The Beheading of st. John the Baptist)
September 14 (The Exaltation of the Holy Cross)
Marriages are also not permitted during moveable
Feasts of Pascha (Easter), Ascension, and Pentecost or on the day
before these Feasts. Marriages are not performed during the forty
days of Great Lent, Holy Week, the Lent and Feast of the Virgin Mary
Theotokos (August 1 through 15), and the Christmas Fast (December
13 through 25). The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony can be performed
on the above dates only in an extreme emergency and by dispensation
by the Metropolitan.
Who May Marry?
For a Greek Orthodox priest to be allowed to celebrate a marriage,
at least one of the two spouses must be of the Eastern Orthodox faith.
The non-Orthodox spouse must have been baptized in a Christian Church
that baptizes in the Name of the Holy trinity. A marriage between
an Orthodox Christian and a non-Christian or an individual not baptized
in the name of the Holy Trinity can not be celebrated in the Eastern
You are urged, if you are an Orthodox Christian, to receive the sacrament
of Confession and the sacrament of Holy Communion as preparation
for your marriage. By doing so you will bring a new vitality, a spirit,
and bond to your marriage that will enhance and deepen your lives.
If you are not an Orthodox Christian you are urged to partake in
a spiritual preparation guided by your parish priest/pastor which
will grant you a renewal, enabling you to prepare spiritually for
Papers, Documents, Certificates
The following documentation is required:
1. The Orthodox person must be a member of the Saint George Greek
Orthodox Cathedral of Greenville, South Carolina, having pledged
for the current year.
2. A certificate of baptism from your parish (if you are from a community
other than Saint George). If you are not an Orthodox Christian, your
Baptismal certificate will verify that you were baptized in the name
of the Holy trinity. If the non-Orthodox partner has not been baptized
the parish priest will discuss the issue in detail.
3. If you were born outside the United States and came to this country
after your 18th birthday, a certificate verifying that you are single
and eligible to marry should be obtained from your home country parish
priest, signed by the Bishop of the home country Diocese.
4. If either of the couple has been married before, a certified copy
of the entire divorce decree must be given to the priest. If the
Orthodox partner had a previous marriage blessed in the Orthodox
Church, the original ecclesiastical divorce decree must be given
to the priest.
5. A civil license must be obtained from the Court House of Greenville
county (at University Ridge). There is a 24 hour turn around time
for obtaining this license. This license must be obtained by the
6. An Ecclesiastical License which gives the Parish Priest Episcopal
Authority to conduct the marriage in a Greek Orthodox Church is also
required. The priest and couple will fill out an affidavit that will
be sent to the Metropolitan’s office in Atlanta. The Ecclesiastical
License will be mailed back to the parish priest in two weeks
Every couple married in the Eastern Orthodox Church must have a Koumbaros/Koumbara
who must be a member in good standing of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
This individual should be chosen very carefully for he/she is very
important. In the strict interpretation of the Church, the Koumbaros/Koumbara
is not the same as the best man/maid of honor, although they can
be the same individual in a wedding.
In other Christian celebrations of Marriage, the best man or maid
of honor is considered to be legal witness to the ceremony. The Koumbaros/Koumbara
is mainly an ecclesiastical witness, the person who, in many circumstances,
but not always, is given the privilege of baptizing (as Godparent)
your first child. He/she is also the person you turn to for advice
and counsel in your lives when needed.
You may have in your wedding party both a Koumbaros/Koumbara and
a best man/maid of honor, or they may be the same person. While the
role of the best man/maid is that of a witness, that of the Koumbaros
is an active one. He/she exchanges the rings and the crowns and holds
the ribbon as you walk around the ceremonial table together as husband
and wife. Traditionally, the Koumbaros purchases the wedding crowns,
the silver tray, the almonds, the candles, etc. used during the ceremony.
If the Koumbaros is from another parish, he/she must bring a letter
of introduction from his/her priest. A person who does not belong
to a parish of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese cannot serve in this
important role. A person whose marriage has not been blessed in the
Orthodox Church will not be allowed to serve in a sacramental, canonical,
capacity in the wedding. Non-Orthodox persons cannot serve ins such
a capacity precisely because they are sacramental, canonical responsibilities
of Church members.
It is a beautiful sight to have a bridal party with
attendants, groomsmen and ushers. If such is your plan, know that
they do not have to be Eastern Orthodox Christians, except for the
Koumbaros. Those you do select as part of your bridal party must
agree to observe the practice of the Eastern Orthodox traditions.
Bridal Dress and Attendants’ Gowns
Care should be taken in selecting the bride’s dress. Since crowns
are an integral part of the wedding, headpieces must not interfere
with the proper placing of the crowns on the bride’s head. Keep this
in mind if selecting any type of pill box hat or veil. The bridal
dress should also exercise a decorum befitting a church ceremony.
Because of the tendency for the feet of the bridal party to get entangled
in the runner, all runners are discouraged.
The vary nature of the Eastern Orthodox ceremony makes it a double
ring ceremony. The rings should be gold (white or yellow).
Crowns, Stefana, Wedding Wreaths and Candles
“Crown,” “stefana,” and “wedding wreaths” are words used interchangeably.
They are placed on your heads during the wedding. They may be purchased
at our Genesis Bookstore or elsewhere or you can make them yourself
following the traditional styles and materials.
It is permissible to wear the crowns your parents wore.
White candles are also necessary. Because the bride anagram will
be holding them during the wedding, it is suggested the candles be
of a size easily handled and simple in their decoration.
The Sacrament of Marriage is a sacred and meaningful celebration,
and we want to do everything we can to keep its dignity intact.
We do encourage recording of the Sacrament by a professional photographer,
but we also insist on rules that must be followed to keep order
and dignity in the Church.
1. The photographer must meet with the priest prior to the wedding
to go over policies regarding where he/she will be permitted to stand
during the wedding.
2. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCE WILL FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY BE PERMITTED DURING
THE WEDDING BY THE PHOTOGRAPHER OR ANY MEMBERS OF THE CONGREGATION.
3. After the wedding, pictures may be taken in the Church with flashes,
but the photographer must have been shown by the priest where on
the solea the wedding party may stand to have their pictures taken.
4. There will be no moving around in the Church by the photographer/videographer
once the Sacrament of Marriage has begun.
5. Within one half hour after the wedding, the photographer should
be finished with all family pictures in the Church.
Again we are trying to keep the wedding as sacred
and as dignified as possible. We encourage the recording of this
historic event, but we also have a responsibility to keep order.
Any questions should be addressed to the parish priest.
The Metropolitan’s Office in Atlanta has been very clear in what
is allowed and what is not allowed in Church during the entrance
of the wedding party and during the recession of the wedding party.
1. Only the Church organ can be used. There can be no other musical
2. An organist familiar with the electronic organ must be employed.
Check with the parish priest to be sure the organist is approved.
3. Only Eastern Orthodox liturgical music or classical music can
be used during the times before the wedding and after the recessional.
A list of the music selected by the bride must be presented to the
priest so that it can be approved.
4. If a chanter is desired by the bride/groom, discuss this with
the parish priest. The chanter must be approved by the priest beforehand.
5. No CDs or taped music is allowed.
6. If the bride/groom wish to have their wedding acoustically taped
using the direct sound system of the Church, it is available at a
cost of $75 to cover the costs of the supplies and sound track operator.
Our Church is quite beautiful and colorful even without flowers.
In addition, though the Solea is quite large, there are limitations
in space. Visibility and access for movement during the wedding must
be taken into account. The best rule of thumb is to keep flowers
to a minimum.
If/when flowers are used, check with the parish priest for specific
guidelines in addition to the following:
1. No flowers/vases/decoration allowed on the steps or platform of
the second tier of solea (the level upon which is the Altar)
2. No flowers/decorations on any icons/iconostasion
3. If candelabras/candles are used, they must have heavy plastic
under them to prevent their dripping on the solea floor. This type
of decoration is discouraged.
4. If any pew markers are to be used, they must not be taped or tacked
onto the pews. Much damage has incurred in the past, and we will
not allow such practice.
5. Because of damage to the carpet, no fresh flower petals/rice/koufeta
may be sprinkled, tossed, or thrown onto the main aisle before or
after the bride’s entrance. An appropriate substitute would be to
have the flower girl hand out individual stems to the congregation
when she walks down the aisle before the bride, or she can simply
carry a basket of flowers down the aisle and walk directly to their
spot on the Solea with the other attendants.
6. It is the responsibility of the bride/groom to tell the florist
to have all wedding decorations and flowers removed from the Church
immediately following the wedding.
Use of Language
English and Greek may be used in any combination upon consultation
with the parish priest. If there is a party from another Orthodox
jurisdiction that would like to use another language, it is, of course,
permitted with the approval of the parish priest.
Guest Eastern Orthodox clergy may participate in a wedding in the
Eastern Orthodox Church if an invitation is extended to the by the
Parish Priest where the wedding will take place. This must be discussed
with the priest before any invitations are extended. Certain protocol
must be followed and specific guidelines must be met.
Length of Service
The length of the Eastern Orthodox wedding is approximately 45 minutes,
depending on the length of the processional and recessional. You
should plan for about one hour from beginning to end.
Non-Orthodox elements may not be added to or incorporated into the
Orthodox Sacrament of Marriage. These include religious songs and
prayers from other traditions, poems, recitations, musical numbers,
etc. What is prescribed by the Church as proper to the Sacrament
is all that is allowed. Care should be taken to avoid action, songs,
music, recitations and the like which take away from the profound
meaning and teaching that is taking place during the Sacrament.
of the Ceremony
The sacrament of Marriage is to be conducted in an Eastern Orthodox
Church. The practice of celebrating an Eastern Orthodox Sacrament
in a non-Orthodox house of worship or in the church of the non- Eastern
Orthodox party is not permitted except in the extenuating circumstances
and only with the permission of the Metropolitan. If appropriate
this should be discussed with the parish priest.
Receiving lines at the Church are discouraged.
The Church has a sophisticated electronic lighting system and controls
that should not be tampered with by anyone except authorized personnel.
If there are requests for special lighting, it should be brought
to the attention of the priest and approved before the wedding rehearsal
When the date for the wedding has been set, the rehearsal date and
time should also be set in the appointment book of the community.
Usually, rehearsals take place on the day immediately prior to the
wedding date. Any exception should be discussed with the parish priest.
The rehearsal familiarizes everyone in the wedding party what is
expected on the day of the wedding.
Unlocking and Locking the Church
It is the responsibility of the Bride/Groom to call the Church office
to make arrangements to have the Church doors opened and locked before
and after rehearsal and the wedding.
You must have a wedding director. He/she is vital to the rehearsal
and the wedding. Because this person will be responsible to keep
overall order and timing for the wedding, it is suggested that he/she
be experienced in this area. Be sure you inform the priest who your
wedding director is so that they can communicate with each other
regarding the requirements in the Sacrament. The wedding director/coordinator
must be approved by the priest.
The Bride’s Room in the Narthex
The Bride’s room in the narthex of the Church is a beautiful facility
set aside for the bride and her immediate family as they wait for
the brides entrance at the beginning of the wedding. Please note
that this room is only for the bride, and it is NOT to be used by
the bride’s maids for dressing/preparation before the wedding. The
brides maids may dress in the lower level of the Church or in the
lower level of the
Because a considerable amount of money and effort have been spent
in decorating this special room, we ask that no food or drinks be
brought into the Bride’s Room. If finger food or soft drinks/water
wish to be made available for the bride’s maids or wedding party,
they may be placed in the open area in the lower level of the Church
ONLY. Again, these items are not to be brought into the Bride’s Room
in the Narthex. Also, because the room is highly visible from the
Narthex, we insist that it be cleaned by a responsible person of
the brides party and left as clean as it was found. Please do not
leave papers, clothing, boxes, etc. Everything should be removed
immediately after the wedding is over. The community is most appreciative
our your cooperation in this matter.
A Note to the Non-Orthodox
Conversion to the Orthodox faith is not a requirement. If you desire
to become an Eastern Orthodox Christian, this matter needs to be
addressed with the parish priest separately and apart from the wedding.
It should not be a conversion for the sake of convenience, nor should
it be made to make someone happy. The decision should be made following
thought and prayer and out of a true desire to become an Eastern
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