My fiancé is Macedonian and was raised in the Orthodox church. As a result, it would be very meaningful for him to have an Orthodox wedding ceremony. I, on the other hand, was not raised in any particular religion and do not have a Macedonian cultural heritage. I understand that the Orthodox wedding ceremony is very unique, but I don’t know whether to consent to such a ceremony if I have no idea what happens or what is said.
Can you direct me to any information on the ceremony rituals and text and the meanings thereof? Also, I apparently have to be baptized in order to have the ceremony held and I’m not sure if I should because I don’t know if I can consider myself a Christian.
I suppose I’m a little concerned because I don’t want to take baptism lightly and I don’t know if I can truly profess belief. However, an Episcopalian friend pointed out that infants aren’t baptized to show their belief in the church, they’re baptized as an expression of the community that loves and protects the child. I suppose in that light it’s different, and it also becomes meaningful as a sacrifice to be made for the happiness of my fiancé.
Thank you for your enquiry—and congratulations on your forthcoming wedding!
The best thing that I might suggest is that you meet with the priest at your fiance’s church to discuss your situation in person. Surely he will be able to explain to you the marriage ceremony—he may even be able to provide you with a video of a wedding that had already taken place in that parish, which would make it much clearer as to what happens than trying to visualize it from a printed text, or at least direct you to a recently married couple that may have a video you could watch.
In general, however, the Orthodox wedding ceremony follows this outline:
The Rite of Betrothal, in which rings are exchanged as a sign of commitment and devotion to one another.
The “Crowning,” in which crowns or wreaths [customs vary in each parish] are placed on or held above the heads of the bride and groom. This signifies that in marriage there is a certain amount of sacrifice, especially in the area of “give and take.” It also signifies that in a certain respect the bride and groom become the “king and queen” of their own “kingdom,” or family, which is an integral part of the Kingdom of God.
The sharing of a common cup of wine, which signifies that in marriage all things are shared equally.
The procession around the sacramental table, during which the priest leads the couple three times as they take their first steps together as husband and wife.
The removal of the crowns and the final blessing, in which all gathered wish the couple many years of blessings.
There are no “vows” in the Orthodox ritual, as found in other confessions.
The priest should be able to elaborate on all of this in greater detail than is possible in an email and, if you can find a video of a wedding from the same parish, you will gain a much clearer understanding of what happens and how it takes place.
If you have never been baptized, it is also best to speak directly with the priest. Orthodox Christians may be married in an Orthodox ceremony to a non-Orthodox Christian provided the non-Orthodox party had been baptized with water and “in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” Orthodox Christians may not be married in an Orthodox ceremony to non-baptized individuals, however. Surely the priest will be happy to explain what would be involved in Baptism and reception into the Church.
I hope this helps somewhat, but I cannot underscore the importance of speaking to the priest at your husband’s parish before any firm plans are made.