THE SACRAMENT OF HOLY MATRIMONY AT ST. BASIL OF OSTROG SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH
Preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage
We, as a parish, rejoice in the love that you as a couple, share for one another and the commitment you have made to bring you to this day in preparation for your Orthodox Church marriage. Your decision to be married in the Church is an indication that the Christian faith and the sacramental life of the Church are important to you. In the eyes of the Church, marriage is the sacramental union between a man and a woman as it is expressed in the the Bible through Christ's sacrificial relationship towards the Church (Ephesians 5:22-33).
When we say that a Christian marriage is a sacrament, we use the word to convey the depths of the bond you are about to enter into: As Christians, the sacrament of marriage is your oath of loyalty unto death to each other and - as a couple - your oath of loyalty unto death to our Lord Jesus Christ. A Christian marriage is intended to be a sign of God's presence in your home, which is a small Church in this fallen and broken world.
Coordinating Your Wedding
You are asked promptly to schedule a meeting with the Parish Priest, Fr. Dean, pertaining to your wedding, including setting the date of the wedding before scheduling the hall for your reception, since the wedding may not be celebrated during the fasting periods and Major Church Feasts. Please feel free to ask Father any questions you may regarding your marriage here at St. Basil's.
Preparation for the Marriage: Premarital Counseling
At the premarital counseling, done at least a month before the wedding, the priest prepares the couple for the Orthodox marriage. He first needs to confirm that the couple is baptized "in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit"; that they are not in close blood or spiritual relation, and that they are both of free marital status. Then, he will discuss the sacramental nature of the marriage bond, the Christian understanding of marriage as it is expressed in the Scriptures and the marriage service itself. In addition, he will ask the couple to provide all necessary documentaion that may be required. This preparation for the marriage usually includes 2 to 3 sessions.
Mixed marriage is when an Orthodox Christian is getting married to a non-Orthodox Christian, but is baptized in the in "the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" (for example, Roman Catholic and traditionally, mainline Protestant churches such as Lutheran, Episcopaliian and Methodist communities, etc.) Tthe priest requests the Diocesan Bishop to give his blessing to the mixed marriage.
Because of the sacramental nature of the marriage bond (in which a couple not only pledges their love for each other but also their love for Christ) a wedding between an Orthodox Christian and a non-Christian can not be celebrated in the Church.
Necessary Papers and Documents
The following documentations is needed to ensure that your wedding will meet the criteria established by the Church and local civil authorities:
1. Verification of baptism and church membership of the Orthodox couple.
2. If it is mixed marriage, verification of the baptism of the non-Orrthodox spouse who was baptized in a Christian community "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
3. A civil marriage license. (Please note that because a civil license carries a time limit your civil license should be secured less than two months prior to the desired date of the wedding.)
4. In case of the pior marriages of either of the parties, a copy of the death certificate of the deceased spouse or a copy of the civil divorce decree issued by the state must be presented to the priest. If the prior marriage was celebrated in the Orthodox Church and ended in divorce, then a ecclesiastical divorce decree must also be presented.
The Witnesses (Kumovi)
Two eyewitnesses are needed to witness the marriage commitment. The First Witness, who will participate in the holy sacrament by the exchagne of the wedding rings, must be an Orthodxo Christian. The Second Witness, if not an Orthodox Christian, may, upon approval of the Bishop, be a Christian from another Confession. However, must have been baptized "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
Necessary Items for the Celebration of the Service
1. A pair of wedding rings
2. A pair of candles. (available in the church)
3. A white scarf to tie the hands of the bride and groom together.
4. A glass for red wine (common cup)
5. Marriage License or if married in the court a copy of the marriage certificate.
In the Orthodox Church, instrumental music is not permitted. Customarily the priest and choir will sing and chant.
A Note to the Bride and Groom
To those spouses who are Orthodox: there is no substitute for Jesus Christ in maintaining the dignity and sanctity of the marriage bond. For the celebration of your marriage in the Chruch to be meaningful, you must live out, in subsequent years, the Christian commitment that you will make on the day of your wedding. The Sacrament is not a one day event, it is a lifestyle wherein the husband and wife live together in the bond of love, united to Christ and to each other in every aspect of family life.
To those spouses who are not Orthodox: you are always welcome here at St. Archangel Michael Orthodox Church. Please note that your marriage in the Church does not automatically grant you membership in the Orthodox Church. If you desire to become an Orthodox Christian this must be your decision, made after much prayer and thought, in consulation with the priest, and never for the sake of convenience. To both of you: the Lord and this parish are here to help, support and sustain you in your marriage bond and the life of faith to which we are called as Christians. May the Lord grant you both many years together in peace and oneness of mind and heart!