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Greek Orthodox
Wedding Ceremony
Wedding Traditions

Eastern Orthodox Wedding Vows
Greek Orthodox Wedding Ceremon
Greek Orthodox Wedding Cereomny 2
Greek Orthodox Wedding Ceremony 3
Greek Orthodox Wedding Traditions





On this page you will find traditional customs, wedding readings, and blessings for a Greek Orthodox wedding.
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Greek Orthodox weddings are beautiful and symbolic ceremonies, filled with the tradition. There is no exchange of vows between a bride and groom in the Eastern Orthodox wedding ceremony. A bride and groom are not married by a priest, but considered married by God and therefore, wedding vows between the bridal couple are not part of the service.



Example of Greek Orthodox Wedding Program
View Greek Orthodox Wedding Programs 1  | 2 | 3  | 4


Example of Greek Orthodox Wedding Document


Eastern Orthodox Wedding Vows


"I, < >, take you, < >, as my wedded <wife/husband>, and I promise you love, honor, and respect; to be faithful to you; and not to forsake you until death do us part. So help me God, one in the Holy Trinity, and all the saints."
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The Orthodox Wedding Service

The Orthodox sacrament of marriage is unique in many ways, but primarily in that the ceremony has remained almost entirely unchanged since its origination centuries ago. Another notable aspect of the Orthodox marriage is that the bride and groom do not exchange vows; instead it is their presence before Christ through the priest and the congregation that signifies their wish to be joined and to accept the lord into their new home. Finally, in the Orthodox tradition, the wedding ceremony is actually two services in one. The first, which is the briefer of the two, is the Service of Betrothal, during which the rings are exchanged. The second, the Service of Crowning, is longer and includes many prayers offered for the couple, the crowning of the bride and groom in marriage, sharing of the common cup and the celebrational procession around the table.
The Service of Betrothal

During this first service, the priest offers petitions of prayer on behalf of the bride and groom. He then asks God's blessings upon the rings and proceeds to bless the bride and groom with the rings. Performed three times in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, the priest will start first from the groom to the bride, and then from the bride to the groom. The weaving motion between bride and groom represents their lives being entwined into one. The priest then places the wedding rings on the ring fingers of the right hands of both the bride and groom (the right hand holds special connotations in the Orthodox faith, which is why it is used during the wedding ceremony). Then the sponsor (the koumbaro or koumbara) exchanges the rings on the bride and groom three times further emphasizing the union of their lives. The service closes with a final prayer, which seals the placement of rings and emphasizes that the marriage was enacted by God Himself.

The Service of Crowning
The Joining of Hands

The Service of Crowning begins with the invocation of the Holy Trinity. After petitions are offered on behalf of the bride, groom and wedding company, three prayers are read which ascribe to God the institution of marriage and the preservation of His people through the ages. During this prayer the priest joins the right hands of the bride and groom to symbolize the union of the couple through the lord. Since God is the true Celebrant of every sacrament, the priest always expresses himself in the third person. He is simply God's instrument in the service.

The Crowning
The union of the bride and groom is completed with the Crowning. The priest takes the crowns from the altar table, blesses the bride and groom, and then places the crowns upon their heads, chanting, "O Lord our God, crown them with glory and honor." The crowns have several meanings: the first that God bestows His blessing upon His children in the form of crowns and the second, that the bride and groom mark the beginning of a new kingdom, reigning supreme under the Divine Authority of God, Who reigns over all. The sponsor exchanges the crowns over the heads of the bride and groom to seal the union. The service continues with the Epistle (Ephesians 5:20-33) and Gospel (John 2:1-11) readings. The Epistle details the responsibilities of each partner in the marriage and the Gospel recounts Christ's first miracle at the wedding in Cana.

The Common Cup
Following the readings and brief prayers, the common cup, containing a small portion of wine, is presented to the bride and groom. The priest blesses the cup and offers it to the newly joined husband and wife, representing their equal share in the cup of life.

The Procession
The priest then leads the newly joined husband and wife around the table - a type of religious dance, celebrating the union. During the procession, a series of hymns are sung. The first speaks of the Isaiah the Prophet's joy when he saw the coming of the Messiah upon the earth. The second recollects the martyrs of the Faith, who received their crowns of glory from God through the sacrifice of their lives. And finally, the third exalts the Holy Trinity.

The Removal of the Crowns and the Benediction
Upon completion of the procession, the Priest faces the groom and says: "Be magnified, O Bridegroom, as Abraham, and blessed as Isaac, and increased as was Jacob. Go your way in peace, performing in righteousness the commandments of God." After which, the priest turns to the bride and says, "And you, O Bride, be magnified as was Sarah, and rejoiced as was Rebecca, and increased as Rachel, being glad in your husband, keeping the paths of the Law, for so God is well pleased." Then, removing their crowns, the Priest says, "Accept their crowns in Your Kingdom unsoiled and undefiled; and preserve them without offense to the ages of ages." Finally, the priest reads a prayer of benediction and the newly married couple may depart from the Church.






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Greek Orthodox Wedding Ceremony 2

The wedding ceremony of the Greek Orthodox Church is an ancient and meaningful service that has been celebrated in its present form for centuries. The service is abundant with symbols that reflect marriage: love, mutual respect, equality and sacrifice.

The ceremony consists of two parts which are distinct and separate from each other: The service of the Betrothal and the Ceremony of the Sacrament of Marriage. Everything in the ceremony has a special meaning and significance, especially the repetition of each act three times to symbolize and to invoke the mystical presence of the Holy Trinity. The Wedding begins as the white candles are handed to The Bride and The Groom. These candles symbolize their spiritual willingness to receive Christ.

The Service of Betrothal
Petitions are chanted for the spiritual welfare of the couple. The highlight during this service is the exchanging of the rings. The priest then blesses the rings. He holds them in his right hand, and making the sign of the cross over their heads, he betroths the servants of God, The Bride to The Groom. The rings are then placed on their right hands, for it is the right hand of God that blesses, it was the right hand of God to which Christ ascended, and it is also to the right that those who will inherit the eternal life will ascend.

The koumbaro (religious sponsor) then exchanges the rings three times. The exchange signifies that in married life, the weakness of one partner will be compensated by the strength of the other, the imperfections of one, by the perfection of the other. By themselves, the newly betrothed are incomplete, but together they are made perfect. The rite of the betrothal ends with the priest praying for betrothal of mutual promise, officially given before the church, may prove in true faith, concord and love.

The Ceremony of the Sacrament of Marriage
The ceremony consists of petitions, prayers, the crowning, readings from the New Testament, the offering of the common cup, the circling of the ceremonial table and the benediction. At the conclusion of the prayers, the priest joins the hands of The Bride and The Groom. The hands are kept joined until the end of the service to symbolize the union and the oneness of the couple.

The Crowning
This is the focal point of the marriage ceremony. The crowns are signs of the glory and honor with which God crowns them during the sacrament. The wedding crowns (stefana) are joined by a ribbon which again symbolizes the unity of the couple and the presence of Christ who blesses and joins the couple and establishes them as the King and Queen of their home, which they will rule with wisdom, justice and integrity. The priest takes the two crowns and blesses The Bride and The Groom, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and of the Holy Spirit and then places the crowns on them. The Koumbaro then steps behind The Bride and The Groom and interchanges the crowns three times as a witness to the sealing of the union.

Some interpret the crowns used in the Orthodox wedding ceremony to refer to the crowns of Martyrdom since every true marriage involves immeasurable self sacrifice on both sides.

The Common Cup
The rite of crowning is followed by the reading of the Epistle and the Gospel. The Gospel reading describes the marriage at Cana of Galilee which was attended and blessed by Christ and for which He reserved His first miracle. There He converted the water into wine and gave if it to the newlyweds. In remembrance of this blessing, wine is given the couple. This is the "common cup" of life denoting the mutual sharing of joy and sorrow, the token of a life of harmony. The drinking of wine from the common cup serves to impress upon the couple that from that moment on they will share everything in life, joys, as well as sorrows, and that they are to "bear one another’s burdens." Their joys will be doubled and their sorrows halved because they will be shared.

The Ceremonial Walk
The priest then leads The Bride and The Groom in a circle around the table on which are placed the Gospel and the Cross, the one containing the word of God, the other being the symbol of our redemption by Jesus. The Bride and The Groom are taking their first steps as a married couple, and the church, in the person of the priest, leads them in the way they must walk. The way is symbolized by the circle at the center of which are the Gospel and the cross of our Lord. This expresses the fact that the way of Christian living is a perfect orbit around the center of life, who is Jesus Christ our Lord.

During this ceremonial walk around the table a hymn is sung to the Holy Martyrs reminding the newly married couple of the sacrificial love they are to have for each other in marriage - a love that seeks not its own but is willing to sacrifice its all for the one loved.

The Removal of the Crowns
At the conclusion of the Ceremonial Walk, the priest removes the crowns from The Bride and The Groom and beseeches God to grant to the newlyweds a long, happy and fruitful life together. He then lifts up the Gospel and separates their joined hands reminding them that only God can separate the couple form one another.

The Wedding Favors

The sugar coated almonds (koufeta), which were placed on the tray with the crowns and which will later be offered to the guests are also symbolic. In the early days of the Church, honey dipped almonds were offered to the newlyweds by the priest. The white symbolizes purity. The egg shape represents fertility and the new life which begins with marriage. The hardness of the almond represents the endurance of marriage and the sweetness of the sugar symbolizes the sweetness of future life. The odd number of almond is indivisible, just as The Bride and The Groom shall remain undivided.

At the conclusion of the service, the newly illumined receives a Cross blessed and presented by the priest on behalf of the godparents and the worshipping community. The Cross is placed on the neophyte with the words,"And the Lord said, 'he who wishes to come after me, let him take up his Cross and follow me.'"
The Cross is worn faithfully by the neophyte-Christian who witnesses to the world Christ's victory and triumph over death of which he/she now participates.


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Greek Orthodox Wedding Ceremony 3

The Sacrament Of Marriage
Marriage is one of the seven Sacraments of the Greek Orthodox Church.
It is the Sacrament during which the bride and groom give a solemn
promise before God and the Church to love each other and to be true to
each other. The marriage service, as performed in the Orthodox Church,
is a very beautiful service full of symbols. The service actually consists
of two parts, the Service of the Betrothal and the Service of the Crowning.

The Service Of The Betrothal
The Betrothal consists of several beautiful prayers during which the
priest asks God to grant the betrothed perfect and peaceful love, salvation,
and to bless them with fair children.

Exchange Of Rings
During the Betrothal, the rings are blessed over the heads of the bride
and groom three times, after which they are placed on the fourth finger
of the right hand. The exchanging of the rings by the Koumbaros, the
official sponsor of the marriage, symbolizes the unbreakable bond of
Christian Marriage. Marriage is not for today or tomorrow but forever.
The Betrothal ends with a prayer that the Lord might make strong their
Betrothal in faith, truth, and love, and make them of one mind; and-that
He would grant them His heavenly blessings.

Lighted Candles
The bride and groom are given white lighted candles to hold. The
lighted candles symbolize the purity of their lives, which should shine
with the light of virtue.

The Joining Of Hands
During the Service of the Crowning, three long prayers are read, asking
God to grant the bride and groom a long and peaceful life, mutual love
and help, happiness, and health. Then the right hands of the couple are
joined by the priest who calls upon God to join them into one mind and
one flesh

The Crowning
The priest takes up the crowns and makes the sign of the cross three
times each over the heads of the bride and groom, and then places the
crowns on their heads. The crowns are a symbol that the newly married
couple receive the grace of the Holy Spirit to be the founders of a new
generation and are crowned with virtue and holiness to serve all their
lives to the glory of Almighty God.

Bible Reading
Following The Crowning, Saint Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians (5:20-
33) concerning the mystery and holiness of Christian Marriage and the
duties and responsibilities of the husband and wife to each other is read
by the Priest; and Saint John’s Gospel on Christ’s miracle at the Marriage
of Cana (2:1-12) is read by the priest to show that our Lord Jesus
Christ blessed the sacred institution of Marriage.

The Common Cup
The drinking from “the Common Cup" is the next point in the service.
The priest gives to the husband and wife to drink from a cup of wine
three times each. This is not Holy Communion, but it symbolizes that
they now share with each other every joy and sorrow.

The Circling Of The Tables
The priest takes the bride and groom by the hand and leads them around
the small table three times while three beautiful and joyous hymns are
chanted. The circle symbolizes eternity. By circling around the table,
the couple signify their oath to preserve their marriage bond forever,
until death shall break it. The triple circling is in honor of the Holy
Trinity.

Benediction
Finally, the Priest lifts the crowns from their heads with special words
of blessing to the newlyweds, thus ending the Marriage ceremony.

                   

 

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Greek Orthodox Wedding Traditions

The symbol of the Trinity- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit- are important aspects of the Greek Orthodox religion and are incorporated symbolically within the wedding celebration Many of the ceremony rituals are performed in series of threes.

Marriage is a sacrament within the Greek Orthodox church. The ceremony actually begins on the steps of the church in front of the doors, where the priest blesses the rings and they are exchanged. This part of the service is called the Betrothal. The couple are then led into the church by the priest. The couple stand on a white cloth before a platform. Following the couple in the processional a wedding icon is carried. The bride and groom hold lit candles, which they hold throughout the ceremony. The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is performed followed by three prayers

Stefana or crowns are then placed on the bride and grooms heads as a symbol of God bestowing His blessings in the form of crowns and in recognition of the couple's roles in the Kingdom of God. The crowns are generally connected by a ribbon to symbolize the couple's eternal bond as husband and wife. They are usually floral in motif, like a wreath, but may be of other materials. The crowns reside atop a tray of almonds at the front of the church. During the ceremony, the crowns are exchanged or switched between both heads three times, generally by the best man or koumbaros.

The almonds from the tray are distributed to the single female wedding guests. Like placing a piece of the wedding cake under your pillow on other cultures, Greek women are supposed to dream of their future husband if they place the almonds under their pillow.

Following the Crowning ceremony, the ceremony continues with readings and the couple sharing a communion cup. The couple then follows the priest around the wedding platform three times to become husband and wife.

Traditionally, a bride carried herbs or grains as a fertility symbol and at the reception the couple would eat a cake made of honey, sesame seeds, and quince as a symbol of their commitment to each other through good and bad. The bride may also carry a cube of sugar in her glove for the ceremony as a symbol of a "sweet" married life.
Today's bride may have some herbs placed within her bouquet, such as rosemary, thyme, mint, and basil.

Greek wedding receptions are festive affairs full of singing, dancing, eating, and drinking The feast may include such traditional dishes as dolmathes, kapama, moussaka, spetsiota, and spanakopita. Ouzo, an anise (licorice) flavored liqueur and wine are the drinks of choice. The rich flavorful food is followed by lively dancing and celebrating. The dancing traditionally begins with the handkerchief dance or kalamatiano. The bridal couple begin the dance together dancing holding a scarf or handkerchief by the ends between them. They then invite others into the dance. As the festivities progress, breaking plates may be done to ward off evil spirits for good luck. One other traditional dance encircles the bride within two circles of dancing guests, who toss money.

Kalamatiano
Traditional handkerchief dance.

Koufeta
White chocolate covered almonds, symbolizing the bitterness and sweetness in life, passed as favors for wedding guests always in odd numbered groups to bring guests good luck. Usually in white tulle with sky blue ribbon to represent colors of the Greek flag.

Koumbaros or Kumbada
Traditionally the groom's godfather. Acts as a sponsor and instigates the actions of the ceremony like the crowns exchange and the procession around the wedding platform. Similar role of the Western culture's Best Man.

Stefana
Crowns used in the wedding ceremony made traditionally from orange blossoms, twigs and vines wrapped in silver and gold and attached by a long ribbon. Symbols of the bride and groom as King and Queen.

 

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