Eastern Orthodox Weddings
The term Eastern Orthodox is used to define all of the Orthodoxy sects of Christianity (ie Russian and Greek) that have developed over the centuries in Eastern European countries. The Eastern Orthodox analog to the Holy Sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church are called “Mysteries”. These Mysteries can properly be defined as an action in which a person connects with God. There are several Mysteries, of which marriage is one.
Eastern Orthodoxy holds that marriage is a sacrament and therefore there are echoes of the sacred bond made on Earth in eternity. The Eastern Orthodox wedding ceremony takes place in two parts: The Betrothal and The Crowning.
The Betrothal includes three distinct steps. The first step is the exchange of rings. This process takes place in the entrance to the church, the area that is closest to being the symbolic middle of the dichotomy that believers live as part of the family of God yet also part of the world. The rings are blessed by the priest and then placed on the right hands of the couple, the hands which make the sign of the cross.
After the exchange of rings, the company goes into the procession. The priest leads the couple into the middle of the church, while reciting the 128th Psalm. This point of the ceremony represents the couple crossing into the presence of God through their union.
The couple now declares, in front of the gathered witnesses, that they are entering into the union of their own free will. The bride and groom are each handed candles, which they light and hold for the rest of the ceremony. The candles represent Jesus’ light as he guides them through their lives together.
The separation of the two parts of the ceremony is marked as the priest prays over the couple. The end of the prayer marks the beginning of The Crowning. Crowns are placed on the heads of both the bride and groom. These crowns represent both the fact that God has promised believers that they will rule with Him in eternity and the fact that Christians feel they are called upon to be martyrs.
An epistle is now read over the couple, taken from Ephesians 5, which is a letter written by the apostle Paul which many Christian faiths use to define married life. After The Epistle, The Gospel portion of the ceremony takes place. The Gospel which is read is the story of Jesus at the wedding feast found in John 2.
Next follows the custom of The Common Cup and the Dance of Isaiah. The couple partake of wine from a cup which they share. This represents the sharing of life’s burden’s between each other in their lifelong partnership. The Dance of Isaiah occurs as the couple circle a table three times, representing the fact that their marriage, when including Christ, involves three people, not just two.
The final step in the Eastern Orthodox ceremony is The Removal of the Crowns. The priest removes the crowns from the heads of the couple and declares that they will be received by God in His kingdom.