Lesson #3: Eastern Orthodox Weddings

I have a cousin who is being married in the Eastern Orthodox Church in April and today’s post came out of a conversation with another cousin about said wedding (that I will miss because I’ll be halfway around the world at the time).

Two quick background notes on Eastern Orthodoxy: 1. It is the second largest Christian communion in the world and 2. along with Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism, it is one of three members of the Holy Catholic Church.

The wedding consists of two parts, the exchange of the rings and the crowning. The exchange of the rings is the same as in any Judeo-Christian wedding where lovely things are said about love and faith and devotion. This is the betrothal ceremony, after which, there is a lighting of candles and the joining of the couple’s right hands, which stay joined for the remainder of the wedding ceremony. During the crowning ceremony crowns are placed on the heads of the bride and groom. The crowns are “signs of the glory and honor with which God crowns them during the Mystery. The groom and the bride are crowned as the king and queen of their own little kingdom, the home – domestic church, which they will rule with fear of God, wisdom, justice and integrity.”* The crowns are also meant to be representative of the crowns of the martyrs as marriage involves a high level of self-sacrifice. After the crowning come the Epistle and the Gospel. The Gospel is traditionally the passage about Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding in Canaan and is followed by the bride and groom drinking wine from the “common cup” which symbolizes the life of sharing they have ahead of them. Finally, there is a walk around the altar, the removal of the crowns, separation of the hands and the presentation of the couple.

And then, as with pretty much every wedding everywhere in the world, afterwards there’s a big party to celebrate the new couple.

*Quoted text and further information that is not about Russian Brides (seriously) can be found here. There is also some good information here.

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2 thoughts on “Lesson #3: Eastern Orthodox Weddings

  1. Nadgob Ekim says:

    There is exception to the big celebration. Strange to unsuspecting outsiders, southern baptist weddings are followed only by a small reception on the way out of the church. No drinking, dancing or any form of traditional celebration takes place. Then everyone goes home. What do I take away from this info? The insistance that I not be invited to a southern baptist wedding. Seriously, if I’m not going to get a meal, drink, cake, or enjoy a party, I don’t want to buy you a gift.

  2. Manda says:

    Fascinating endevor, a new bit of knowledge every day! So, in that spirit, here is my understanding of “the Holy Catholic Church” as listed in point #2 in your post.

    In general, different people define what religions count as “Catholic” differently, and from my (limited) research it looks like people’s definitions tend to fall along religious lines.

    Some define it as the Roman Catholic church (though this is mostly a slang/nickname as opposed to a religious categorization). Some consider as part of the Catholic Church all those churches that recognize the (current) Pope as the bishop of Rome and their (current) overarching leader. In the interest of full disclosure, that last is my personal definition of the Catholic Church, since I consider the Catholic-with-a-capital-C a religious denomination (group? classification? something like that), as opposed to catholic-with-a-lowercase-c, a la the Nicene Creed, which I consider to be much more broadly applicable.

    There are definitely those who don’t consider that a distinction, though. Some churches consider themselves a part of the Catholic Church both because they used to recognize the Pope before X date/religious split and because of the “universal” definition of catholic/belief in the Nicene Creed; other churches consider all Christians to be part of the Catholic church due completely to the lowercase-c catholic meaning, regardless of history with the Pope.

    As far as I can tell, both the Anglican and the Eastern Orthodox churches fall into the third category, but they are by no means the only ones! So it seems to me that, no matter how you define the Holy Catholic Church, it either excludes both the Anglican and Eastern Orthodox churches, or it includes lots more than just those.

    Feel free to school me – I love a good debate!

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