Double Wedding Services - FAQ
Question: "How does the Orthodox Church feel about double wedding services? In order to keep everyone happy we may have to get married in the Greek Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church….If we can’t get past this issue, I’m afraid this could do some serious damage."
Answer: While the Orthodox Church does not encourage two wedding services, they are sometimes necessary "to keep everyone happy." If you've both prayerfully determined that you must proceed in this way, this protocol is generally followed.
1. Such couples get married in one partner's church, and then the other partner's church. In this case, I wouldn't recommend that you attempt to accomplish this in one day. Couples who have chosen this option have told me it's an exhausting process.
2. If you determine to marry in the non-Orthodox partner's church first, please be aware that the Orthodox partner will lose their good standing with the church. This means that the Orthodox partner will unable to receive the sacraments. However, good standing can be reinstated once you both receive the Sacrament of Marriage in the Orthodox Church.
Question: "Neither my fiancé nor I will be converting. It is very important to my fiancé for his brother, an Armenian Catholic priest, to marry us. It is very important to me for my 96-year-old grandfather, a retired Greek Orthodox priest, to be present and to participate (at least in a limited extent) in my Greek Orthodox ceremony, in Greece. Originally, I thought and hoped that we could have two back-to-back ceremonies (a Catholic one and a Greek Orthodox one) in the Greek Orthodox Church. I have since learned that the Greek Church will not allow this. My fiancé and I are now contemplating two ceremonies (a Catholic one in the U.S, followed by a Greek Orthodox one in Greece, OR an outdoor Catholic ceremony in Greece, followed by a traditional Greek Orthodox ceremony), but I would like the approval of both churches."
Answer: As you may already know, both churches discourage couples from having two wedding services. Despite this, in cases like your own some couples have opted to proceed forward and arrange for two separate services. When this occurs, neither church sanctions or approves this process. In addition, one or both churches will generally provide other options while seeking to discourage, but not prevent, you from arranging two separate wedding services. As a result, if I were you I would not spend too much more time seeking "approval" of you plan from both churches. Instead, I would expend my energy trying to figure out how you are going to satisfy the disparate needs that you referred to above.
Question. If the non-Orthodox partner wants to hold the marriage ceremony in a non-Orthodox church and the Orthodox wants to marry in the Orthodox Church, it sounds like it is not encouraged but tolerated. Are such couples simply bending the rules?
Answer. In some cases, couples must consider dual services. Such couples ultimately make this decision based on their personal preferences or perhaps on extended family pressures. The Orthodox Church does not encourage dual marriages, but it will tolerate them under extraordinary circumstances for the reasons I've briefly cited. Additionally, from my perspective, I would not interpret the Orthodox Church's tolerance in this case as "bending the rules," but rather as pastoral sensitivity and flexibility that will hopefully soften hearts and permit God's healing, life changing grace to take effect.
Finally, statistics are clear about one thing. Fewer people are opting to marry today. Furthermore, there is ample evidence to suggest that fewer young people are opting to marry in the Church. In an effort to address these and other similar trends, when the Church shows some flexibility, without compromising its theological integrity, I support such initiatives.
Commentary and Question. If there are two ceremonies that take place, am I understanding that the non-Orthodox ceremony should take place first and then the Orthodox ceremony should take place to restore the Orthodox partner back into good standing? I believe double weddings should happen on the same day, as the Orthodox party would be unfaithful for a few hours. It may be a busy day, but if this is what they choose, they should accept the consequences of their choices.
Answer. Optimally, the ceremonies should take place on the same day. However, the reality is that many modern weddings are not simple events. As a result, in cases where a couple decides to have dual services, after examining the couple's weddings plans carefully with them, I provide options and defer to them to make the best decision since they are intimately familiar with family dynamics and personal limitations.