Marriage - FQA
- Marriage Service Outside in a Park
- Marriage: Days When Marriage Is Not Permitted
- Marriage Outside of the Orthodox Church
- The Common Cup
- Concerns about Language
Question: "We are looking to be married outside in a park. Can you please advise me how I would go about planning this type of wedding and if there are any issues?"
Answer: While it is true that some churches permit outside services, the Orthodox Church is not one of these faith groups. One important reason why, has to do with the way the Orthodox Church conceptualizes the Sacrament of Marriage (the service it uses to marry couples). Since the Sacrament of Marriage is considered sacred and since our church sanctuaries are considered sacred space, the Orthodox Church maintains that the most appropriate place for the Sacrament of Marriage to be celebrated is within what it considers to be hallowed space.
Hopefully this will not create any serious challenges for you and your fiancee.
Question: "I am researching Greek Orthodox marriages, and your department's website has been an invaluable resource. However, I did hope you could elaborate on a topic where I haven't found much information - days on which marriages are not permitted. In particular, I have a source that lists the dates, and then notes that exceptions can be made with permission in certain circumstances. I was hoping you might be able to elaborate on what situations merit exception and also how common such exception is. Can you help with this request?"
Answer: I would like to begin my response by providing you with a listing of dates when marriages are not permitted in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America from the 2009 Greek Orthodox Archdiocese's Yearbook.
Marriages are not performed on fast days or during fasting seasons; these include the Great Lent and Holy Week, August 1-15, August 29 (Beheading of St. John the Baptist), September 14 (Exaltation of the Holy Cross), and December 13-25. Nor are marriages celebrated on the day before and the day of a Great Feast of the Lord, including Theophany (January 5 and 6), Pascha, Pentecost, and Christmas (December 24 and 25). Marriages may be performed on these days only by permission of the diocesan Bishop.
In addition, in some instances the Hierarch of a Metropolis (diocesan Bishop) may grant a priest permission to perform the Sacrament of Marriage during these fasting periods; exceptions are granted on a case to case basis. Couples desiring to receive the Sacrament of Marriage during a part of the church calendar when marriages are not permitted should consult their priest. Based on their needs and the facts they present, the priest will provide further assistance and direction. For example, in some instances the priest will agree to write a letter to the Hierarch on the couple's behalf asking permission to conduct the Sacrament of Marriage on a given date when marriages are not permitted.
p.s. Don't get discouraged. Take this step by step. Do your part and let God do His part. Generally, things work out: to God's glory and our salvation.
Question: "What happens if we get married outside of the Orthodox Church?"
Answer: If a couple chooses to get married outside of the Orthodox Church, the Orthodox partner will lose their good standing. The Orthodox partner will not be permitted to participate in the sacramental life of their faith background, i.e., they will be unable to receive the sacraments like Holy Communion and Unction. The pathway toward restoring the Orthodox partner’s relationship with their faith background would be for the couple to receive the Sacrament of Marriage in the Orthodox Church.
Question: "What steps must he take in order to be able to receive Holy Communion during the Orthodox wedding ceremony?"
Answer: The Common Cup that the priest shares with each partner during the Sacrament of Marriage does not contain Holy Communion. It contains wine which functions to symbolize the bitter and sweet moments in life that they will experience together as husband and wife.
Question: “My wife converted to Greek Orthodox just before our wedding. Since then, we have participated in the Greek Church on holidays and weddings. Since most of the liturgy is done in Greek, my wife does not understand anything that is being said and neither do I. Our priest and others have tried to help, but their advice has not been helpful.
We now have a 9 month old baby and my wife feels as if she is in the dark about our religion. She has many questions I can’t answer. This makes this worse. She is now talking about going back to her church and baptizing the baby there. At this point I feel like I am desperate and just wish someone could help. I want my wife to feel confident about being Greek Orthodox. Any suggestions?”
Answer: I am not exactly certain what your questions are. So, I am hoping what I share will begin to prove helpful. If it doesn't, contact me again. When you contact me again, please identify what your specific questions are.
I can't say I blame your wife. You've described her as a believer and at this point in time she is not being fed because of the great emphasis on culture and language in your community. Moreover, it doesn't make it any easier for her when you can't help her understand. This can certainly be disillusioning and frustrating for the faithful. As a result, here are a few suggestions that may or may not seem appropriate for you. However, when choosing a path to follow, try to keep your wife and family's needs in focus and not simply your own.
1. Have you ever thought about trying another Greek Orthodox Church that uses considerably more English? This is hard for cradle Greek Orthodox to hear because the church they are attending is a family church and they have many strong emotional attachments to their church. This option has worked for many couples like yourselves.
2. Consider reviewing the following resource together. This is a good source of information that will benefit you, your wife and future children.
Rouvelas, M. (2002). A guide to Greek traditions and customs in America: Second Edition. Bethesda, MD: Nea Attiki Press.
3. Do not permit these challenges to go unattended. If they are ignored, they will have an adverse affect on your marriage's well-being and family stability. They could also negatively affect your children's growing perspective of religion and God.
4. Finally, with regard to what you've written, your wife has sacrificed a lot for you and your family. I believe you must acknowledge this and do all you can to help her understand how grateful you are to her for her many sacrifices. You must then both follow Christ, asking Him to guide you both to some mutually satisfying resolutions. This may be a painful process, but it will lead you both toward God's restorative hope, love and increased oneness.