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Frequently Asked Questions about Premarital Concerns

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Sex Before Marriage

Question: "Thank you so much for your quick response and helpful recommendations. Your comments were very effective in helping both of us to open a new conversation for our future together.  It is a very difficult conversation and an ongoing one. We did mutually agree to abstain from sexual relations until after the wedding. The difficulty I have now is in knowing how to experience repentance and when do I know that I am ready to accept Holy Communion. I tend to be hard on myself. The only place I find peace from my negative thoughts is when I pray in church. How do I get past some of these feelings and thoughts so that I can receive Communion?"

Answer: When the priest comes out of the Royal Doors holding the chalice which contains the Body and Blood of Christ, he says, “With the fear, faith and love of God draw near.” Ultimately none of us is worthy to receive him. However, in his great mercy, he accepts us as we are if we come to him with fear, faith and love in our hearts. That should be enough.

We may not accept ourselves, but he accepts us so. So, prepare yourself and come to the Holy Cup of Salvation with the fear, faith and love of God. As Saint Paul states, we are saved by “faith,” and not “works.” Believe that he loves you and come and receive. Should this counsel prove to be insufficient in arresting your negative “feelings and thoughts,” I would recommend you seek further counsel from your parish priest.

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How to Move From Sex Before Marriage

Question: "I need your advice on something that happened to me and my girlfriend. We are have been dating for 8 months. We do not live together, but the temptation to have premartial sex has increased this past month. So much so that we briefly did have premarital sex, we stopped once we realized what was happening. We both feel guilty and that we have done something wrong.

We both need guidance and we both are ashamed and feel like we let one another down as well as our families. We both agreed that sex is not an option especially having said the prayer of repentance.

Where do we go from here? I love her, and before all this happened we both received the blessing from our Priest, and I already had permission from my parents and hers to take her hand in marriage.

Will you please enlighten me on how I can be a better leader, resist temptation and on where our relationship go from here?

Thanks Father!"

Answer: I respect and admire the dating standards you've both established for yourselves, and I encourage you to continue struggling to live up to them. I also want to remind you that we worship a loving, merciful, forgiving God who knows that we all sin and fall short of His glory. With that stated, here are some additional observations and suggestions that may prove helpful to you in your efforts to find some blessed peace and closure from this incident.

1. Based on the remorseful spirit in which you've written me, I suspect you both have confessed this sin and are trying to move beyond its destructive, residual effects. If you have, that is a good first step toward reaching some blessed closure.

2. If you have not confessed this sin with heartfelt remorse, you should both seek to do so as individuals and as a couple.

3. If you've confessed this sin and are still troubled by its residual effects, you might also consider confessing this sin to a priest through the Sacrament of Confession.

4. If you have both confessed this sin with and without a priest, and you have recommitted yourselves to abstinence until after marriage, then you should both have no further concerns for this sin. Remember that God loves the sinner who turns from his sins and seeks forgiveness.

5. If you continue to struggle with guilt after confessing this sin, and this E-mail does not help you reach closure, you should seek further spiritual counsel to help you cleanse yourselves from the destructive effects of inappropriate guilt.

6. In the future, you should try and avoid other similar potentially compromising situations that would compel you both to make the same mistake. As a result, if you haven't done so, you should talk about what happened, recommit to abstinence, avoid blaming each other and engage in some brainstorming that will help you avoid making the same mistake again.

7. Finally, you should both ask God to help you learn from this incident while also helping you protect the oneness you are seeking to cultivate.

May our merciful, forgiving Lord continue to richly bless you.

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Premarital Concern:  Commitment before Marriage

Question: "I’m having a hard time trusting that my fiancee is committed to me. She really hasn’t done anything specific to cause me to question her commitment. Yet, sometimes I just can’t help myself. Maybe these thoughts and feelings are related to the fact that my first marriage didn’t work out. She left me. What do you think?"

Answer: Divorce is an excruciatingly painful experience that can have a lasting impact on our efforts to form new meaningful relationships. I suggest you consider finding a trusted person to talk through some of your underlying concerns. One possible good choice might be your pastor. Along with whatever counsel your priest might be able to offer, I would also urge you to consider a good couples' therapist who has a marriage friendly perspective and specializes in divorce recovery issues.

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Premarital Wedding concerns

Question: My fiancee is Greek Orthodox and I am Baptist. We are getting my pastor to conduct the ceremony. He does interfaith marriages. We were trying to find traditional Greek rituals to be included in the ceremony so that my fiancee can have some of his religion incorporated. Is there any way that can be done? Thank you!

Answer: Congratulations. I hope and pray this will be a blessed, beautiful day.

You might consider the following resource: Greek Traditions and Customs in America (Rouvelas). This book does not make specific suggestions like the lones that you have requested. However, it does provide an overview of some of the common rituals, customs and traditions you requested as well as a brief explanation of the Sacrament of Marriage.

Your fiancee should be aware that when he gets married outside of the Orthodox Church he will fall out of good standing with his church, and he will be unable to receive the sacraments. In order for him to get back into good standing, you are required to receive the Sacrament of Marriage in the Orthodox Church. The following link provides more information related to what I've briefly written here which may help you both.

Click here

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Getting Married in Cyprus

Question: “Thank you for taking the time to make your informative website. I am hoping you can help me. I am Catholic and am engaged to the love of my life who is Greek Orthodox. We are planning to get married in a Greek Orthodox Church in Cyprus. I have been reading about a few traditions that I am hoping the church will accept to consider some of my own traditions that are important to me when we unite in marriage. It's important to me to have my father "give me away" and walk me down the aisle and hand me over to my husband to be (I understand the bride and groom meet outside and walk down the aisle together). Secondly, is it possible for my godmother who is to be my maid of honor, who is not Greek Orthodox to still play the part? I hope you can calm my nerves and send me some good news. Thank you for your time.”

Answer: The types of traditions you've inquired about vary from one part of the world to the other. In the States, the traditions you've described are familiar to most Orthodox priests and you would likely not encounter problems including them. However, you might encounter some resistance in Cyprus.

In order to ensure that things unfold smoothly prior and during the Sacrament of Marriage, I always encourage couples to consult with the officiating priest. In your case, if I were you, I would request that your Greek Orthodox fiancee or one of his family consult with the officiating priest in Cyprus before the Sacrament of Marriage. He will be able to answer your questions and arrest your fears and concerns.

I am sorry I could not provide you with the information you've requested. I feel confident that the priest in Cyprus will do all he can to make your wedding a memorable event.

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Duel Marriage Services

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 duel services. Such couples ultimately make this decision based on their personal preferences or perhaps on extended family pressures. The Orthodox Church does not encourage duel 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 duel 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.

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Subject: Re-Baptism

Commentary and Questions: If my girlfriend and I want to marry, but she is Orthodox and I am a non-Orthodox Bible-believing Christian, what is the process we need to follow? If I was baptized once, do I have to be baptized again? If yes, for what? It is said that it is one baptism in Christ, in the name on the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, so why should I do it again if I was conscious of my sins the first time? I've read that I have to recognize that I am a heretic and a schismatic, but can someone tell me why? What did I do wrong? All my life I tried to get closer to God and to follow him and respect his warnings, counsel, orders and laws. Thank you for your answer and for the time.

 

Answer: There are literally thousands of groups around the world that call themselves Christians. As a way to differentiate between these groups and deal all this complexity and diversity, the Orthodox church has established the following simple guideline to assist its leaders in discerning which mixed-religious couples qualify for marriage and which do not.  The Orthodox Church only administers the Sacrament of Marriage to baptized Christians where one partner is Orthodox, and in good standing with the Orthodox Church, and the other partner has been baptized in the Name of the Holy Trinity and in water.

 

As a result, in order for you to marry in the Orthodox Church you must be baptized in the Name of the Holy Trinity and in water. Further, you must provide written proof of your baptism on official stationary.  If you cannot provide proof, then you will likely have to be baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity and in water before you can get married.

 

Finally, please do not misunderstand the Orthodox Church’s guidelines. You did not do anything wrong. As I stated above, this minimal requirement has been established to help its leaders discern who is a Christian and who is not a Christian.

 

I hope this helps answer most of your questions. Write me back if you have follow-up questions.

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Subject: Conversion and Baptism

 

Question: I am Greek Orthodox and want to marry a member of the United Church of Christ in the Greek Orthodox Church. Will the Orthodox Church accept his baptism?

 

Answer: It is my understanding that baptismal rites performed within the United Church of Christ are not accepted for the following reasons.

 

This denomination has under gone a number of mergers and adopted eclectic comprehensiveness and inclusivity of multiple, frequently contradictory theologies and worship practices that no longer guarantee that their common policy is to baptize in the name of the Trinity. Because it is very difficult to verify each candidate’s baptism to determine that it meets the Orthodox Church’s minimal requirements, baptisms from this denomination are deemed unacceptable. To verify this, I suggest you consult your hierarch. He will provide a definitive answer related to your question.

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Subject: Conversion Questions

 

Commentary and Question: I have been reading the Interfaith Marriage Website and it has been extremely helpful. I am about to get engaged to a man who is Greek Orthodox. I am baptized Lutheran but my family is not religious. Religion and faith was not a big part of my growing up. I feel like I have had something missing from my life. I met my boyfriend 2.5 years ago and have attended church events with him at a Greek Orthodox church. I felt welcomed and a sense of a belonging. My boyfriend has not asked me to convert and I have decided that I want to do this, not only for him but for myself and our future children. I was wondering if you could give me more guidance or if I could possibly phone you?

Answer: I am pleased you've discovered a faith tradition that feels like a good fit for you. I endorse your decision, but not because you may decide to switch to Greek Orthodoxy. The real reason has more to do with my research and what couples like you have taught me over the years. Particularly, with respect to becoming a single church family, the research indicates the following:

 

1. When it's possible, couples should consider this option because it will make their lives simpler.

 

2. Such a decision has a positive impact on a couple's religious and spiritual development as well as on nuclear family stability.

 

3. Such a decision is positively correlated with their future children's religious and spiritual development.

 

Since you are already baptized in the Name of the Holy Trinity, you will not have to be re-baptized. Instead, you'll likely be introduced to the faith and eventually Chrismated. The priest who prepares you will help you understand the steps you’ll need to take that lead to Chrismation.

 

Finally, I suggest you discuss your decision with your boyfriend and then consider contacting the local priest for additional guidance. Along the way, if you have additional questions, we could setup a phone appointment to discuss any related concerns and questions.

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Subjects: Cohabitation, Conversion and Marriage

Commentary and Question: Hi there. I have been living with my boyfriend for over two years. We are considering marriage. My boyfriend is Greek Orthodox, but I am not. I would like to know more about the Greek Church and what I might need to do if I decide to become Greek Orthodox. Can you provide some direction?

 

Answer: There are a number of resources that provide an excellent overview of the Orthodox Church. I usually suggest the following resource:  Guide to Greek Traditions and Customs in America, by Marilyn Rouvelas. This resource is very readable and contains a good overview of Greek traditions and customs as well as the Orthodox Church’s faith and worship. It is available on Amazon.com.

Regarding conversion and marriage preparation, here are a few steps and guidelines that should help.

 

Once you are engaged, I suggest you both make an appointment with a local Greek Orthodox priest. He will outline the process and answer any questions you might have related to conversion and marriage.

 

At minimum, before you can get married in the Greek Orthodox Church your boyfriend must be in good standing with his faith tradition and you must be baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity and in water.

 

If you are not baptized, the priest will explain the preparation process that leads up to baptism.

 

If you are baptized, but desire to become Orthodox, the priest will outline the process that will help you convert.

 

If you are baptized and do not desire to convert, the priest will outline the process you must follow to get married in the Greek Orthodox Church. Before dismissing conversion outright, I would urge you to consider converting. Such a step usually has a positive effect on personal, couple and family religious and spiritual well-being.

 

After these initial steps and decisions are behind you, the priest will provide guidelines to help you both get married in the Orthodox Church. These guidelines will include (1) premarital preparation, (2) the necessary paperwork, and (3) the many particulars/details related to your wedding.

 

You should also know that these steps generally take somewhere between 2 – 6 months to complete. Write me back if you have additional questions or concerns.

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Subject: Catholic and Greek Orthodox Engaged Couple

Question: I am Catholic and my fiancé is Greek. We are thinking about getting married in the Greek Church. Can we have both a Greek Orthodox priest and a Catholic priest participate in the service?

 

Answer: Participation of non-Orthodox clergy in the Orthodox Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is not permitted. Non-Orthodox clergy may attend the Orthodox ceremony and offer a benediction to the couple as well as prayerful words of exhortation.

 

When you consult with the Greek Orthodox priest, if you are interesting in having your priest attend, inform the Greek orthodox priest that you would like your priest to attend and offer a benediction after the wedding service. The Greek Orthodox priest will confer with your priest and extend an invitation.

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Extended Family Challenges

 

Commentary and Questions: Father, you have not heard from me for some time. Several years ago I wrote to you for advice related to my son and his girlfriend. If you remember, I informed you that they were having some serious issues related to their religious backgrounds: she belonged to an old calendar church with very traditional beliefs that was very rule oriented that my son wasn’t comfortable with. Since I wrote you, the couple broke up as a result of extended family pressure. Anyway, after a number of months passed, I decided to write her. We got together and aired our feelings and thoughts. Needless to say, our son was not accepting of this, but eventually my meeting permitted the couple to reconnect and one good thing led to another. Today they are engaged, and she plans to convert. I hope your heart lightens as a result of this news as did ours. That stated, we still must pray for these two Orthodox churches to somehow begin talking and reunite. Many blessings upon you and your family this blessed New Year. Your thoughts?

Answer: Thank you for sharing this blessed news with me. I pray the couple finds happiness and continued peace on their marital journey. Going forward, I also pray that these few observations remain in your thoughts.

 

1. As matters settle, your son’s fiancé must continue to try and make things right between her and her parents. Furthermore, she must always take the lead and your son must always stand in the background supporting her.

 

2. You must do all you can to be sympathetic, while also doing all you can to facilitate their reconciliation. Active listening, Christ-centered support, heart-to-heart discussions when the couple are receptive are some examples of what you can do.

 

3. As a parent, try to empathize with Angie's parents. I suspect her father is feeling betrayed and her mother has ambivalent feelings and thoughts.

 

It is hoped that in God's good time the couple will be blessed with children. When the children arrive, the grandchildren may open hearts and change family dynamics. Until then, all involved parties should do what they can to avoid fanning the flames and fueling the fire. In these cases, I believe that only God's mercy, love and forgiveness can soften hearts.

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