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Frequently Asked Questions about Wedding Crowns

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Question: "I am writing to you to ask a question about the crowns in marriage. I am a Greek Orthodox and we were married in the church twenty three years ago. We value our marriage deeply. My husband has been in a wheelchair for the past six years. I had to leave our bedroom this past week for his comfort, (hospital bed). I was told by someone that was very upsetting to me that I have stepped on my crowns by leaving our bedroom. Is this true? I am looking forward to your response."

Answer: Please ignore the counsel you received. If anything, in making this decision you honored your wedding crowns.

From an Orthodox, Christian perspective, the crowns remind us that we may be called to sacrifice ourselves for the well-being of our partner and marriage. Here is a little more information explaining their meaning which I believe may help you find some peace.

The Crowns

After the couple’s right hands are joined together, the priest will bless their wedding crowns over the Gospel book, then bless the groom with the crowns and recite the following statement three times in front of the couple: “The servant of God _____ is crowned to the servant of God ______, in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Upon completion, he will repeat the process, beginning with the bride while repeating the same words. The priest will then place the wedding crowns on both partner’s heads while chanting a verse from Psalm 8, “O, Lord our God, crown them with glory and honor.” The sponsor will then exchange the crowns three times and place them back on each partner’s head. This is an ancient ritual, perhaps reaching back to the second or third century, yet the use of crowns is a biblical tradition.

The crowns are a sign of victory. Athletes in ancient times received a victory wreath after competing in the same way that Olympians, today, receive a gold medal. St. Paul uses the image of crowns to encourage Christians to struggle to receive “an imperishable wreath as athletes for Christ.” (I Cor. 9:24-25) In this way, the crowns are an expression of the divine reward for faithfulness to Christ in this life. Crowns are associated with those who give up their life for Christ. In the account of the 40 martyrs mentioned in the second prayer before the crowning, crowns descended upon each of them just before they offered their lives up to Christ.

The use of crowns in marriage reflects the church’s understanding that marriage is a type of martyrdom, a type of self-sacrifice that is no less a martyrdom than that of the Christians who died for Christ. This is not to say that marriage is a journey of suffering. Note how many references there are, throughout the wedding ceremony, to the couple living in peace, harmony, and happiness. The martyrdom of marriage is a martyrdom of giving up our own way and our own desires out of love for our spouse, and, instead, seeking to serve each other.

“O Lord our God, crown them with glory and honor,” chants the priest, invoking God to send His Holy Spirit upon the couple. In ancient times, monarch’s crowns symbolized their absolute rule over their kingdom. Similarly, in this liturgical ritual, Christ installs the couple over their household as king and queen, with one important difference. Unlike the manipulative, controlling style of rule that many kings and queens personified, this service calls both spouses to rule over their household in a Christ-like manner employing Christian virtues like humility, kindness, patience and self-sacrificial love. Real glory and honor come through this type of self-giving and sacrificial love within married life.

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