The Symbolism of Wedding Crowns in a Greek Orthodox Wedding

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Not only do we have physical crowns in our Service of Crowning, but we also have the mentioning of several crowns throughout the service. Crowns in the wedding service symbolize a couple of different things. They represent: 1) Martyrdom 2) Royalty and 3) Holiness.

What does Martyrdom have to do with marriage? Martyrs are the ones that have so much love for God that when given the choice between denying Christ and face death, they are killed for their unwavering faith. This is the example that married persons are supposed to follow. We are to love our spouse even unto dying for them. It is not always the physical death that is required for this crown, but the death of our self-focused will. We have to put our will aside to be able to allow our spouse’s will to flourish. This is not meant to be a one-way relationship where one spouse gets all they want and the other spouse is the slave, but rather that each becomes slave to the other, both trying to fulfill the will of the other. This is how marriage is to be selfless in love.

Just as the martyrs gave up their will, as they did not fight off their executioners, they trusted in the Lord and he provided them with crowns. The 40 Martyrs of Sebaste are the ones mentioned during the wedding service. These saints were soldiers who were persecuted in their own ranks for being Christians and were made to be naked and gone out on a frozen pond so that they would die. As the story goes, one soldier gave up and came off the lake, but another non-Christian joined the others in the lake with newfound faith and eventual martyrdom after seeing crowns being placed upon the other martyrs heads. As married people, we are called freely to join the lake, and only through this lake of death of self can we attain the potentials of marital bliss and salvation.

Crowns much more easily fit in with the idea of royalty. The Bride and Groom have been “coronated” the King and Queen of their households. They are no longer the princes (sons) and princesses (daughters) of their former kingdom (family), but have rather started a new kingdom.

The crowns are to depict holiness. Like the haloes in our icons, these circular shapes about our head are to remind us to be holy. We pray for the couple to have “a peaceful life, length of days, chastity, love for one another in a bond of peace, offspring long-lived, fair fame by reason of their children, and a crown of glory that does not fade away.”

Lastly, when the spouses are crowned, we pray that they are crowned for each other. They are to be a martyr for each other, to be the king or queen of the other, and to be the example of holiness for each other. With this theology of the crowning, may we pray that God grant the strength to all married couples of the Orthodox Church to fully understand their calling.

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This post was written by Andrew Athanasiou

About Andrew Athanasiou

Andrew is a student of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, located in Brookline, Massachusetts. Andrew is a Masters of Divinity Student who is also a Seminarian. Andrew is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and his knowledge comes from five major sources: Greek Orthodox Seminary; Greek Orthodox Summer Camp; both being taught and teaching in Greek Orthodox Sunday School; and finally further readings and interests in other theological areas.

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