So You Want to Get Married in the Greek Orthodox Church?
What you need to know to get married in the Greek Church
In Greek America, weddings over time have adopted many of the social characteristics of their mainstream American counterparts. But one thing that is clear, the wedding ceremony itself has remained completely and distinctively Greek Orthodox. Like many other features of the Church, it has remained virtually unchanged for centuries. If one thing is clear, Greek weddings are intimately tied to the Church and the elaborate ceremony that takes place.
Although endless planning goes into ensuring that the wedding and reception are perfect down to the smallest detail, a great deal of attention and consideration should also be given to the ceremony as well.
The Greek Orthodox Church has very specific and comparatively strict guidelines for the sacrament of marriage. Before the priest can perform the marriage, these guidelines and criteria need to be well understood in advance to make sure they are met. Careful consideration should be made for these guidelines before the ‘fun’ planning can occur.
This is especially crucial if either the bride or the groom is not Greek Orthodox. As the Greek community in America has grown and assimilated into American society, these marriages are especially common today. This unfortunately creates a bit of a ‘grey-area’ where soon-to-be couples may find themselves with the daunting task of trying to figure out how they fit into the strict practices of the Church.
All of this information, coupled with the advice of family and friends who are ‘just trying to help’ can make things much more confusing. That being said, there are a few common misconceptions held by Greeks and non-Greeks alike that should probably be thrown out there before going any further.
With respect to Greek weddings, there are countless traditions that get passed down from generation to generation, whether they are family traditions or traditions from a particular village or island. While these are very important to the family, traditions cannot be confused with the guidelines that the Church sets forward, as they have to be adhered to.
Another problem comes about with interfaith marriages where one party is not Greek Orthodox. It’s commonly said that the Greek is marrying a ‘non-Greek’, which leads to the question, “Does the non-Greek have to convert to become Greek to marry a Greek in the Greek Church?” When it comes to marriage, the issue is not whether or not you are ‘Greek’, as Greek is the ethnicity. The question instead is whether you are an Orthodox Christian, or even just Christian.
A Greek Orthodox man or woman can get married to a non-Orthodox man or woman providing they are Christian and have been baptized with water in the name of the Holy Trinity. The marriage must also take place in an Orthodox Church by an Orthodox Priest. Marriages in other sister Orthodox Churches (Serbian, Russian, Bulgarian etc.) that are in communion with the Greek Orthodox Church are deemed valid. For example, a Greek Orthodox man can marry a Roman Catholic woman, as long as the marriage is done by an Orthodox priest in an Orthodox Church.
This should serve as an introduction to the role the Church plays in a Greek wedding, after all the celebration afterwards celebrates what happens at the Church. In order to begin preparing for your special day, understanding the unique place the Church holds in Greek culture is absolutely essential.
Categorized in: Greek Wedding Traditions
This post was written by Greek Boston