The following directions, from the Guidelines for Clergy (Orthodox Church in America, 1998), address various issues surrounding the celebration of Marriage and are considered normative for our practice at HTOC.
The Church’s vision of marriage is as an icon of the Trinitarian life of God Himself. In such a union, human love and desire for companionship become a love pervaded and sanctified by Divine Grace. God unites in body and spirit, heart and mind. Love unites in such a way that two lives become one life in perfect harmony. Such love implies a relationship in marriage that is total in character. To live up to its high calling, the Christian family must be firmly established in the faith. See: On Marriage, Encyclical Letter, Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America, 1976.
- The priest must make sincere and determined efforts through preaching and teaching to make his parishioners aware that the Mystery of Marriage takes place within the context of the total life of the parish.
- The rector must seek to know who among his parishioners intend to marry and must make himself available for guidance and advice. His responsibilities include instructing the couple on the Orthodox Christian teaching of marriage. This should take place well before wedding plans are made so that the couple may understand and follow the Church’s teaching and discipline on the Mystery of Marriage.
- Counseling and teaching should include the following:
• Procreation of children is not in itself the sole purpose of marriage; nevertheless, marriage presupposes a desire to have children. The couple should pray for God to grant them the blessings of childbirth and wise nurturing of the family.
• "Let marriage be held in honor, and let the marriage bed be undefiled" (Hebrews 13:4).Sexual union is one of the blessings of marriage. The priest should remind the couple that they belong to each other. Couples may abstain from sexual union for a season by mutual consent, but should be made aware that refraining entirely from this act may result in unnecessary difficulties in their marriage.
- The priest should make known to his faithful that before setting a date, renting a hall, or considering any activity related to the social aspect of the marriage day, a couple planning marriage must first seek the blessing, guidance, and advice of their parish priest.
- The couple must respect the seasons, times, and days during which marriage may be blessed. The priest must also uphold the teaching of the Church in regard to these things. The most appropriate time for a wedding is Sunday, following the celebration of the Divine Liturgy.
- Marriages are not to be celebrated on:
• evenings before Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the year,
• Saturday evenings throughout the year,
• evenings of the twelve Great Feasts or patronal feast of the parish,
• during the course of all the fasts,
• the Great Forty Day Fast, Apostles’ Fast, Dormition Fast, and Nativity Fast,
• from Sunday of Meatfare to the Sunday of Cheesefare,
• during the course of Bright Week,
• from the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord (Dec. 25) through the Feast of the Synaxis of St. John the Baptist (Jan. 7),
• on the evening and day of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist (Aug. 29), and
• on the evening and day of the Elevation of the Cross (Sept. 14).
- Because marriages are normally celebrated on Sunday after the Divine Liturgy, the request to hold the ceremony on a Saturday requires a written petition for consent to the diocesan hierarch by the rector of the church where the marriage is to be performed.
The couple must be exhorted to attend the Divine Liturgy on the following Sunday so that the marriage can be sealed by the reception of the Holy Eucharist.
If permission is given for a Saturday wedding, it shall be celebrated no later than a time of day established by the hierarch so that the priest may serve the Vigil or Vesper service.
- The ritual of the marriage ceremony is to be celebrated in an Orthodox Church building. Halls, gardens, and other places are not appropriate.
- The priest, as a pastor of souls, must also be available to counsel those already married, who are experiencing difficulties in their married status.
- The priest is responsible for entering into the metrical book the required information.
A. Mixed Marriages
A mixed marriage is a marriage between an Orthodox Christian and a non-Orthodox Christian who is baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and who confesses the unique Lordship of Jesus Christ. The Church tolerates this because of her pastoral concern and love for the faithful. Thus, a mixed marriage is not the norm, but is permitted in the hope that the non-Orthodox spouse will seek entrance into the Church.
- A petition for a mixed marriage must be submitted to the diocesan hierarch for his blessing.
- In a mixed marriage, the Orthodox partner should not consent to have children of the union baptized outside the Orthodox Church as a pre-marriage agreement.
- Toleration of a mixed marriage does not extend to marriage between an Orthodox Christian and a non-Christian person, such as a Christian Scientist, Jehovah’s Witness, Jew, Mormon, Moslem, Unitarian, etc.
- Active participation on non-Orthodox clergy in this service, as in all the mysteries of the Orthodox Church, is not allowed. Conversely, Orthodox clergy may not participate in Non-Orthodox services and rites.
B. Second Marriage and Marriage Between Divorced Persons
- The Orthodox norm for those who marry is one marriage. A second marriage is tolerated under certain conditions. A third marriage is extended under certain precise circumstances.
- The Church does not grant divorces. However, it recognizes that because of human weaknesses and sin marriages sometimes disintegrate and are ended by civil decree (divorce).
- In her mercy and wisdom, the Church may grant permission to remarry through the diocesan hierarch. Petition is made to the hierarch through the parish priest. A clear statement of repentance from the divorced party, whether or not he/she is considered the culpable one in the divorce, and a clear statement that the reason he/she desires to enter a second marriage is that it is considered necessary for his/her salvation is to be addressed to the diocesan hierarch through the parish priest. (See: Synodal Affirmations on Marriage, Family, Sexuality, and Sanctity of Life, Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America, Tenth All-American Council, 1992, page 5.)
- Under no circumstances can there be a fourth marriage.
- The Order of Service:
• If one party of the marriage is being married for the first time (even if that person is not Orthodox), the order of the first marriage is used.
• If both the partners are divorced and/or widowed, the order for the second marriage is used.
C. Marriage Outside of the Orthodox Church
- Orthodox Christians who marry outside the Orthodox Church thereby exclude their marital life from the life of the Church, exclude themselves from participation in the Holy Eucharist, and therefore exclude themselves from full membership in the Church.
- Such persons, after a period of penance, may be restored to Eucharistic fellowship by recommendation from the priest and on the approval of the hierarch.
- Normally, such an act of restoration includes the confirmation of the marriage through a rite approved by the hierarch.
- Priests are reminded that converts to Holy Orthodoxy are not to be remarried when they embrace the Orthodox faith. See: On Marriage, Encyclical.