Holy Matrimony

Holy Matrimony

But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; and the two shall be one flesh: so then they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder — Mark 10:6–9

What is marriage?

In the sacrament of marriage, a man and a woman are blessed by God so that they can join their lives to one another, become ‘one flesh’, and start a family together. By having their relationship sanctified in the Church, the couple are not merely joined to one another, but to one another in Christ. While human love is limited, the love of God is unlimited, and it is this love the grace of the Holy Spirit given to us in Christian marriage allows us to ‘tap into’.

During the service, the couple are crowned with wreaths, which are first and foremost crowns of martyrdom. The Lord tells us that there is no greater love than for someone to lay down their life for another (John 15:13), which is precisely what Jesus did for us on the Cross. This is why we also hear these words read during the service: ‘Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it’ (Ephesus 5:25). The crowns, then, symbolise how husband and wife must lay down their lives for one another in love; they must cease living for themselves and begin to live for their spouse. The couple also drink from a common cup, symbolising how they must share all the joys and pains of life together from that point on.

How can I book a wedding at St Andrew’s?

If you are considering getting married at St Andrew’s, please give us a call or send us an e-mail in order to arrange a date.

Once you have a date, the couple will need to come to the church to fill in an application form (to be signed by them, two witnesses, and the priest) that is then submitted for approval by the Archdiocese. The application form has to be accompanied by a certificate of non-impediment from the future bride and groom — certifying that you have not previously been married in the Orthodox Church — which is usually obtained from the church where you were baptised. The certificates of non-impediment are valid for a period of 3 months.

Please note that the Archdiocese requires an administrative fee of £60 for the application form, and £20 for each certificate of non-impediment. Once processed, the Archdiocese will issue a certificate of marriage, which is filled out on the wedding day.

Civil registration

St Andrew’s is a registered building, meaning that we are authorised to conduct the civil registration of the marriage during the religious ceremony. This costs £50. If you wish to have the marriage registered at church, both the bride and groom need to contact their local registry offices in order to give notice of the marriage. Notice has to be given 28 days before the marriage takes place, but be aware that it can occasionally take several weeks to get an appointment, so it is advisable to do this a few months in advance.

If you do not wish to have the civil registration conducted at church, the alternative is to have a civil wedding at a registry office some time before the church ceremony.

Please note that we are not legally allowed to marry anyone in the church without the civil registration being conducted either before or during the religious ceremony.

Who can marry in the Orthodox Church?

In order to marry in the Church, you must be an Orthodox Christian in good standing. Marriage is not simply a blessing for two people to live together, but is a path to salvation. Marriage is about two people joining together to embark on a shared journey and work toward a common goal; and the goal of marriage is to grow closer to God. It is therefore important that the person you marry shares that same goal. For this reason, the Church does not perform mixed marriages between Orthodox Christians and members of other religions (or those of no faith).  The Œcumenical Patriarchate does, however, as an act of oikonomía (pastoral exception), permit mixed marriages between Orthodox Christians and other Christians belonging to mainstream Trinitarian denominations (e.g., Roman Catholics or Anglicans) on the condition that any children resulting from the marriage are baptised and raised in the Orthodox Church.

‘Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness and what communion hath light with darkness?’ — 2 Corinthians 6:14

Who can act as sponsors at an Orthodox wedding?

The sponsors at an Orthodox wedding must themselves be Orthodox Christians in good standing. They can belong to any canonical Orthodox Christian jurisdiction or parish. A non-Orthodox person may act as witness for the civil registration, however.

What do I need on my wedding day?

In addition to the abovementioned paperwork, the couple will need their wedding bands for the betrothal service and their wreaths (crowns) for the crowning service. They will also need two white candles — either smaller candles to be held by the couple during the service or, more commonly in the Greek tradition, larger candles placed on either side of the table at the front of the church — as well as a bottle of ecclesiastical wine and a cup or glass from which the couple will drink during the service.

Is the wedding ceremony conducted in Greek or English?

Weddings can be conducted entirely in English, entirely in Greek, or in half-and-half depending on the wishes of the couple.

Can I play music during the ceremony?

Playing music — whether live or recorded — inside the church is not permitted.

Is there parking available at the church?

Most weddings take place on Saturdays and Sundays when there are no parking restrictions on single yellow lines or residents’ parking bays on either side of the church. Thus, there is usually ample parking available.

When can weddings not take place?

Weddings may not take place on the following days:

  1. Wednesdays and Fridays
  2. September 14 and August 29
  3. November 15 – December 25
  4. January 5–6
  5. Great Lent and Holy Week
  6. The eve and day of great feasts (e.g., Pentecost).
  7. Monday after Sunday of All Saints – June 29
  8. August 1–15

Divorce and remarriage

‘What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder‘ — Matthew 19:6

Our Lord says clearly in the Gospel that the only valid reason for divorce is adultery (Matthew 5:31–32), to which St Paul also adds abandonment (1 Corinthians 7:15). In other words, only when the marriage has already been dissolved for all intents and purposes is it permissible for the innocent party to seek an official acknowledgement of that fact. The Church, then, cannot be said to allow for divorce or permit the dissolution of a marriage as such; the breakup of a marriage is always a tragedy, always a fall, and no one should ever enter into a marriage thinking divorce is a possible option should things not ‘work out’.

‘For I hate divorce’, says the LORD, the God of Israel. ‘He who divorces his wife covers his garment with violence’, says the LORD of Hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit and do not break faith — Malachi 2:16

However, as with all other sins, the Church always seeks to find ways to guide the sinner to repentance, to raise them up and to give them a new chance. For this reason, the Church in her compassion does not abandon her children in their sin, but will allow for remarriage where appropriate as an act of oikonomía (pastoral exception). The rite of the second marriage, however, is penitential rather than celebratory in character.

While the parish priest must make every effort to reconcile a struggling couple and avert divorce, petitions for an ecclesiastical divorce are not dealt with on a parish level but should be directed to the Ecclesiastical Court of the Archdiocese.

In extreme cases, if a partner is violent, abusive or refuses to support their family, this can also be considered forms of abandonment. Again, the abusive partner has already ‘dissolved’ the marriage through their behaviour.