The Orthodox wedding
For the Orthodox Church, marriage is a very important sacrament that unites a man and a woman in an indissoluble way. The modern Orthodox wedding ritual, based on ancient traditions, takes place in a single celebration in which are celebrated engagement and coronation.
The Orthodox wedding rite
The couple is accompanied to the wedding by two witnesses who attest their presence and the freedom of the marriage bond, or that the spouses are not forced to marry or are not already engaged or married. By tradition, the witnesses are always an already married couple, thus they take on the task of guiding the younger couple in their married life.
Despite the charm of this tradition, the witnesses do not need to be married, they are often close friends or family members of the couple.
The traditions of the Orthodox ceremony: engagement and coronation
The function of the engagement consists in solemnizing the marriage vows and begins when the two spouses present themselves in the church in front of the priest, followed by the two witnesses. The man, in formal suit, stands on the right and the woman on the left. The priest blesses them three times and gives each of them a lighted candle, with which the couple will approach the altar.
Above it are two rings, one in gold for him, and one in silver for her. It is the priest himself who puts the rings on the ring finger of the couple. The wedding rings are then exchanged repeatedly to symbolize the enrichment that binds the couple every day of their lives.
The coronation takes its name from the crowns that are placed on the head of the couple during the ceremony. After the engagement, in fact, the spouses and witnesses head towards the tetrapodion, that is a small cupboard, where a cup of wine and two crowns are placed. The couple settles on a carpet and the priest joins the hands of this, tying them with a ribbon, as a symbol of their union.
After the bride and groom declare their free intention to join in marriage, the priest says three prayers and places the crowns on their head. Crowns, like rings, are also exchanged three times. At the end of the ceremony, the priest hands a blessed cup of wine to the couple, who take a sip. Immediately afterwards the couple proceeds to walk three times in the church, as if it were a procession. Finally, the priest unties the ribbons that bind the hands of the couple. This is the moment in which “the groom can kiss the bride” and the end of the ritual.
Organizing an Orthodox wedding in Italy
Orthodox marriage is recognized by the Italian state only in some cases. If the couple is made up of foreign citizens, they must follow the bureaucratic process of the Italian civil marriage.
To the documents normally requested (from a religious point of view the baptismal certificate is sufficient), they will add the nulla osta issued by their consulate. The civil validity of the Orthodox union in Italy can occur before or simultaneously with religious marriage if the minister of worship is recognized by the state.