We have had three weddings in our church. The first one was in August 2006. Tiffany Cravey and Wesley McVey were married at that one. The next one was in April 2007. Ken Cravey married his wife Sue Cravey in that one. They had been married for fifty years, but their wedding was a civil one done by a Justice of the Peace. After fifty years of marriage, they decided to have a church wedding. Our third wedding was in September 2009. Brandon Cravey and Melanie Shoemaker got married at that one.
Orthodox weddings are quite a bit different from Protestant ones. In the Orthodox Church, a man and a woman become engaged in the Church. This service is called the rite of betrothal. In modern practice, this is usually done immediately before the wedding which is called the rite of crowning. The crowns symbolize martyrdom. At an Orthodox wedding, the bride and the groom give themselves to God and each other as crowned martyrs. Jesus said, "This is My commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (St. John 15:12,13) This is the concept that is embodied in the rite of crowning. The bride and the groom are supposed to commit themselves to each other so strongly that they are willing to exemplify toward each other the type of love that Christ spoke of in this passage of Scripture.
This is Tiffany — the first girl to get married in our church at the very first Orthodox Christian wedding in Telfair County, Georgia.
Marriage in the Orthodox Church tradition is supposed to be a permanent relationship that can literally last forever. However, the Church still recognizes the possibility of this relationship being destroyed by sin. So, to some people the Church permits divorce. The Church in its compassion recognizes the frailty of the human condition. So, for some people who are divorced and for those who are widowed, the Church in its economia permits remarriage. However, this second or third wedding is viewed as a concession to human weakness. The service for these remarriages is called the Second Marriage Rite. This service is a very penitential one, not a joyful and happy one. There is no rite of crowning in the Second Marriage Rite. Also, the priest or bishop may even impose a penance on those who remarry after a divorce or the death of one's spouse. There are no fourth marriages in the Orthodox Church.
In order to remain in communion with the Orthodox Church, Orthodox Christians are required to have their weddings done in an Orthodox church by an Orthodox priest. Marriage in the Orthodox Church's tradition is something very special. It is a Sacrament. An Orthodox Christian who refuses to have his or her wedding done in the Orthodox Church is refusing one of the Sacraments of the Church. Such a person is under a penance and is not allowed to take communion until the marriage has been blessed in the Church. We do not say that non-Orthodox weddings are not weddings and that those who are married at them are not married. We just say that their marriages are not sacramentally valid.
Here are some pictures of Brandon and Melanie's wedding, courtesy of Becky Carpenter. They had the happy, joyful one.
The bride, Melanie, is standing in the narthex of the church waiting on Brandon so that they can pledge themselves to each other in the Rite of Betrothal.
In this photo, the bride, the groom, and the sponsors are standing in the narthex for the Rite of Betrothal. In the Orthodox Church, there must be two sponsors who are Orthodox Christians before there can be a wedding. One sponsors the groom. The other sponsors the bride. Ken Cravey sponsored Brandon. Tiffany McVey sponsored Melanie.
This is another picture of the betrothal service.
On this table, the wedding crowns and the wedding chalice are placed. During the Rite of Crowning, both the bride and the groom drink some wine from the same chalice. This is not the wine that is used in the Eucharist.
The Rite of Crowning is done in the nave of the church. We do not call the nave the sanctuary. The sanctuary is that part of the church behind the icon screen. It is where the altar is. People worship in the nave.
The priest places the crown on the head of the groom.
The priest then places another crown on the head of the bride.
In this picture, Melanie drinks from the chalice.
Then, they follow the priest around the table three times.
We will have a slideshow of all the pictures Becky took at the wedding here at a later date.
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