The Service of BetrothalThe Service of the Betrothal focuses on the rings. Many of the rituals which take place during this part of the ceremony are repeated three times to signify the connection with the holy trinity. Much of the information available on the Internet can be a bit contradictory on the meaning and origins of this part of the ceremony. Santa Barbara Greek Orthodox Church has a helpful explanation of the marriage symbols and the events contained in the ceremony. The actual rituals are described and a religious meaning is explained for couples to gain a deeper understanding of the Eastern Orthodox wedding ceremony.
The Ceremony of the Sacrament of MarriageThe second part of the service consists of the ceremony of The Sacrament of Marriage. The bride and groom's right hands are joined during this part of the service and will not be separated until the conclusion of the service. Many holy rituals are performed during this part of the ceremony, including the beautiful crowning and and the highly symbolic Ceremonial walk. Yasou provides a very clear and organized article on the order and meaning of the different parts of an Eastern Orthodox wedding service. Another helpful site is St. Paul's Church. Here you will several helpful explanations for planning your wedding, an explanation of the symbolism behind the ceremony and other important wedding details.
Eastern Orthodox Wedding VowsThere is no exchange of vows between a bride and groom in the Eastern Orthodox wedding ceremony. A bride and groom are not married by a priest, but considered married by God and therefore, wedding vows between the bridal couple are not part of the service. An Eastern Orthodox wedding is a religious covenant and not a legal one, so any type of personal vow between a bride and groom would be unnecessary. Personal vows such as those written by the couple are generally not included.
Eastern Orthodox Wedding ResourcesUnfortunately for Eastern Orthodox bridal couples, very little information is readily available in book form. Many wedding books cover a few basics, but they do not offer they type of wedding planning advice which is available for couples of other faiths. When considering this type of marriage, the best place to get any reliable information is a priest in the church. The traditions and rituals of this type of wedding have their beginnings in the centuries-old beliefs of the congregation and clergy and few people or resources outside the church can give reliable information. While the basic order of the ceremony can be found, the profound meanings behind these elements is best left to those who have devoted their lives to understanding them. A meeting with an Eastern Orthodox priest will answer any questions you have about your wedding ceremony and the information you receive will be both accurate and reliable.
Eastern Orthodox weddings are beautiful and symbolic ceremonies, filled with the rich tradition and scripture of centuries of practice. While the exchanging of vows between the bride and groom is not a part of this service, the rituals which celebrate this type of union are deeply meaningful to watch and reflect a special connection to married life. Finding accurate and detailed information on the ceremony is of the utmost importance as you make your plans. Speaking directly with the priest who will be leading your ceremony is by far the best way to truly understand the deep meaning and sacred tradition which make up an Eastern Orthodox wedding ceremony.