How a “Byzantine wedding” is conducted
After the Orthros and immediately before the Divine Liturgy starts, the couple enters the church, escorted by the priest. They stand before the bishop’s throne and the betrothal begins. At the end of the betrothal service the couple receives the blessing of the bishop (or priest in his absence), and proceeds toward the icon of the Lord, at the singing of the hymn “Today Salvation.”
The Great Litany is that of the wedding. Before each antiphon (Tais Presviais, Soson Imas, and that before the Small Entrance) the couple goes and stands before the Beautiful Gate. After the Apolytikia, the Crowning takes place.
During the chanting of “Agios O Theos,” the couple moves before the icon of the holy Theotokos. The Apostolic and Gospel Readings are those of the Wedding (if on Sunday, the designated readings for that day are also read).
After the readings, they venerate the Holy Gospel and stand before the Beautiful Gate, while the Gospel is interpreted and an exhortation is given to the couple and to all the people.
Before the Great Entrance the couple moves again before the icon of the Theotokos. At the chanting of “Eii to Onoma Kyriou” the “Dance of Isaiah” takes place, and wedding and Divine Liturgy are concluded.
The whole ceremony lasted exactly two hours, which is not long, considering it was a hierarchal Liturgy.
Fr. John Meyendorff suggests the following order:1
Clearly, the betrothal service is to be celebrated separately on a previous day, possibly on the eve of the wedding itself. The crowning would then take place during the regular Sunday liturgy according to the following:
- the usual exclamation: “Blessed is the Kingdom”
- the Great Litany with the additional petitions from the crowning service
- the three wedding prayers, each followed by one of the antiphons of the liturgy (however, the antiphons may also be omitted, after the pattern of the liturgy celebrated in conjunction with Vespers on the eve of great feasts)
- the crowning
- the Little Entrance, the Trisagion and the Scripture readings followed by the rest of the Divine Liturgy
- after taking Holy Communion, the bridegroom and bride would also partake in the Common Cup, blessed with the appropriate prayers
- the triple circular procession (“Rejoice, O Isaiah”)
- the removal of crowns and the end of the service
He then offers the following comments: This order would not prolong the liturgy for more than ten minutes and would give to the crowning service its true and original place in the liturgical action of the whole Church. This service would, of course, not be performed in cases of “mixed marriages” or “remarriages.” In those cases, the joint partaking of Holy Communion being excluded, the service would be celebrated separately from the Divine Liturgy.
Prof. Ioannis Fountoulis proposes the following order:2
The priest wears all his vestments and does the preparation (προσκομιδή).
If Matins precede, after the apolytikion he does the apolysis.
The couple is waiting in the narthex or in the back of the church, where the priest receives them and performs the Betrothal, without the last prayer “Lord God, who accompanied the servant...”
At the chanting of “Blessed are all who fear the Lord” (Psalm 127), he enters with the couple and moves to the solea where the table is prepared.
From there he intones “Blessed is the Kingdom…”, does the petitions, the first and the second small prayer of the Wedding service (omitting the two longer prayers “O God the most pure…” and “Blessed are You, O Lord our God...”), does the crowning and intones “O Lord our God crown them with glory and honor.”
After that follow the prayer of the Entrance, the Entrance, the Apolytikia and the Trisagion.
The Readings are those of Marriage, if it is a weekday, but if on Sunday, first of the Sunday and then of the Wedding.
Ektenia, and afterwards the prayer “O Lord our God, who in Your saving dispensation...”
The Cherubic Hymn and the rest of the Divine Liturgy.
At the “With fear of God....” the newlyweds receive Holy Communion first.
After the “Prayer Behind the Ambon” the priest exits to the solea or to the middle of the church, blesses the common cup, offers it to the newlyweds, as is customary, followed by the “sacred dance” and the final prayers.
“Blessed is the name of the Lord...” (during which the priest returns to the normal position) and the dismissal.
- John Meyendorff, Marriage, An Orthodox Perspective, p. 43 (SVSP, 2000,3R)
- See Liturgics, an Introduction to the Divine Worship (Thessaloniki, 2002)