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Russian Orthodox Church wedding traditions

“A family is seen as “minor Church” in the Christian doctrine. The purpose of forming a family is not only procreation. The primary purpose concerns mutual help required for finding salvation. I know that some of the clergy demand that those parishioners who are no longer of childbearing age refrain from having marital relations. This viewpoint is erroneous. The marital relations establish a strong bond. The fathers of the Church said: ‘The marriage is fair and a marital bed is not filthy,’” said Professor Alexei Osipov at the Moscow Seminary of the Moscow Patriarchate.

“The Church teaches about a single marriage as being the norm,” said Mikhail Prokopenko, head of communications service with the Department of Foreign Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate. ‘What therefore God hath joined them together, let not man put asunder.’

(St. Mark, 10.9). The above words of Christ are repeated for several times during a church weeding to remind that neither the spouses nor other people shall have the right to destroy marriage.”

In the meantime, divorce as an extreme measure is allowed only in case the spouses commit deeds which are determined by the Church as grounds for divorce.

What is the attitude of the Church toward a civil marriage?

It would be wrong to characterize cohabitation as a civil marriage. A civil marriage is a form of marriage which is concluded in compliance with civil regulations. Some of the clergy refuse persons living in a civil marriage to receive communion. They believe such a living arrangement is fornication. According to a document adopted by the Synod, “the Church stresses the importance of a church marriage. However, pastors should be reminded that the Church holds a civil marriage in honor.

As regards marriages concluded between members and non-members of the Russian Orthodox Church, the following quotation from St. Paul serves as an official guideline for the clergy: “An unbelieving husband shall be hallowed by his wife the believer, and an unbelieving wife shall be hallowed by his husband the believer.”

In accordance with the Russian church wedding traditions, a groom and bride should go to confession and receive communion on the eve of the nuptials. The mystery of nuptials comprises two parts: a betrothal and a nuptial benediction. The wedding rings symbolize the infinity of marriage. The candles handed to the newlyweds by a priest are the symbol of purity and chastity, the embodiment of joy transpired by virtue of an encounter of two people in love. The candles are not part of a wedding ceremony if marriage is concluded for the second or third time. A nuptial benediction commences once a betrothal ceremony is complete and the prayers are read. The verses (5.20-30) from Chapter 5 of the Epistle of the Paul the Apostle to the Ephesians are read during the nuptial benediction.

The last line of the final verse – “and the wife see that she reverence her husband” – refers to fear a wife must have lest she should afflict her husband one with pain and sorrow, and disturb the unity of the soul and the body. Likewise, a husband must be afraid of losing love, that is to say – the presence of God.

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