The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony at Saint Steven's Cathedral

PREPARING FOR THE SACRAMENT OF MARRIAGE
We as a parish rejoice in the love that you, as a couple, share for one another and the commitment that has been made to bring you to this day in preparation for your marriage.  Your decision to be married in the Church is an indication that the Christian faith and the sacramental life of the Church are important to you.  In the eyes of the Church, marriage is the sacramental union between a man and a woman that is used in the Bible as the image of God’s faithful love for ancient Israel (Isaiah 54; Jeremiah 3; Ezekiel 16) and Christ’s sacrificial relationship to the Church (Ephesians 5:22-33). Jesus Himself, together with His mother the Theotokos and the disciples attended and blessed a wedding in Cana of Galilee, performing His first miracle, which assisted in the celebration of that event (John 2:1-11).  When we say that Christian marriage is a sacrament, we use that word to convey the depths of the bond you are about to enter into: As Christians, the sacrament of marriage is your oath of loyalty unto death to each other and - as a couple - your oath of loyalty unto death to our Lord Jesus Christ.  Christian marriage is intended to be a sign of God’s presence and love in this fallen and broken world.

COORDINATING YOUR WEDDING 
Our office staff will assist you with the necessary forms.  They will work with you in all matters pertaining to your wedding, including setting the date, scheduling meetings with our Cathedral Dean, Fr. Nicholas Ceko, preparing the necessary church documents and collecting all necessary fees.  Please feel free to ask them any questions you may have regarding your marriage here at Saint Steven's Cathedral.

One of our wedding coordinators will be assigned to your wedding and will lead you through your wedding rehearsal and be with you on your wedding day.  She will put you at ease as she coordinates your procession and assists you in any way possible.  The fee for this service is $100.00.

SETTING THE DATE 
A couple desiring to be married should first contact the church office to schedule an appointment with the Dean. According to the official policies of the Serbian Orthdoox Church, weddings may not be celebrated during the fasting seasons or the major feast days of our Church: 

This is in keeping with our ancient way of celebrating the Christian mystery in worship and exceptions can be made only rarely, in extreme circumstances, with the permission of the bishop.

Because marriage is a sacrament, weddings cannot be celebrated in a spiritual vacuum.  This, therefore, presupposes that:

1.    at least one of the couple to be married is an Orthodox Christian, baptized and /or chrismated in the Church, committed to Christ and His Church and an active member of the parish for at least a year prior to the date of the wedding; and

2.  the intended spouse, if not Orthodox, be a Christian baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as commanded by the Lord ( Matthew 28:19).

Because of the sacramental nature of the marriage bond (in which a couple not only pledge their love for each other but also their love for Christ) a wedding between an Orthodox Christian and a non-Christian may not be celebrated in the Church. 

NECESSARY PAPERS AND DOCUMENTS
The following documentation is needed to insure that your wedding will meet the criteria established by the Church and local civil authorities:
1. verification of the baptism and church membership of the Orthodox spouse;
2. verification of the baptism of the non-Orthodox spouse in a Christian community that baptizes in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (for example, the Roman Catholic and, traditionally, mainline Protestant churches such as the Lutheran and Episcopalian communities);
3. and a civil marriage license. 

Also, please note that because a civil license carries a time limit your civil license should be secured less than three months prior to the desired date of the wedding.
 
IN CASE OF PRIOR MARRIAGES
If either of the parties has been previously married, the death certificate of the deceased spouse or the civil divorce decree issued by the state must be presented to the dean.  If the prior marriage was celebrated in the Orthodox Church and ended in divorce, then an ecclesiastical divorce decree must also be presented.
 
THE WEDDING PARTY 
The First Witness who will participate sacramentally in the service by exchanging the rings that form an integral part of the marriage rite - must be an Orthodox Christian. The Second Witness, if not an Orthodox Christian, may, upon approval of the bishop, be a Christian from another Confession, however, must have been baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as commanded by the Lord (Matthew 28:19).

THE BRIDAL DRESS AND ATTENDANTS’ GOWNS 
Care should be taken in selecting the bride’s dress.  Since the wedding crowns are an integral part of the wedding ceremony, headpieces must not interfere with the proper placing of the crowns on the brides’ head.  The bridal gown and attendant’s dresses should also exercise a decorum befitting a Church ceremony. Sholdiers are to be covered, either as part of the dress or with shawls.

NECESSARY ITEMS FOR THE CELEBRATION OF THE SERVICE
Among the items necessary to celebrate one’s marriage in the Church are the following:
1. A pair of rings
2. A pair of candles.
3. A scarf to tie the hands of the bride and groom together.

Some couples also choose to provide a silver or gold chalice or "common cup," used at the ceremony.  These latter items are optional for the couple as the parish can provide them if necessary. 

MUSIC
The Cathedral Choir may be hired to sing for Weddings. A separate form and fee is necessary to secure thier services.  

A vocalist other than the chanter may sing prior to the beginning of the service, during or just before the processional.  We maintain a list of vocalists who have sung for Orthodox Christian weddings here at St. Steven's Cathedral and if you like, we will give you those recommendations.   As with all music sung at the wedding service, it must clearly reflect our Christian heritage and must be drawn from the Scriptures or the hymns of the Church.  Again, if there are any questions, please consult the pastor. Each vocalist establishes his or her own fee and you would pay him or her directly.

VISITING CLERGY
Guest clergy may participate in a wedding at at the Cathedral. Canonically, it is the responsibility of the priest where the wedding is taking place to extend an invitation to any and all visiting clergy. Orthodox Christian clergymen in communion with the Serbian Orthodox Church are welcome to participate in the celebration of sacraments with the blessings of our dean.

Non-Orthodox clergymen from other Christian communities may not take part in the celebration of the sacrament of marriage per se. Clergy from other Christian confessions may be acknowledged at the conclusion of the wedding service and invited forward to the solea where they may offer a brief congratulatory address to the couple.  

PHOTOGRAPHY AND VIDEOTAPING 
Photographs of your wedding are permitted but should not in any way impede or distract from the celebration of the sacrament.  Photographers should not be conspicuous and should not use a flash during the services.  The same principle applies if you plan to have your wedding videotaped.

PREPARATION FOR MARRIAGE 
In your meetings with the priest, he will discuss the sacramental nature of the marriage bond, the Christian understanding of marriage as it is expressed in the Scriptures and the marriage service itself.  In addition, preparation for marriage at the Cathedral includes 6 sessions to help support you in the process of preparing for your marriage. In cases where one of the spouses is not Orthodox, the couple should plan to attend one of the many educational classes held at the Cathedral in order to be firmly grounded in the Orthodox Christian understanding of life. 

HALL USAGE AND WEDDING RECEPTIONS AT SAINT STEVEN'S SOCIAL HALL
All of the information here concerns your marriage in the Church, the Sacrament of Matrimony. If you also desire to use the Cathedral's social hall for your reception, you will need to make arrangments with the Cathedral's event manager and Catering Committee. Only members of Saint Steven's parish have hall usage privileges. For more information about hall usage, please contact the Cathedral office at 626.284.9100.

A NOTE TO THE BRIDE AND GROOM
To those spouses who are Orthodox: there is no substitute for Jesus Christ in maintaining the dignity and sanctity of the marriage bond.  For the celebration of your marriage in the Church to be real, you must live out, in subsequent years, the Christian commitment that you will make on the day of your wedding.  The Sacrament is not a one day event, it is a lifestyle wherein the husband and wife live together in the bond of love, united to Christ and to each other in every aspect of family life.

To those spouses who are not Orthodox: you are always welcome here at Saint Steven's Cathedral. Please note that your marriage in the Church does not automatically grant you membership in the Orthodox Church.  If you desire to become an Orthodox Christian this must be your decision, made after much prayer and thought, in consultation with the dean, and never for the sake of convenience.  To both of you: the Lord and this parish are here to help, support and sustain you in your marriage bond and the life of faith to which we are called as Christians.  May the Lord grant you both many years together in peace and oneness of mind and heart!


Useful forms and Documents in planning a Wedding at Saint Stevens' Serbian Orthodox Cathedral:

The Orthodox Sacrament of Matrimony: An Explanation

Marriage record form for Bride and Groom

Cathedral Choir form for Weddings

Cathedral Hall Usage for Weddings

Cathedral Catering Information and Contact