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Explanation of the Coptic Orthodox Wedding Ceremony

By Mark - Posted on 19 November 2008

Each of the acts which you will observe in the Orthodox Ceremony, has special meanings and significance:

The bridegroom waits for the bride at the Church entrance; as Adam was created first and then Eve was brought to him by God (Genesis 2:22).
The bride is always seated at the right hand of the bridegroom referring to power, might and strength; “The right hand of the Lord does valiantly, the right hand of the Lord is exalted” (Psalm 117:15,16).

The candles which the bride’s maid hold throughout the wedding ceremony are like the lamps of the five wise maidens of the Bible, who because they had enough oil in them, were able to receive the Bridegroom-CHRIST, when He came in the darkness of the night (Matthew 25:1). This symbolizes the willingness and spiritual eagerness of the couple to receive Him. It is that same candle which was lit when your parents celebrated your baptism and you became a light in the world. Now, it is lit again at your wedding ceremony, to signify that you will continue being a light in the world. The third and last time it will be lit, is when you depart from this world, signifying that you were a light and remembered as light in the world.

The Priest starts the ceremony, like all other services and sacraments, by praying the ‘Thanksgiving Prayer’: We are thanking God for all conditions and in all events, for He has protected us, accepted us unto Him, supported us and had compassion on us. He is Almighty and Pantocrator Who does all good for us always. He deserves to be thanked continually.

After raising incense, and praying the verses of cymbals, the Priest prays over the ‘vestments’, then put it on them: The robe is put on the groom, declaring him the ‘priest’ of the new kingdom-their house, which has been established with his wife, the bride. As a priest for the house, he ought to:
Urge the members of his house to read the Bible with understanding, daily.
Pray every morning, at noon, before and after eating and sleeping.
Confess at least twice a month, or as needed. Partake of the Holy Communion every week, but no less than once a month, without delay. Practice love, trust, respect and honesty in their lives.

The rings are blessed by the Priest who draws the sign of the Cross over them:
The rings are then exchanged, signifying that in marriage the weakness of one partner will be compensated for by the strength of the other; the imperfection of one complemented by the perfections of the other. Together they are made perfect, because separate they are incomplete. Each will be enriched by the divine sacred union. Their joys will be doubled, and their sorrow shared because they are experienced by both.

7. The Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians 5:22-33; 6:1-3, is read: In this Epistle quite a bit of controversy concerning pride, honor and dignity is argued, because of the following verses:

“Wives, submit to your own husbands” (5:22)

“For the husband is the head of the wife” (5:23)

The explanation is in the same verse, where it says; “As also Christ is the head of the Church, and He is the Savior of the body” (5:23).

Let us then reveal what Christ did as head of the Church:

A. He suffered, so the Church can be comforted.

B. He carried all her sins, so she can be free.

C. He died, so she can live.

By the same token, husbands ought to love, trust and respect their wives.

The submission of the wife to the husband presupposes the absolute love of the husband for his wife; a love of sacrifice: sacrifice of pride, of money and muscles, of position and authority, for his wife is one flesh with him.

A man of such a love honors his wife and her motherhood.

Whoever keeps the fire of love alive will never see icicles on the window of his home that will prevent the sunshine and the warmth of the sun’s rays from shining through. Such a mutual love bears the mystery of devotion and bondage to each other. It is not I and you, but: ‘I for you’.

Verse 28 reads; “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies”.

Verse 20 reads; “for no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it”.

We have always been taught not to love ourselves, i.e. not to be selfish. But the divine Word of God is teaching us to love it by nourishing and cherishing it.

Nourishes: means mature, to grow. The Gospel of St. Luke 2:52 tells us that our Lord Jesus “increased, grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (KJ-21 st century).

This is how we mature, how we grow, how we nourish ourselves, by maturing in wisdom (mentally), in stature (physically), before God (spiritually) and man (strong relationship with her).

Cherishes: means to protect-protect from anything that will hinder the nourishing process (friends, parties, music, etc.).

So, to nourish is to provide, and to cherish is to protect.

To provide and to protect is to love. Love is an act of the will, meaning by ‘a free choice’. To nurture the wife to maturity, mentally, physically, spiritually and strong relationship, and to protect her.

Love is a commitment not only a feeling. A commitment to provide and to protect, this will cause more trust between husband and wife.

Another verse which needs to be explained to reveal the greatness of the Orthodox teachings, it reads: :for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh” (31).
In no way does it mean that the husband has to ignore his parents or has nothing to do with them. Of course not. It simply means that in a new partnership, one has to give his all to make it succeed through the grace of the Lord, without any interferences from either families.

The Gospel according to St. Matthew 19;1-6, is read, it says: “They are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no man separate-put asunder” (19:6).

This unity is attained through the grace of the Holy Spirit, which ‘knits’ both of them together through a Divine act. Married couples need to invite Christ into their marriage each day through praying. No day should pass without renewing the marriage vows in the presence of the Lord. Ask Christ to be a permanent member of your house to bless the marriage continuously.

The Priest anoints the bridal couple with pure olive oil: announcing that a new king and queen are being anointed. They are establishing their own little kingdom for God through them and their children.
The crowns are put on the heads of the bridal couple: The chaste and prudent life of the couple in the past, which demanded moral struggle for the preservation of the honor of both the flesh and the spirit, along with their decision to be married “in the Lord” and keep the Christian moral life and living faith intact is encouraged and blessed with the symbol of the crowns. Their prudent life is to be crowned; their life in the Name and Message of the Lord Jesus Christ is crowned. Crowns are signs of glory and honor, where a new ‘king and queen’ establish their own little kingdom-their home, which they will rule with wisdom, justice and integrity. The deeper meaning of placing the crowns is that these crowns which are put on the heads of the bridal couple is to crown them, in advance, for the immeasurable self-sacrifice on both sides for each other on the ‘altar of love’. The couple should provide love and comfort to please each other.

The right hands of the groom and the bride are joined: while the priest recites the prayer that beseeches God to ‘join and unite them in one mind and one flesh’. The Holy Spirit descends here, after the inaudible prayer by the priest, and they are no more two but one, through the act of the Holy Spirit. The hands are kept joined throughout the remainder of the service, to symbolize the ‘oneness’ of the bridal couple.

The Priest says ‘the instructions of love’ ‘the commandments’ for both: the groom and the bride. He urges them to fulfill the divine commandments so that God, in return, shall grant them a blessed and peaceful life supported by the Holy Spirit which will fill their hearts and lives with joy and happiness.
The Priest then gives the final blessing: allowing the congregation, along with the bridal couple, to depart in the peace of the Lord.