In order to get married in North America, where the priest performs the Holy Sacrament of Marriage both for the church and civil wedding, the bride and groom are obliged to obtain a MARRIAGE LICENCE. As for the Marriage License, one of them applies with the authorities in the municipality where he or she has permanent residence and makes arrangements with the competent authority regarding the issuance of this document.
It should be noted that in municipality offices there are priests of different denominations who register the newly weds in such a way as to appear that they were the ones who have actually wed the newly weds. When the future bride and groom bring this paper to their church, the priest has nowhere to sign his name since someone has already signed the document. It should be made clear to the authorities that the bride and groom have their own priest and the only thing they are seeking is the marriage license, nothing else.
In Serbian lands, the registrar performs the so-called civil wedding ceremony which represents an official wedding registration ceremony, which is followed by a Holy Sacrament of Marriage which is performed by a priest in the Church.
Since in the early days of the Church the Holy Sacrament of Wedding was performed during the Divine Liturgy, which is sealed in the holy Eucharist of Christ and reflected in the rite of drinking wine during the ceremony, this Holy Sacrament is exclusively performed in the Church, except in most particular circumstances and subject to the Bishop’s approval and blessing.
The ceremony of marriage cannot be performed during lent. Thus, when making plans for their wedding, the bride and groom to-be must first consult the church calendar avoiding fasting days and then speak to their priest seeking from him confirmation of his availability for a certain date.
Apart from a Marriage License, the bride and groom must provide a wedding ring for each of them, two candles (sometimes even 4 candles), the so-called common wine cup, a piece of cloth for tying their hands together and a bottle of red wine. A mandatory fee is charged – this sum varies from church to church and a customary donation to the priest is given.
THE COMMON WINE CUP is usually, here in North America, a silver footed cup. The names of the bride and groom should be engraved on the cup, for example Marko and Jelena as well as the place and date of marriage.
THE PIECE OF WHITE CLOTH should be large enough for the bride to later make for herself something to wear and the rest of the cloth should be kept as reminder of the wedding ceremony.
It is recommended that the bride and groom to-be should come together with their future best man and bride of honor to church, at least three Holy Liturgies before the wedding day, although better yet would be to come one or one and a half month before the wedding. The purpose of this visit is for the future bride and groom to have a so called PREMARITAL COUNSELING WITH THEIR PRIEST.
The preparation for this premarital counseling consists of learning basic prayers by heart and studying the basic concepts of the Christian Orthodox faith. The best reference for the latter is the Catechism by the Bishop St Nikolaj or a handbook by Bishops Danilo or Amfilohije: “Christianity: the Most Beautiful of all Religions” or “Catechism at Home”.
At this event, the priest takes down all data necessary for the Marriage Records Books, questions the future bride and groom on their knowledge of their faith and prayers and finally, in front of the Holy Altar, he asks them about the commitment and sincerity of their wish to be joined in the Holy Matrimony before the Lord as their witness, in the Church and before the whole church community. The sponsors then confirm that the information is correct and attest to the commitment of the future bride and groom to each other. This is then followed by the signing of the protocol confirming that the premarital counseling has taken place.
During the following three Holy Liturgies preceding the marriage ceremony, the priest announces the forthcoming wedding asking the members of the church community to come forth and report to the parish office any possible obstacles to this Holy Sacrament taking place.
The Christian Orthodox church allows a MIXED MARRIAGE between future bride and groom who are Christians. A mixed marriage is disallowed if one of the future spouses is a non-Christian: a Muslim, Jew, a member of different religious sects, etc.
Pressure is sometimes exerted on those who are not Orthodox Christians to be baptized in a Christian Orthodox faith and to “convert and become Orthodox” just for the sake of marriage. The Holy Sacrament of Baptism is too serious a matter and is of such an enormous importance to have only one single purpose without yielding any other fruit. Should a non-Orthodox person embrace Christian Orthodoxy later, that person should be welcomed with open arms.
In case of a mixed marriage, the priest, on behalf of the party who is Orthodox, sends an application to the Bishop stating reasons and giving rationale which is accompanied by his recommendation and payment of all the necessary fees.
SPONSORS – BEST MAN AND MAID OF HONOUR – should be Christian Orthodox. The main sponsor must be Christian Orthodox. It is customary for the first sponsor to also be the godparent to the children born by God’s will in that marriage. That is why that sponsor is in advance called a godparent. The second sponsor, subject to the approval of the Bishop, may be a non-Orthodox but he/she must be a Christina.
If the priest is not otherwise occupied, he may honor the newlyweds and attend their wedding party and bless the food and drink served on that occasion.