The Ultimate Guide to Greek Orthodox Wedding Vows
Spoiler alert: Traditional Greek Orthodox wedding ceremonies actually don't feature an exchange of vows. Most non-religious wedding services in the United States include vows as part of saying "I do," conveying an intent to marry in the eyes of the law. Greek Orthodox ceremonies, however, aren't centered on a legal union. Instead, Orthodox Christians view the marriage ceremony as the bride and groom coming together in the eyes of God. Since it's God, not the legal system, that makes the pair a married couple, vows aren't a part of the proceedings.
Your officiant, a Greek Orthodox priest, will lead you through the ceremony, which is rife with symbolism and tradition. The first part of the service is called the Betrothal Ceremony includes an exchange of rings, while the second part is known as the Sacrament of Marriage and features the Crowning and sips from the Common Cup, which we'll outline below.
If you're planning on having a wedding in the Greek Orthodox Church but would also like to exchange vows with your partner, you won't be able to do that during your official ceremony (during which traditionally the couple doesn't speak). Instead, you might opt to share promises in the form of private hand-written letters, or, if exchanging them aloud publicly is important to you, you can choose to include vows during the speech portion of your reception.
What to Include in Your Greek Orthodox Wedding Vows
While verbal vows are not generally exchanged during a Greek Orthodox wedding ceremony, the rituals included below act similarly to vows as they bring the couple together in holy matrimony.
The exchange of rings is one of several important Greek wedding traditions and it takes place at the beginning of the ceremony during the Betrothal Service. The priest blesses the bride and groom's wedding rings before placing them on the third finger of their right hands.
The priest presents the bride and groom with a white candle, which they hold throughout the rest of the service. The light from the candles symbolizes the purity of Jesus Christ, which the couple will try to emulate in marriage.
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During this part of the Sacrament of Marriage, the priest blesses two Greek wedding crowns called Stefana and places them on the bride and groom's heads. The tradition has existed since ancient times when crowns were made of natural vines and olive branches, and the moment officially signals the couple's new status as husband and wife and king and queen of their household. These days many crowns are made of silver or gold and decorated with pearls or flowers, and often they are linked together with a ribbon.
The Common Cup
After the priest blesses a cup of wine called the Common Cup, the couple sips from it three times. This Eastern Orthodox tradition is accompanied by a reading from the Gospel telling of Christ's first miracle turning water into wine.
Dance of Isaiah
Near the end of the wedding ceremony the newlyweds, led by the priest and followed by the best man, maid of honor, and bridesmaids, go on a ceremonial walk. They circle the altar counterclockwise three times as hymns are sung. This is the last component of the wedding ceremony before the priest shares a final prayer with the couple and the bride and groom's crowns are removed.
Traditional Greek Orthodox Wedding Vows Template
While couples can't exchange vows during the ceremony, there's nothing stopping you from exchanging vows privately or at your wedding reception. Here are some examples to inspire you to craft your own vows to share with your partner.
[Name], today I take you to be my lawfully wedded [husband/wife]. I promise to honor and treasure you in good times and in bad. I promise to continue to grow together and laugh together. Most of all, I promise to love you all the days of my life.
[Name], thank you for choosing me today and every day. I promise to let you have the remote when the Bachelor is on, and always let you have at least one bite of my dessert. I can't wait to start this next phase together and for all of the adventures to come. I love you now and always.
[Name], you are my best friend and partner-in-crime, and today you also become my [husband/wife]. You are beautiful, smart, kind, and caring, and I'm lucky to spend every day by your side. In the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, I vow to laugh with you every day, and love and support you for as long as we live.
Personalizing Greek Orthodox Wedding Vows
Although there's little wiggle room when it comes to exchanging vows at a Greek Orthodox wedding, there are plenty of other small ways you can personalize your nuptials and add even more heart to the day while still remaining faithful to tradition.
Write Each Other a Letter
Take what you would say in your vows and put it to paper. Have someone in your wedding party help you exchange your notes on the day of so you can read each other's vows while you get ready.
Turn Your Promises into Decor
Write vows while you're planning for the big day, and then include printed excerpts on decorative elements like reception space backdrops, wedding favor packaging or cocktail napkins.
Customize Your Wedding-Day Attire
Leave a note with your words of love and promises on the bottom of each others' wedding shoes, or give your partner a custom-made accessory like a bouquet ribbon or pocket square that's printed with your vows to them.