The Church-Wedding And Its Peculiarities

Hello my beloved readership,

a church-wedding: nothing lawful, so nothing necessary. Replaceable by a free ceremony however special in its way for those who take religion and belief serious. Get to know the peculiarities of a church-wedding along with important conditions and courses in the following.

Fall4Me wedding rule about the church wedding

Church-Wedding: What For, When And How?

There are two ways of having a marriage certified:

But even though you receive a marriage certificate at both places there is the huge difference between a civil wedding and the church wedding or rather any other kind of wedding ceremony: According to the law you count as married only if you have had a civil wedding.

For what concerns people in Germany they benefit from the married status according to the law majorly concerning family (unmarried men would have to adopt their biological children or rather recognize their fatherhood), power of attorney, finances et cetera. Therefore when having plans of getting married the civil wedding is the most essential one. This wedding mainly takes place in a very small circle of the closest family, possibly friends but in any case the marriage witnesses.

However besides from that many couples decide to have a second ceremony within a larger circle. In the most common cases this is the church wedding due to religious motives or rather because they belong to a church community.

It does not need to take place the same day. Many couples have it one day or some weeks after the civil wedding. We however did it the same day as God’s blessing before having that special wedding night.

Depending on the kind of religion any church wedding can be different. In the following the focus is going to be on the Christian wedding in particular a Russian-Orthodox wedding.

Us the married couple holding an icon and the wedding certificate by the church
In my hands: the wedding certificate; in my husband’s hands: the icon of Jesus Christ and the Mary Mother of God – every couple getting married Russian-Orthodox is to have or get this icon for the wedding ceremony and afterwards. © 2018 Fall4Me / Anna Chojnowska

Preparations & Preconditions

The Request & Setup of Appointment

Similar to the application of wedding however less bureaucratic you are going to the church of your choice asking for the priest you want to lead the ceremony – this is at least the way we did it since our church even has three priests besides from the main one to take care of the church. The priest has the church-timer ready on the one hand to check if he and the church are available and free on the date of your wish and to block the date for you.
Personal excursus: I absolutely wanted Priest Henadzi to lead the ceremony of our wedding. A very good and close friend of our family and special and close to me, due to the talks we have had, and due to his personality: a comprehensive, modern yet classic, cosmopolitan man of the world with sympathy and charm. This is all what it is about: Someone who is close to you and knows you and your relationship well is the perfect one to marry you.
When we agreed on a time for the wedding he informed us in the first place that he would be going to have an appointment in another city but had to check on it once again. We agreed that he would call us in case he could not make it. Later on I found out that he cancelled or postponed that appointment for us. Perhaps it has been blessing of Palm Sunday (the day when we went to apply for our church wedding) that we were this lucky with our church wedding and the priest of our desire.

Church-Wedding: Check-List

The registry office requests papers the church other things, here is your check-list:

  • Taxes: One thing in general, as I have found out from a friendly married couple of mine if you do not pay the so called church-taxes you are not allowed to get married in a state church in Germany.
  • Membership: You are free to get married in the church of your choice. However at least one of you (bride or groom) should belong to the community of the church or rather the corresponding religion. This is the case when you have been baptized in the corresponding church. In our case I was additionally baptized in the Russian-Orthodox church in 2014 and belong to the community of the Russian-Orthodox church of the Saint John of Kronstadt.
    Note: Getting married in church means that you take aim to spend the eternity together. But this is not possible if your husband or rather wife does not believe in God anyhow. The first step to this would be to be somehow baptized. Therefore a precondition to my husband was that even though he is not officially a member of our church he should have been baptized (which he was, however in the Catholic church).
  • Utensils: 
    1. Icon “Jesus Christ and the Mary Mother of God” – a wedding is the foundation of a newly family. Therefore the Russian-orthodox church provides for married couples getting and having their proper icon of Jesus Christ and the Mary Mother of God for the wedding ceremony. This icon symbolizes family and means to bless the new founded family in their home. The newly bought icon itself gets so to say activated being blessed by the priest during the wedding ceremony. You can get one good and of high value looking in any Russian-orthodox church for around 30,- €.
    2. Sash – the Russian-orthodox church has a lot of different sashes for different occasions. One of them is for the marriage. Every couple to get married is recommended to have a new one. This new and as well clean sash which the couple to get married is to stand on symbolizes a new clean and at the same time pure home which the couple is to enter together. This is home is meant to be the first common home of the newly founded family.
The couple to get married standing on a sash
© 2018 Anna Chojnowska / Fall4Me

Final Rehearsal: Necessary Or Not?

As the famous German wedding planner Frank “Froonck” Matthée recently said in his show “4 Hochzeiten und eine Traumreise” [Engl.: Four weddings and one dream-journey] weddings nowadays have become exaggerated with all the wedding planners, rehearsals, decoration competitions and much more. One might think that the original meaning of a wedding – founding a new family, the love, the romance and unity of two loving hearts – has gone down in all this.

Out of personal experience life has taught me that for what concerns the most important milestones of your life, such as a wedding, you can neither practice nor learn for them as for an exam or a concert as the feelings you and your fellows have cannot and should not be reproduced because they might not be as strong or real as they would have been in these so called “now-or-never”-moments. In the end it is always coming different as imagined and practiced and no one would wish to say “if I just did or said it this and that way”. Therefore personally I would not recommend a final rehearsal and moreover think of them to be unnecessary. In this context I refer to the following two, for me decisive, arguments:

  1. On the one hand you have enough other things to take care of and dedicate time to and
  2. on the other hand you should have enough faith to your guests and yourselves to give the necessary freedom during this happy event where everyone wishes to be happy and comfortable without too many instructions as not everyone likes too many of them.

Nevertheless a good preparation is better than thousands of practices and in fact you can prepare very well by meeting up with the priest to marry you before the wedding. Take this chance to ask him all the questions

  • you personally have
  • which you could not answer to your guests on your own and
  • about the ceremony.

Like this you are going to have a good imagination about the whole event on your own and furthermore can becalm your fellows by sharing your newly gained knowledge with you (especially when they get confronted with a strange culture) because life is by far not what you watch on TV.

The meeting itself does not have to be formal at all. We, my husband and I, for example have met a few weeks before the wedding on a fresh breezy summer morning and sat down in a peaceful park nearby the station where we have met not far away from home as we do not live far apart.

Marriage vow during the church wedding.
After saying yes I do we have built auch marriage vow in between. © 2018 Fall4Me

Characteristics Of A Russian-Orthodox Wedding

In principle you can read up on the whole wedding ceremony of a Russian-orthodox wedding here.

The Russian-orthodox wedding-ceremony differs from the average wedding-ceremonies you see in US-American movies or series. This difference already starts with not only the bride but as well the groom waiting in anteroom of the church for the priest to usher them to the altar.

Bride and groom waiting in the anteroom for the priest to pick them up
© 2018 Fall4Me
The priest ushering bride and groom into the main hall.
Every father who has ever wished to lead his son to the altar can have his wish fulfilled in a Russian-orthodox wedding-ceremony. © 2018 Fall4Me

During the whole ceremony bride and groom are holding candles in their hands. These are their wedding-candles, comparable to the candles for a baptism.

Bride and groom holding candles
© 2018 Anna Chojnowska / Fall4Me

Before the actual Russian-orthodox wedding-ceremony begins there is a an engagement-ceremony taking place.

The commonly known exchange of the ring is as well not taking place in the Russian-orthodox wedding-ceremony. That instead the priest puts the rings on the bride’s and groom’s fingers as they arrive at the altar.

Crown, rings on the pillows and wine on a pillow.
The utils for the Russian-orthodox wedding ready prepared at the altar. © 2018 Fall4Me
The priest putting on the rings
© 2018 Anna Chojnowska / Fall4Me

After that the wedding-ceremony – the so called order of the wedding – is introduced with the coronation. The crossing during the prayer is an essential element.

Bride and groon wearing the crowns for the wedding ceremony.
The crowns could either be held over the heads of bride and groom by their witnesses or worn. We enjoyed to wear them and spared our siblings those heavy headpieces. © 2018 Anna Chojnowska / Fall4Me

To complete the community of bride and groom the couple drinks from the common cup which is filled with red wine. This drink is meant to symbolize the blood of Jesus Christ. This is the so called chalice-blessing. This process is repeated three times.

The groom drinking from the common cup
First the groom is passed the cup. © 2018 Anna Chojnowska / Fall4Me
The bride drinking from the common cup
… then the bride. © 2018 Anna Chojnowska / Fall4Me

The wedding-ceremony is finished by the priest holding the hands of the bridal couple and leading them thrice around the altar. During this the priest and the people are singing.

Priest and the bridal couple going around the altar.
© 2018 Anna Chojnowska / Fall4Me

As the crowns are taken off bride and groom the priest speaks one last prayer.

God’s Blessing Is Essential

It is clear that Hamburg is a rather cold and rainy city. We are having autumn nearly all over the year. But on our wedding day we have had what everyone wished us: a wonderfully warm and sunny day which mirrored our happiness… well, not quite. During our wedding ceremony and moreover while speaking the “yes, I do” there came a heavy thunder accompanied by an as heavy lightning. People say that a little thunderstorm for the wedding brings fortune for the couple. I still see this as a (good) sign from above.

Love, Johanna

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