The ceremony is led by an Orthodox priest and the couple’s koumbaros, a man who holds an important role in their life. Most rituals are performed three times to represent the Holy Trinity, which means that Orthodox wedding ceremonies to be lengthy.
It’s important to keep in mind that the Orthodox faith is practiced slightly differently in the Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Eastern European regions, with unique variations in Greek, Lebanese, Russian, Ukrainian and Serbian traditions. But the thread that ties them together is a strong connection with faith and God as the couple embarks on their new chapter together.
Filled with symbolism and ancient rituals that haven’t been changed for thousands of years, Orthodox wedding ceremonies are renowned for their profound symbolism and meaning.
An Orthodox wedding begins with a betrothal ceremony, which is the moment when the rings are blessed. Blessings and Bible passages are recited before the priest makes the sign of the crossing while holding the rings in his hands (sometimes while pressing the bride and groom’s foreheads three times).
The rings are usually then placed on the third finger of the right hand but not before they are exchanged between the couple’s fingers three times in a ritual that’s symbolic of one person’s weakness being compensated by the other.
Following the ring exchange, the priest will give both the bride and groom illuminated candles to hold in their left hand throughout the remainder of the ceremony. The flames are symbolic of the couple’s spiritual willingness to accept and receive God’s blessings. Their right hands are then joined together by the priest as he prays for their marriage, symbolizing their unity and oneness.
A highlight of any Orthodox marriage ceremony is the crowning, which is representative of the royalty of marriage. The crowns may be made of semiprecious stones and metals or orange blossoms and myrtle leaves, with the Greek Orthodox faith using wire.
When presented to the couple by the koumbaros, they are tied together by a white ribbon that’s symbolic of their unity, then swapped between the couple’s heads three times. According to tradition, the bride and groom should keep their crowns for their entire life, with some even opting to be buried with them, if it’s a successful marriage!
During an Orthodox wedding ceremony, the couple will both take three sips of wine from a common cup in a ritual that represents the wedding of Cana of Galilee when Jesus turned water into wine. The cup is symbolic of life and as they drink from it, they are reminded that from that moment on, they will share everything, including both joys and sorrows.
After drinking from the common cup, the Orthodox priest will lead the couple three times around the altar, with a Bible and cross resting on top. It represents the dance around the Ark of the Covenant and the first steps of the couple together in their married life.
At the end of the Orthodox wedding ceremony, the priest will remove the crowns from the couple and give his final blessings. The couple’s linked hands are then separated by the priest with the help of the Bible in a gesture to remind them that their marriage can only be broken by God.
• Filled with rituals and profound symbolism, we love the traditions of Orthodox ceremonies and capturing these moments of faith through engaging and beautiful photographs.
• We understand that Orthodox ceremonies differ depending on your heritage and are a reflection of long-established family traditions that we’re honored to be a part of.
• Orthodox weddings are often held in gorgeous churches, with ornate wooden features, religious icons and stained glass windows for us to incorporate into your wedding day album.
We always have a meeting with our couples before their wedding to ensure we understand each and every element of their Orthodox wedding plans and are ready to photograph it creatively and beautifully.
If your Orthodox wedding ceremony is being held in a dimly-lit church, we have high-quality camera equipment to ensure we can capture all the rites and rituals while respecting your church’s photography rules.
We understand the deep symbolism that’s at the heart of Orthodox wedding ceremonies and strive to capture every moment beautifully.
Whether you’re having a large Orthodox wedding with extended family and friends or an intimate celebration, we’ll bring an appropriately sized team of photographers.
From the rich displays of faith during your wedding ceremony to all the celebration of your reception dance floor, we carefully plan where we need to be and when to document every moment of your special day.
• Make sure you check the photography rules of your Orthodox church and relay this to your photographer so they can plan ahead if there are restrictions on where they can and can’t go.
• During your final meeting, let your wedding photographer know about all of the traditional elements you have planned throughout your Orthodox wedding ceremony so that they can be in the right place at the right time to capture them.
• Even if you’re having a small Orthodox wedding, we highly recommend you hire a wedding planner to take care of all the logistical details, so you can just enjoy each and every moment.
• If photography is important to you, make sure you schedule in plenty of time during your Orthodox wedding day for couple portraits, bridal party portraits and family formals.
• Some Orthodox churches have rooms designated for the bride and groom to get ready. We highly recommend you consider the space and lighting available, as this will affect the quality of your getting ready photos. If the space is small and dark, perhaps consider getting ready at a nearby hotel if you want the most beautiful getting ready photos possible.