Laws, Regulations and Documentation required for an Orthodox wedding
sacramental union of a man and a woman is performed in an Orthodox Church
according to the liturgical tradition, and blessed by a Priest who is recognized
as canonical (authentic) by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia.
To learn more about Marriage as a Sacrament, please read our article on Marriage in the Sacraments section of our site.
The Laws and Regulations pertaining to Weddings are set by the Holy Canons of the Orthodox Church and are implemented accordingly by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia.
These regulations apply to every Greek Orthodox Priest across Australia. He is obliged to observe them conscientiously.
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Prerequisites for Marriage in the Orthodox Church
1. There must be no impediment (regarding relationships) according to the
Canons of the Church and according to Civil Law. In other words, the parties
wishing to marry must not be related to
each other. Prohibited
First Group Parents with
their own children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren.
Second Group Brothers-in-law
Third Group Uncles and aunts
with nieces and nephews.
Fourth Group First cousins with
Fifth Group Foster parents
with foster children or foster children with the children of foster parents.
Sixth Group Godparents with
godchildren or godparents with the parents of godchildren.
Seventh Group Godchildren of the same godparent.
2. The Wedding date should be reserved with the Church well in advance to
ensure the couple’s preferred time (where possible).
3. Every Greek Orthodox Priest in Australia is also a registered Civil Celebrant. Consequently, he is
authorized to conduct the Marriage in accordance with both State and
Ecclesiastical law. However, he is permitted to perform the Civil Marriage only in conjunction with the Religious
Service on the same day.
4. The ‘Notice of Intended Marriage’ for the Registry of
Births, Deaths and Marriages, and the Application to the Archdiocese for the
Church, must be completed in the presence of the Priest at least one calendar month before the set date of marriage -
preferably, three months prior. The couple should, therefore, arrange to meet
with him during afternoon Office Hours or, in special cases, by appointment.
5. The Parish Priest will give directions as to the necessary Documents, Fees
for the Archdiocese, as well as Fees for the local Church. These will vary, according
to the individual status and circumstances of the couple. [Back to top]
1. In all circumstances, both
parties (whether Orthodox or not) must present to the Priest their full Birth Certificate (if born in Australia) or
their Passport (if born overseas) as
well as their Baptismal Certificate.
2. Orthodox parties who have never been married before must obtain a Certificate of Celibacy or ‘Agamias’ (that they are not married) from their local Parish Priest. This must be
signed by two witnesses (parents, brothers, sisters, cousins or friends) upon
presenting the Baptismal Certificate of the party concerned.
3. The ‘Local Parish’
is where one has been residing for the previous two years or more.
4. Parties already married either in Australia or overseas are
prohibited by State and Church law to re-marry without a Divorce.
5. If either or both parties are widowed, the Death Certificate of the deceased spouse must be provided.
6. When one or both parties are divorcing, they must firstly obtain a civil
Divorce Certificate from a Court of
Law (Decree Nissi
- ‘Degree Absolute’). Following this, they must also apply for an Ecclesiastical Divorce in order for the
previous marriage to be dissolved according to Church Law. See
7. For persons entering a second or third marriage the Divorce from the previous marriage must have been issued by the
State and by the Church at least one
calendar month prior to the next marriage.
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1. The Best Man (koumbaros) or the
Matron of Honour
are usually of the Orthodox Faith, since they will also be invited by the
couple to become Godparent to at least one of their children.
Christians of an acceptable denomination may
stand as Best Man or Matron of Honour at the Wedding.
However, they may not go on to
become Godparents at the Christenings of the couple’s future children
because the roles are entirely different.
the Best Man or Matron of Honour at a Wedding is
merely a witness, however, at the
Baptism of a child the Godparent assumes the responsibility of teaching the
child by example those things that he or
she believes in. If the candidate for the role of Godparent is not Orthodox,
then that is simply not possible.
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The Orthodox Church recognizes
that, in multicultural nations such as Australia, members of the Orthodox
Faith might invariably elect to enter into a permanent relationship with
persons who are not Orthodox.
certain cases, despite its strict Canons and Regulations, the Church will
accommodate the relationship and bless the union through the Sacrament of
2. A marriage cannot take place
in the Orthodox Church between an Orthodox Christian
and a non-Christian.
The non-Orthodox partner must
be a person who belongs to a Christian denomination ‘acceptable’ to
the Orthodox Church.
traditions include: Roman Catholic, Anglican
Church (Church of England), Uniting
5. Having been baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity, both parties are requested
to responsibly declare that any children
born of the marriage will be baptized according to the rites of the Eastern
Orthodox Church and that they shall be raised in the Orthodox Faith.
Far from wishing to interfere in the couple’s discretions and
freedoms, the reason for this requirement is that the Church has, painfully,
seen too many marriages confront often insurmountable problems because the
subject of the children and their religious up-bringing was not addressed
before the wedding.
6. Marriages with persons who belong to the following groups are prohibited
by the Orthodox Faith: Pentecostal Church, Greek Evangelicals, Salvation Army, Christian
Revival Crusades, Reborn Christians, Assembly of God, Christadelphians,
Seventh Day Adventist, Church of Christ, Church
of Latter Day Saints, Jehovah’s
Witnesses and other similar religious groups.
7. Persons who are not Christian
or who have never been baptized, even
though their parents belonged to a Christian tradition, can only marry in the
Orthodox Church upon being baptized in a denomination acceptable to the
Orthodox Church. Should they wish to become Orthodox of their own free choice,
directions on the procedure are provided under ‘Converting to
8. A non-Orthodox Christian who
marries an Orthodox Christian, whilst welcome to attend Church Services with his
or her spouse (and children), does not
automatically become a member of the Orthodox Church, and is therefore not
permitted to receive Holy Communion or the other Sacraments in the Orthodox
9. In addition, the Orthodox Church
does not permit non-Orthodox clergy to concelebrate
in any of its Services. Nor does the Orthodox Church permit its own Priests to
participate in the Services of other
denominations, even if those denominations might allow Orthodox priests to
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Marriages between Orthodox and Orthodox
both parties are of the Greek Orthodox
Faith, they must have been baptized in a canonical (authentic) Orthodox Church.
Indeed, 98% of the Greek Orthodox faithful in Australia are baptized in the canonical Orthodox Church through the authority
of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia.
2% whose parents may or may not have been aware that the church where they had
arranged for the Baptism of their child was not canonical, the following clarifications might be informative.
cases, the question is often asked: “Isn’t every Greek Orthodox
Church in Australia
‘Orthodox’?” Unfortunately, there are some so-called ‘Greek
Orthodox Churches’ operating in this free and democratic nation which are
not recognized by any canonical Orthodox authority in the world, and are
classified as ‘schismatic’. Consequently, neither their ‘priests’
are recognized, nor are their ‘Sacraments’, even though each of
these groups attempts to justify their existence by their own line of defense.
‘Churches’ include: the so-called Autocephalic Greek Orthodox Church of America and Australia Inc., the Independent Greek Orthodox Church of
Australia and New Zealand, the Genuine Orthodox Church and others.
groups, whilst recognized by the State as ‘religious entities’ and
are permitted to operate by law, nonetheless do not have the spiritual recognition of the Greek
Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia which functions under the jurisdiction of the
Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople – the Spiritual Centre of the
Eastern Orthodox Church throughout the world.
result, persons ‘baptized’ by such non-canonical clergy in any of
the above ‘schismatic’ churches and desiring to marry must firstly speak
to a canonical Priest who will advise what must be done in accordance with the
regulations of the Archdiocese to formalize their standing in the Church.
are also Churches which identify themselves as ‘Orthodox’ but which,
for many centuries, have not belonged to the original tree of Orthodoxy. Nonetheless,
marriages with persons from those traditions are permitted.
include the Oriental Orthodox Churches such as: The Coptic Orthodox Church, the Syrian Orthodox Church, the Armenian
Orthodox Church, the Indian Orthodox Church, and others.
further clarification please consult the local Parish Priest.
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Dates on which Marriages are not permitted
Dates on which Marriages are not permitted:
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from 13th December until
on the 5th January, the eve of
from Great Lent until Easter
Sunday (these dates vary from year to year).
from 1st to 15th August, the Dormition of the Theotokos.
on the 29th August, the
Beheading of St John
on the 14th September, the Elevation
of the Holy Cross.
On the day of the Wedding
The groom and the groomsmen should arrive at the church at least 15
minutes prior to the commencement of the Service.
The bride and the bridal party should arrive at the church at least 5
minutes prior to the scheduled time
of the Wedding.
For this to occur, the bride must ensure that the family is mobilized from early in the
morning, allowing ample time for the hairdresser,
the beautician, and the dressmaker to complete their work at
The bride and her family must
bear in mind that, before leaving the house to depart for the church, the photographers and videographers as well as the drivers of the hire cars require
considerable time to carry out their professional services, as requested. At
least half an hour.
The bride and the groom and
their families should bear in mind
special events that might cause traffic
delays on the way to the church, such as major sporting fixtures, public
parades or processions in the city and the suburbs, and the usual weekend
The custom of the bride arriving late at the church
‘to keep the groom waiting’ is not based on any religious
Arriving late at the church is plainly
inconsiderate of other weddings and christenings that have been arranged by
other families on the same day - especially if hundreds of guests have been
Double-check who is responsible for the rings and the crowns. Without these, the wedding cannot commence.
The Priest will not
‘rush’ the Service, even if the wedding has been delayed. However,
if the Bride or the Groom is more than 15 minutes late then it is reasonable
that only the parents and the very immediate family will congratulate the
couple at the church. The remaining guests will have to do so at the reception.
The Priest will want you to be
happy on your very special day and he will go out of his way to make sure that
everyone enjoys the Ceremony.
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Converting to Orthodoxy
– but not under pressure!
wishing to become Orthodox of their own free volition, without any direct or indirect pressure from anyone, should firstly
meet with a Priest of the Church.
to the Orthodox Church from another Christian denomination, or from a
non-Christian Faith or from a background of no religious practice is a very
serious matter both for the Orthodox Church and for the person seeking to
convert to Orthodoxy. It is, essentially, a lifetime mutual commitment.
the matter should never be taken lightly. Changing one’s faith is the most
crucial choice in life. Converting to the Orthodox Faith is not a routine and
mechanical procedure conducted like a ‘production line’.
the Priest will want to discuss the matter carefully to explore the reasons for
Conversion with the non-Orthodox candidate and his/her Orthodox partner. He
will also want to communicate the Church’s love for the candidate and the
firstly spoken to the local Parish Priest, those seeking to become Orthodox may
write to the Bishop stating clearly the reasons why they wish to convert to
In New South Wales, the details of the Bishop responsible for these matters is:
Bishop Seraphim of Apollonia
242 Cleveland Street
writing to the Bishop he should be addressed by the candidate as ‘Your Grace’ before commencing the letter
Bishop will then respond in writing advising the candidate as to which Priest
will be responsible for his or her preparation towards becoming Orthodox.
to the Orthodox Church entails a compulsory period of six months instruction in the Faith, including attendance at a 10-week series of talks on the Orthodox
Church by both partners.
Non-Orthodox Christians wishing to enter the Orthodox Church are received by the
Sacrament of Holy Chrismation
(Confirmation by Anointing) if they have previously been baptized in the Name
of the Holy Trinity and in an acceptable denomination.
have not been baptized in a Christian denomination whose Baptism is accepted by
the Orthodox Church, or if they are coming from a non-Christian background, then they must be baptized through
complete immersion in water.
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Divorce - Tragic under any circumstance
1. Marriage in the Church is meant to bind the relationship of a man and a
woman for a lifetime. Nonetheless,
though there are countless marriages which last for a lifetime through the
daily application of Christian values and virtues, there is no absolutely
‘perfect’ marriage in this world. All marriages have their ups and downs.
Differences of opinion, arguments, and brief periods of lesser ‘warmth’ are
part of any ‘normal’ marital relationship.
Unfortunately, however, as a
result of human weakness and sin, often due to the couple’s non-involvement in
the life of the Church, or due to the absence of fundamental respect and trust
at some point in the relationship by one or both parties, adultery, violence,
abandonment and other disappointing behaviours can
‘test’ a loving marriage beyond the bounds of tolerance.
The total breakdown of a marriage is tragic under any circumstances,
regardless of who is at fault. The grief caused by separation is devastating to
the individuals concerned, as well as to their children and to their
2. Whilst the Church is extremely cautious and will use all of its energy
and love to solve any marital ‘crisis’ if
given the opportunity, nonetheless, it also recognizes that marriages are
not ‘mathematical equations’.
Consequently, the Church is not so insensitive as to ‘close a blind eye’
to the suffering of individuals whose marriage has become unbearable.
3. An Ecclesiastical Divorce may be granted by the Church after a civil
divorce (Decree Nissi
- Degree Absolute) has been issued by a Court of Law.
4. The Orthodox Church will allow a second
and third Marriage, exercizing discretion and leniency in cases which are
deemed so by the standards of Christian morality and ethics. Such cases require
the ruling of the Archbishop.
5. Once the party concerned has obtained the Civil Divorce from a Court of
Law, he or she must then apply to the Spiritual
Court of the Church for the matter to be considered according to
6. The Application for a Church Divorce is completed either by the local
Parish Priest or by the Priest of the Parish where the next marriage will take
7. The Priest will conduct an interview with the applicant in order to
determine the validity of the reasons for the Divorce. The reasons will be
included on the Application for consideration by the Spiritual Court, but will not be recorded
on the Divorce Certificate when issued.
8. The Church’s laws are more demanding than State laws. For example,
‘incompatibility’ is not an acceptable reason.
apply for the processing of a Divorce by the Spiritual Court of the
Archdiocese. These are paid by each ‘divorcee’ individually.
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