Guidelines for Marriage at St. Mary’s

Setting the Date

Before setting a date for your wedding and securing a reception hall the couple should contact the parish office and set up an appointment with a priest for the purpose of introduction and explanation of the process of marriage preparation.

The Orthodox Church has specific guidelines for weddings. The following are dates when they are not permitted: January 5; Great Lent, Holy Week, and Pascha; August 1-14; August 29; September 14; and December 13-25. No weddings may take place on Wednesdays and Fridays, except during those select weeks when there is no fasting observed (e.g., the week of Pascha, the days following Christmas).

In addition, careful advance planning will avoid any conflict with the parish’s own calendar of events.

Building Use and Fee Structure

As of January 1, 2021, a fee of $400 is charged to couples who have been members in good standing at St. Mary’s for at least six months prior to their wedding date. If at least one of the bridal couple is an Orthodox Christian of another canonical parish, the fee for marrying at St. Mary’s is $800. This fee covers the cost for your ecclesiastical paperwork, the rehearsal, the wedding ceremony, and access to our building a maximum of three hours prior to the start of your wedding. A member of the staff will be available for assistance during this time.

If you are planning to get dressed at the church prior to your wedding or would like to host the rehearsal dinner or wedding reception at St. Mary’s, please contact the church office as soon as possible. They will do their best to accommodate your request and provide you a suitable space. If you require more than three hours, or have additional needs, rental fees will be assessed.

Eligibility to Marry

A wedding can be celebrated in the Orthodox Church when one of the partners is an Orthodox Christian and the other, if not a member of the Orthodox Church, is a Christian baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity. There must not be any impediments to their relationship (by blood, marriage, or spiritual relation).

Currently there is no provision for the wedding of an Orthodox Christian and a non-Christian.

Church Membership

Orthodox Christians are members of the Church by virtue of their baptism. However, anyone 18 years of age or older should also be a steward in good standing of an Orthodox parish, including regular attendance at worship services, daily living in Christ, and consistent financial support. Members of St. Mary’s should have a stewardship pledge on file and be current in their stewardship.

Required Documents

1. A copy of the birth certificate from both the bride and groom must be submitted.

2. An Orthodox Christian not baptized at St. Mary’s must show their baptismal certificate and, if they are a member of another Orthodox parish, provide a letter from their parish priest attesting to their good standing. If he or she is from another country and entered the U.S. after the age of 18, then a certificate of Eligibility to Marry is also required.

3. A non-Orthodox Christian must show his or her original baptismal certificate. If this cannot be found, the parish must write a letter certifying the date, place, and minister, and that the baptism was in the name of the Holy Trinity.

4. The couple must complete an “Affidavit for License to Marry” that is sent to the Metropolitan in Chicago at least 4-6 months prior to the date of the wedding.

5. A civil license from the County Clerk’s office of any county in the state of Minnesota is needed by the day of the wedding.

Prior Marriage(s)

If either partner has been previously married, then either a death certificate or civil divorce decree must be submitted. If the prior marriage involved an Orthodox Christian in the Orthodox Church, then an ecclesiastical divorce decree must also be provided. A supplementary form is then attached to the Affidavit for License to Marry.

Pre-Marital Preparation

1. The couple takes the Prepare/Enrich inventory and then attends several sessions with a priest or certified counselor. This inventory covers personality traits, family background, and all facets of marriage – communication, conflict resolution, marital expectation, leisure, finances, sexuality, raising children, religion, etc. Please note that this is not a test, nor even a predictor of marital success. It is simply a tool to help facilitate the couple to prepare better for their marriage. In addition, completion of this program entitles participants to receive a discount toward the cost of their civil marriage license.

2. The couple is urged to prepare for and come to the Sacrament of Confession. The clergy may offer advice on proper preparation. Christians from other traditions are urged to seek out this Sacrament, or its equivalent, in their own church.


The couple must have a practicing Orthodox Christian to serve as sponsor (Greek: koumbaros or koumbara) at the wedding. He or she must be an Orthodox Christian in good standing including: baptism and chrismation in the Orthodox Church; active membership in an Orthodox parish (including financial stewardship); 18 years of age or older; if married, in the Orthodox Church; if divorced, reception of an ecclesiastical divorce in addition to the civil divorce. If the sponsor is from another Orthodox parish, he or she must present a letter signed by their parish priest attesting to their good standing.

While this person is usually a member of the bridal party (such as best man or maid/matron of honor), he or she need not be. In any case, they will exchange the rings and crowns, and serve as spiritual support and guide to the couple in their married life.

Non-Orthodox Christians and non-Christians can be given honored roles (such as in the bridal party) but cannot serve as the sponsor.

Bridal Party

It is customary in the U.S. for couples to have a bridal party, although this is not required in the Orthodox Church. Couples may be married without having a bridal party since only the sponsor is required.

Anyone, whether a member of the Orthodox Church or not, can serve in the bridal party as best man, maid/matron of honor, bridesmaid, groomsman, ring bearer, flower girl, usher, etc.

Care must be taken regarding proper attire at the wedding. The bridal dress and the bridesmaid’s gowns should be dignified and modest. If the bride has a head covering, it should not interfere with the crown that will be worn during the wedding service.


If you plan to have a bridal party, you should schedule a rehearsal with our Bridal Coordinator. She will reach out to you at least six months in advance of your wedding date to coordinate. If you do not plan to have a bridal party, a rehearsal may not be needed.

Wedding Service

Please note that the Orthodox Church has a prescribed text for the entire wedding service – prayers, petitions, readings, liturgical actions, hymns, and responses. In addition, as a solemn Sacrament, the wedding is always celebrated in an Orthodox church.

Our parish has become accustomed for many years to using English almost exclusively in worship. If you wish to have some Greek or other foreign language used, please consult the priest.

The service lasts about 45 minutes, including a brief sermon at the end. This does not include time for the processional, recessional, or receiving line.


Our parish has a head chanter who will sing the responses and hymns. Please contact our chanter to discuss the service and required hymns. Our chanter’s contact information can be obtained from the Church Office, 612.825.9595. It is customary to provide a stipend for her services as chanter.

The only musical instrument permitted in the Church is the organ. Our parish has an accomplished organist who can offer both Orthodox and non-Orthodox music. If you are interested in having an organist, please coordinate directly with our chanter.

Visiting Clergy

Guest clergy from an Orthodox Church in communion with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese are welcome to participate in the wedding. The St. Mary’s priest will extend an invitation in advance to them.

Christian clergy from other traditions are also welcome to attend, even though they cannot con-celebrate. They can be given a place of honor on the solea or in the first pew.

Rings, Crowns, Candles, and Common Cup

The rings are placed upon the ring finger of the right hand during the wedding service. You can leave them on this hand, as is the Orthodox Tradition, or switch them to the left hand after the service is concluded.

The couple should provide a pair of white crowns attached with a ribbon, along with a pair of candles (which may be decorated) for the wedding.

Our parish has an elegant cup for use during the service, but the couple may elect to provide their own which can be retained for posterity.

You can make your own crowns or consult the office to locate a provider.


Flash photography before or after the wedding service is permitted, but once the service begins, it is only permitted at the time of the crowning. The photographer should be discrete and stand only on the sides (without obstructing the congregation) or in the balcony.

Videotaping is permitted, but only with discretion. If a camera is set up in the corner of the icon screen, it should only be operated by remote control. Otherwise, the camera operator should be either in the balcony or on the sides of the church.

All professional photographers should meet and consult with the priest prior to the service.


The church may be decorated with flowers as fully as the couple likes, as long as movements, icons, and tables are not obstructed.

Our parish does not have a white runner. If you wish to have one, you must provide it.

Exiting the Church

Our parish discourages the throwing of rice and bird seed as the couple leaves the church building. Instead, we encourage the use of white rose petals or bubbles as a suitable physical expression of joy that will protect the environment and make cleanup easier and faster.

A Note to the Non-Orthodox

A wedding in the Orthodox Church does not mean that you automatically become a member of the Orthodox Church. Even though in general only Orthodox Christians in good standing are permitted to receive the Sacraments (such as Holy Communion), we welcome anyone to worship and fellowship with us.

No one should feel compelled to join the Orthodox Church, but it is best for a couple to be one in all things. If you freely desire to learn more about the Orthodox Church and/or wish to join, please consult a priest. We welcome you to explore and learn more about the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.