Can an Orthodox Marry a Non-Orthodox?


Orthodox bride kissing a crown during Orthodox wedding ceremony

Marriage is a spiritual event in every religion; therefore, many believers are always keen on weddings and marriages. Typically, marriage involves two consenting Individuals who marry and commit their married life to divine power. Whether orthodox or Non-Orthodox, every religion follows certain rituals, so what happens when these two religious worlds collide?

So, can an Orthodox marry a Non-Orthodox? The Orthodox Church only permits intermarriages to baptized Christians. The Non-Orthodox churches have no reservations about interreligious unions. Therefore, marriage between an Orthodox groom and a Non-Orthodox bride is allowed; for instance, a Roman Catholic Christian can marry a Greek Orthodox Church believer. However, before marrying an Orthodox, the Catholic Church requires that you obtain permission from the priest.

We aim to establish whether two people from these religions can marry. How do the Orthodox and Non-Orthodox conduct their marriages? What happens when two believers wish to marry? Read on as we answer these and more questions.

Orthodox And Non-Orthodox Customs

Christianity has three major groups; Protestants, Roman Catholics, and the Orthodox Church. Orthodoxy means following and adhering to the true beliefs of the Christian faith. Here, the believers strictly follow and conform to the creeds of the early church.

Also, most have their heading bishop or are self-governed. The Christian Orthodox Churches differ from other Christian churches in how they worship, live their Christian life, and conduct theological practices.

On the other hand, Orthodox Judaism consists of Jews who believe in traditional norms and beliefs. For instance, the Orthodox Jews believe in the written and verbal Torah; there are the documented version and God’s teachings via word of mouth.

Thus, believers strongly reject any adjustments to these teachings. Moreover, the Talmud holds that a Jewish man should not marry a Non-Jewish.

If such intermarriages occur, and children result from them, the Jewish father will have no paternal recognition. The aim is to conserve Jewish culture and traditions.

Orthodox Jewish customs are in subgroups that are open to the outside society due to the inevitable contemporary social changes. Therefore, for women who want to marry Jewish men, conversion to Judaism is the best way to go.

The Western Orthodox Churches believe they are the true custodians of God’s original doctrines. Thus, they consider themselves God’s faithful servants and witnesses; this contributes to why their weddings involve a crowning ceremony.

Orthodox and Non-Orthodox Intermarriages

The Orthodox Church has specific guidelines for all marriages, whether within the church or interfaith (when an Orthodox marries a Non-Orthodox believer). Regarding sacramental unions, the fundamental rule is that the marriage must occur in the Orthodox set up; there is little room for negotiation in such matters.

Therefore, it is a challenge to hold your wedding at any other place of your choice. The reason stands that marriage is a sacred event; hence, it must occur in a Holy ground; the Orthodox Church.

Generally, once you are viable to marry in most religions, the priest will have to find out if one of you has been previously married. If so, but the partner is deceased, then you will need to provide the death certificate.

Otherwise, if you were previously married, then you need to provide proof of a complete marriage. Secondly, he has to ensure that you two are not blood-related in any way; or else, you cannot go ahead with the union. Lastly, you need to obtain a civil marriage license to validate your marriage civilly.

Suppose an Orthodox couple wishes to marry but are from different Orthodox churches; they may decide to conduct their wedding at either church. However, they must first consult with the Bishop of the other Archdiocese, stating that the union will be under the jurisdiction of another Orthodox church.

By marrying at the local church, the priest can confirm whether the two meet all the fundamental marriage requirements under Orthodoxy. If you are a baptized Christian, the priest will automatically initiate the marriage process. On the contrary, the church’s canonical law is against an Orthodox marrying a Non-Christian.

It is worth noting that marrying an Orthodox Christian does not qualify you to become an Orthodox Christian. The church will still regard you as a non-member, which bars you from receiving the Holy Communion.

Orthodox Christians have a closed communion, meaning that only its bona fide members can partake of the sacrament. However, you can participate in the Holy Communion once you go through the conversion.

The church has no reservations about a non-member marrying in an Orthodox Church if he/she is marrying an Orthodox believer. The church understands that the canons dictate that an Orthodox union must take place at the holy grounds. Therefore, this rule also includes instances where the believer marries a non-member.

In contrast, the Orthodox Church does not allow its members to marry in a Non-Orthodox Church. So, if you go ahead with the other church’s wedding, then the church will not consider your union valid. They strictly believe that all marriages are God’s will; therefore, the sacrament of matrimony must occur in the Orthodox Church, for it is where God resides.

This rule is so rigid that marrying elsewhere can be grounds for ex-communication. Besides, the church can also ban you from participating in significant church events that involve sacrament.

If you marry an Orthodox Christian in an Orthodox Church and you wish to carry along your clergy to participate in your marriage. The church requires that you consult with your bishop to make the invitation official. However, your guest clergy will not actively participate in the matrimony.

Only an Orthodox Church clergy can be the sole minister at your wedding because it is a Holy and Sacramental event under the church’s jurisdiction. Similarly, an Orthodox clergy can only be a guest at a Non-Orthodox wedding; the church doesn’t allow him to preside or officiate a sacramental ceremony outside the Orthodox Church.

The Greek Orthodox also hold the church with great importance; hence, every religious ceremony must happen inside the church. Suppose you are a Non-Orthodox wishing to marry in the Orthodox Church, the first step to consider is to visit the local priest to guide you on how best you can go about your wedding.

The Orthodox Jewish also follow the old traditions present in the Torah; therefore, they do not allow any intimate relationships with a different faith person. They consider such unions invalid and a violation of the Jewish marriage laws. Marriage between an Orthodox Jew and a more liberal Jew or an individual whose mother is not Jewish is also illegal.

Contemporary Issues in Orthodox Marriages

The 21st-century Orthodox marriages are experiencing a lot of challenges. In the last centuries, Orthodox Christianity surpassed the other two denominations, Catholics and Protestants, in numbers. However, the church has so far lost popularity due to the stringent rules on the believers.

Also, most Orthodox Christians are in Europe, which has primarily affected the spread of the faith. The population trend in Europe is not rapid compared to other developing countries, especially in Africa, thereby hindering the growth of Orthodox Churches.

Orthodox Jews are also on the verge of reconsidering marriage with Non-Orthodox members. The religion officials have noticed fewer members, which indicates that over time, the Jewish Orthodox faith and traditions may become extinct. Besides, the orthodox faith has caused an increased number of believers who cohabit with the fear that the church will not validate their marriage.

Finally

Some Orthodox believers claim that the Non-Orthodox do not follow the ancient church’s traditions or the early church’s standards and creeds. These Non-Orthodox believers include the Protestants and the Catholic Christians. It is a contentious issue in matters of intermarriages.

Both Orthodox and Non-Orthodox believers, Christians, and Jewish value marriage and consider it a divine connection to God. The Orthodox Christian church is quite strict in marriage matters, while the Catholic Church may allow marriage without the sacrament.

The Orthodox Church holds that such a union is invalid since it does not involve the body of Christ. The Orthodox believe that conducting any changes in their customs will eventually water down their ancient traditions. However, it is crucial to address intermarriages, which are common concepts in the modern world.

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