Orthodox Wedding ceremonies are becoming more popular with young people in Russia these days. In Russia, people often marry very young, and there is a high divorce rate, so the Church goes to great lengths to advise young couples before the wedding of the importance of marriage, and not to make the decision too soon. They are often encouraged to live together for a time before marriage to be sure that they are right for each other.
After the official wedding has taken place at the ZAGS office, the wedding party head to the church for the Orthodox ceremony. These days, just like in the West, the bridal party hire luxury cars and limousines for the occasion.
The groom should arrive at the church before the bride, as a sign of his true love, commitment and to show his new family that he is a responsible man ready for marriage. The bride arrives soon after, and together they head into the church.
The Orthodox wedding is a long and solemn ceremony, consisting of two parts – the betrothal and the mass itself. The bride and groom each have a "witness", who hold gold crowns above the heads of the couple while the ceremony is taking place.
A junior priest brings out the two wedding rings on a special tray, and the priest burns two long wedding candles and hands them to the bride and groom, who hold these candles throughout the ceremony.The priest then asks the bride and groom to exchange rings. While the priest holds the tray, the bride and groom must move the rings three times on the tray. It is a tradition that means they will be equal, generous, and supportive to each other always.
The couple now place the rings on each other's fingers, and at this moment, they give themselves to each other forever.
The next moment in the wedding is very important. The priest takes the crown of the groom and crosses him three times before the groom then kisses the icon on the crown – the icon of Christ. The priest repeats this blessing with the bride, whose crown bears the icon of Our Lady.
The two crowns are then placed on the heads of the bride and groom, and they become "Tsar and Tsaritsa" (King and Queen) for each other forever.
The priest gives the couple a challace of wine to drink (usually Cahors wine), which they sip from three times. This tradition means that the two individuals now become one, and they will share all their life together.
The priest takes his right hand and joins the right hand of the groom with the right hand of his bride. The couple (still holding hands) pass around the lectern three times, to show that they will now go forward in life together.
The newlyweds approach the Tsar Gates in the church and in turn kiss the icons of Christ and Our Lady. The priest blesses them both with the sign of the cross, and gives the couple two icons – Christ and Our Lady - which are to be hung over their bed in the marital home.
Now it is time for the couple to be congratulated and the wedding celebrations to begin!
After the Orthodox wedding ceremony, people usually go to historical places (such as Red Square in Moscow) to walk and take photographs, or to place flowers at the grave of the Unknown Soldier.