Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Byzantine Betrothal

Byzantine Catholics are betrothed before they get married. This is the official church engagement. It can be done months before the wedding ceremony, but usually it is done as a part of the marriage. Here is some text of that portion of the service; it is done at the beginning, right after the priest leads the bride and groom into the church. You will notice a lot of imagery from the Old Testament throughout the prayers.

The priest gives the rings (after blessing them), first to the groom (right hand):
Priest: The servant of God G. is betrothed to the handmaid of God B., in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Then, to the bride:
Priest: The handmaid of God B., is betrothed to the servant of God G., in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Deacon: Let us pray to the Lord.               All: Lord, have mercy.
Priest: Lord our God. You accompanied the servant of Patriarch Abraham when he was sent to Mesopotamia to choose a wife for his lord Isaac. By means of a sign, the drawing of water from the well, You showed him that he should betroth Rebecca. Bless the betrothal of Your servants G. and B., and make the word they have spoken a reality.
Sustain them with the holy union that comes from You, for You made male and female from the beginning and You are the One who matches a wife to her husband so that she may be his helpmate and the human race may continue. And so, Lord our God, who extended Your faithfulness to Your inheritance and Your own promise to Your servants, our fathers, Your chosen ones in every generation: Look kindly on Your servant G. and Your handmaid B., and make good their pledge in trust, concord, fidelity and love. For You, Lord, have declared that pledges be given and faithfully fulfilled.
By a ring power was given to Joseph in Egypt.
By a ring Daniel was exalted in the land of Babylon.
By a ring Tamar’s innocence was proven.
By a ring our heavenly Father showed compassion for his (prodigal) son, for he said: "Put a ring on his right hand, kill the fatted calf and let us eat and celebrate."
Your own right hand, Lord, armed Moses in the Red Sea. And just as Your faithful word established the heavens and made the earth’s foundations firm, so too will Your mighty word and Your uplifted arm bless the right hands of Your servants.
Therefore, O Master, with a heavenly blessing bless now this putting on of rings, and may Your angel go before Your servants all the days of their life. For You are the One who bless and sanctify all things, and we send up glory to You, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and ever and for ages of ages.
All: Amen.


  1. Out of curiosity, why is the betrothal done as part of the wedding ceremony and not when the couple first comes to the priest to schedule their wedding or something?

  2. Alice- of course the couple are engaged when they start talking with the priest- but the betrothal is a liturgical act- it can be earlier (and maybe during a Sunday Divine Liturgy)- but most people that I know of connect the services

  3. I'm just curious as to why the betrothal gets connected to the wedding ceremony in the Byzantine liturgy. In the Latin liturgy it is a solemn promise to marry so it is either done shortly after the couple gets engaged or not at all.

  4. For most couples it is sort of a formality--the liturgical betrothal has been more or less incorporated into the wedding, whereas us Westerners have just abandoned it. The Byzantine couples who would separate the betrothal from the wedding are generally the same sort as the Westerners who would choose to have a betrothal. Also, perhaps it is not done because these days many couples seem to call off weddings at the last can't do that if you're betrothed!
    The Claytons of the blog Claytonopolis had their betrothal ceremony three months before their wedding.


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