An Orthodox wedding differs from the customary marriage services of other Christian communities. There are no vows exchanged. In fact, the bride and groom do not even speak to each other during the service. This is because, according to Orthodox theology, this is a Sacrament of the Church rather than a contract between two people. The couple is in the church to receive Christ's blessing and his community, through the priest.
The Orthodox marriage ceremony consists of two parts, the Service of the Betrothal and the Service of the Crowning
Prayers are chanted, asking God to grant Niki and Chris perfect and peaceful love and salvation and to bless them with children. The priest then blesses the rings. The rings become the visible pledge of the betrothal and symbolize the unbreakable commitment of the couple, based on their mutual consent. Holding the rings in his right hand, the priest makes the sign of the cross over their heads three times. He then places the rings on the fourth finger of their right hands and the koumbara exchanges them three times. The exchange signifies that, in married life, the weakness of one partner will be compensated by the strength of the other, the imperfection of one, by the perfections of the other, by themselves, the newly betrothed are incomplete, but together they are made perfect. The Betrothal ends with a prayer that the Lord might make strong their betrothal in faith, truth and love, make them of one mind, and grant them His Heavenly blessings.
The Sacrament of Marriage
During the crowning service, which is the climax of the wedding, the Priest, in several prayers and petitions, asks Almighty God to bless the marriage and to grant to the groom and bride a long and peaceful life, fidelity, mutual love and understanding, children, happiness and prosperity. At the end of the third prayer, the priest, who calls upon God "to join them into one mind and one flesh," unites the right hands of the groom and bride, an act in which depicts the unbreakable and everlasting unity of the couple.
The wedding crowns "stefana" (stefana) are signs of the glory and honor with which God crowns the couple during the sacrament. The stefana, joined with a ribbon signifying the unity of the couple, are held aloft by the priest as he blesses them. The crowns are placed on Niki and Chris and they become husband and wife, king and queen of their home, which they must rule with wisdom, integrity, justice and love. The koumbara exchanges the crowns on their heads three times as a witness to the sealing of the union.