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Author Topic: Engagements  (Read 1090 times) Average Rating: 0
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SakranMM
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« on: August 01, 2005, 10:56:59 AM »

I have a question about marriage engagement in Eastern Orthodoxy.  Being born and raised in America, I've always been under the impression that a typical engagement is something to be done in private, between the man and the woman getting engaged...You know, the guy gets down on one knee, proposes, etc...However, I walked into my Antiochian church the other day before Vespers, and there was a crowd of people in there in fancy clothes...our priest said that it was a blessing of the rings for engagement.  So I start thinking, "What the heck is this?"  In Orthodox (or maybe Antiochian) tradition, when a man asks a woman to marry him, is this an event that involves the entire community, family and friends, or did I misread this "blessing of rings for engagement?"  I would appreciate any info.

In Christ,

Michael
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« Reply #1 on: August 01, 2005, 11:38:51 AM »

In Orthodox cultures during ancient times, the betrothal would many times be held in the Church as a service seperate from the actual wedding service. This betrothal was considered binding, and was basically a pledge of marriage so strong that to break it was considered a divorce. Now, it is important to remember that during these times, most marriages were arranged by the parents. Whatever the feelings of the kids (and they were kids, normally under 16), the parents were making a contract of sorts that involved social and political connections, sometimes large amounts of property, and so forth. The betrothal was as much a contract between parents as an agreement between the would-be bride and groom, who were usually too young to make such important decisions anyway. So there would be a betrothal, and then the kids might not marry for a year, or six years, or who knows when. This probably isn't something you'd read in Fr. John Meyendorff's or Fr. John Mack's fine books on marriage, but this does seem to be the way things happened.

As we get closer to the modern age, things changed a bit. The Betrothal service started getting performed together with the wedding service. Eventually, they got to the point where they were mostly done together, one right after the other, which is what is common today. At the same time, the age of getting married was increasing, and less and less marriages were being arranged. Obviously in America, much of this stuff isn't relevant to us.

Marriage--like all Sacraments except for Confession--is a public event, so it could be argued that the engagement should be public. However, since most Orthodox do a betrothal service before the crowning anyway, I don't think it's necessary. Of course, if you wanted to, you could talk to the priest (and maybe talk to the bishop). I'm not sure about the intricacies of the Antiochian practice in particular (even though I was married in an Antiochian Church). I'd say, just ask the priest about it. Also, talk to older ladies and gentlemen in your parish; you will probably both benefit immensely from such talks Smiley
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SakranMM
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« Reply #2 on: August 01, 2005, 12:04:14 PM »

Thanks.  I'll definately take that into account.  Whenever the time is right, I'll probably talk to my priest about it, and go from there.

In Christ,

Michael
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« Reply #3 on: August 01, 2005, 12:17:30 PM »

There is also the tradition to propose near water,.. This in memory of the finding of Isaac's wife at the well, by Abraham's servant. A priest told me that, my wife's FOC at the time bfr we were married. So,.. I had to do it allllll over again,.. luckily there was plenty of water around! Cheesy

SNB
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« Reply #4 on: August 02, 2005, 05:35:40 AM »

It's actually not uncommon (though it is getting less so) for the people in the villages surrounding my wife's home town (in north eastern Romania) to have separate betrothal and wedding ceremonies to this day. I know several couples that were betrothed in the Church months before they had their wedding - the practice is not something purely relegated to the dim and distant past. Apparently, very long periods of betrothal are uncommon nowadays and most people do probably have the betrothal immediately before the crowning (as did I) but the practice has not died out yet.

James
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« Reply #5 on: August 02, 2005, 11:04:53 AM »

As Orthodox in America (rather, I should simply say as "Orthodox", period), can we draw a distinction between the informal engagement (i.e. getting down on one knee and asking "Will you marry me?") and the betrothal service in the Church?ÂÂ  I've always understood the betrothal as implying much more commitment than what most Americans understand an engagement to be. Are both events compatible in Orthodox tradition? It just makes sense to me to actually "ask" a girl to marry me before taking her to the church for the betrothal service  WinkÂÂ  Thoughts?

In Christ,

Michael
« Last Edit: August 02, 2005, 11:06:43 AM by SakranMM » Logged

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« Reply #6 on: August 02, 2005, 01:02:40 PM »

Well, if what people are saying is accurate, couples who were arranged or what not had to have made that arrangement before getting a betrothal...So someone did some asking and arranging before the betrothal!

Also, in our church, we publish "bans" of marriage for three weeks prior to the wedding service so that anyone who has something to say about the matter can raise their issues...I dont know if these bans would be published before the betrothal and not just the crowning, but since betrothal was considered binding, I imagine the bans need to be published before the betrothal, which gives you at least three weeks of knowilng that you were getting married...seems like it's good and normal to ask before betrothal.
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