And now, the pictures from Steve and Luda's wedding! Orthodox weddings begin in the back of the worship area, or nave, where the priest will take the rings and place them on the hands of the couple. This is called the betrothal, where "the servant of God Steven is betrothed unto the handmaiden of God Ludmila, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." The names are then switched and the second ring placed on the other person's hand.
The betrothed are brought to the middle of the nave to where the table with the gospel book, a common cup of wine, and two wedding crowns are. The rest of the ceremony will be carried out here.
Father prays over the betrothed, that God will bless them as He blessed Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Rachel. Steve really is, btw, quite happy to be here, as you'll see below, but this picture of Luda is just too good to pass up.
Another "goodie." The choir was singing several different hymns -- mostly about the Incarnation, for just as God became one with humanity in the person of Christ and we are to become one with God in our lives, so the two are to become one flesh and thus give glory to God. Father seemed to get lost in this part. We are truly lucky to have this man as our father in Christ.
Candles were lit, one for each of the betrothed, as lights to reflect Christ, the Light of the world, the one who unifies them. Two candles, one light...you get it.
Now this was an interesting tradition, one that is apparently Ukranian, where the betrothed have their right hands bound together by a cloth. My first thought was that, since the right hand is, in biblical language and that of other ancient civilizations, the hand of strength, these hands are bound to show the unifying of the strengths of each of the betrothed, working together as members of Christ's Church. (It should be added here that Orthodox couples in traditionally Orthodox lands, as well as some Orthodox here in the US--like my wife and I--wear their wedding bands on their right hands. I have no idea if Steve and Luda chose to do this, though.)
See? Told you Steve was glad to be here. ;-)
Father then takes two wedding crowns and, just as he did with the rings in the betrothal service, chants, "The servant of God Steven is crowned unto the handmaiden of God Ludmila, in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" three times, then switches names. Audra and I had our wedding crowns placed on us, but apparently in the Russian tradition, the crowns are held above the heads of the couple by the best man and the maid of honor. (Xenia Jules, you should be grateful if you're reading this!) These crowns represent both the crowning of the couple as king and queen of their household, which is supposed to be a microcosm of the Kingdom of God, as well as crowns of martyrdom, where each person takes on a life of self-denial, a dying to self for the purpose of submitting to and serving one another, "that they may stand before their fellows and in [God's] sight as an ideal family and...worthy of everlasting life," having given their lives to God and one another.
The priest will then read the gospel lesson from the Wedding at Cana, where the Lord Jesus, in coming to that wedding, blessed marriage and "declared it to be an honorable estate" by His performing His first miracle.
These two pictures are the drinking of the common cup of wine, again an icon of both the shared joys and sorrows that married life will inevitably bring.
This last photograph is probably my favorite--an Unwedded Bride in the foreground, humbly looking downward; a newly- wedded bride in the background, posed in much the same way.
Many, many, many blessed years.