My husband and I went to New Jersey and Pennsylvania this past weekend for the wedding of my Goddaughter, Julie Stanek, to Benjamin Stell. (Wedding in Princeton and reception/dinner in nearby Yardley, Pennsylvania.) It’s a second marriage for each of them, and their five grown children participated in the ceremony. It took place in a beautiful temporary chapel of the Mother of God Orthodox Church in Princeton, New Jersey. The small parish there has been using space within the former location of St. Joseph Catholic Seminary. The small basement chapel where the parish meets is lovely. (The parish has bought land and plans to build their own temple soon.)
Father Basil was honored to participate with Father John Cassar, the pastor, in the ceremony, including performing the service of “Crowning.” I wish I had a video, because the music is so beautiful. But here’s a picture of the Crowning. And here's a video that shows several examples in other Orthodox churches.
The service of the “Crowning” is the climax of the Orthodox Wedding service. The crowns are signs of the glory and honor with which God crowns the bride and groom during the Mystery, the Sacrament of Marriage. The groom and the bride are crowned as the king and queen of their own little kingdom, the home—the domestic church—which they will rule with fear of God, wisdom, justice and integrity. When the crowning takes place, the priest, takes the crowns and holds them above the couple, and says, "The servant of God (groom) is crowned to the servant of God (bride) in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen." (three times) And then this is repeated with the bride. He moves the crowns back and forth from one of their heads to the other before placing them. They are connected by a ribbon. (In some traditions the Best Man and Maid of Honor do this.)
The crowns used in the Orthodox wedding service also refer to the crowns of martyrdom since every true marriage involves immeasurable self-sacrifice on both sides.
After the Crowning comes the Dance of Isaiah, which symbolizes the couple's first steps taken together as a married couple. In some traditions the sponsors (Man and Maid of Honor) accompany them, along with the priest(s) in this “dance.” You can watch several more examples of this tradition here. Here’s a picture of Julie and Ben in the Dance of Isaiah.
I miss Julie since she moved from Memphis in 2009, but it’s obvious that she’s right at home back up north near her roots. And I loved meeting her friends from the early years of her spiritual journey, which paralleled mine in many ways. Julie’s dear friend from Boston, Susan Kon (wife of Father Michael Kon of Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church in Boston) and I were instant soul sisters. Here we are with Julie, at the reception.
I’ll just leave a few more photos here for those who know these folks, and for others who just enjoy peeking into spiritual celebrations. Like this one, of the Bridesmaids (the daughters of bride and groom) and the Maid of Honor.
To Julie and Benjamin: May God grant you Many Years!
Here are Julie and Ben with their sponsors, at the reception/dinner later.