The Rite of Betrothal and the Rite of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony.
Rite of Betrothal
In the Coptic Church, betrothal is only permissible between a male and a female, as long as both participants are believers and share the same religion/faith. Moreover, they must be mature and responsible enough for marriage. There are official rules against a relationship between relatives, such as the marriage of brothers to their sisters or marriage to one’s parents. Once the priest ensures that all conditions have been meet and acknowledges the willingness of those who are to be betrothed; he then writes an official document stating the correct age, the price of the betrothal, and the time of Matrimony. The betrothed, the parents, and the witnesses sign this document.
Following this, the priest announces the betrothal by saying: “In the Name of our Lord, God and Saviour, Jesus Christ…” and the congregation responds with “amen”, followed by the Lord’s Prayer. Then the priest prays the second and third litanies with the blessing of the Cross. After each sign, the congregation responds with “amen”, followed by the Lord’s Prayer. khen pekhristos penchois is then chanted in the joyful tune. The priest says `slyl , followed by the Prayer of Thanksgiving and its appropriate responses. After this, the congregation chants the hymn khen evran and `axioc `axioc `axioc , “bless O Lord the betrothal by Your Holy Name.” Then the congregation chants the verse suitable for the betrothal, using the tune of Khenevran . After this, the priest prays, “O Master, Lord, in truth, the Word of the eternal, unbegotten God…,” and the congregation responds with “Amen. Amen. Amen.” Then the priest prays, “O God, who created man free…,” and the congregation again respond with “amen, amen, amen.” Then the priest prays, “O God, bless this daughter…,” and the congregation respond with “Amen. Amen. Amen.” Then they chant “And the peace of God be with you…,” followed by Kireleycon three times, and the Concluding Canon. Then the priest concludes with a prayer of blessing and the Lord’s Prayer.
Rite of Holy Matrimony
According to the new order of the rite of Holy Matrimony by the Holy Synod, which was gathered in the morning of Saturday 29 May 1999 A.D., 21 Pashons 1715 A.M, the rite of the “Contract for Possession” is no longer required. It is now sufficient to have the rite of betrothal carried out before matrimony. This prayer is not performed unless both the bride and groom have maintained their chastity. This obligation is overlooked if one of the individuals is not married as a result of the death of a previous husband or wife. However, the other mate must be chaste.
First, the groom enters the church in a procession with the deacons, while they chant the hymns`Pouro and the opening blessing. During the procession of the bride, the deacons chant <ere Mari`awhile leading her into the church. If there is sufficient time, the hymns <ere ne Mari`a , the secondCemoti , Teoi enhikanoc , the joyful Sherat, and Ypar;enoc . During the Holy Fifty days, the hymns of the Resurrection are chanted instead.
Today, however, due to the increase in the amount of weddings, the father of the bride (or whoever is responsible for her if the father is not present) hands the bride to her groom at the gates of the church, and both the groom and bride enter the church together, while the bride is on the left of the groom. The deacons chant the hymn `Pouro during annual days, or <rictoc anecty during the Holy Fifty days.
The hymn, `Pouro is an ancient Egyptian hymn, which was used in Pharaonic Egypt in welcome the Pharaoh while he entered the royal court and proceeded to his throne. The musicians welcomed him with a hymn consisting of the same music as that of the joyful `Pouro , but with different words.
It is important to note that it is not permitted to have a wedding on the Sunday prior to the Great Lent, as this is marks the beginning of the preparation week. This also applies to the day prior to any fast. According to the decision of the Rites Committee in the Holy Synod, which took place on 28 May, 1988 A.D, it is now permitted to have a wedding on the Saturday preparation for the Great Lent.
The prayer of the Matrimony starts by the priest saying, “In the name of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ the founder of the laws of perfection …” and he makes the first signing with the cross while saying “In the name…”. The deacon answers “Amen.” This is followed by the Lord’s Prayer. The same is done for the second and the third signings.
The congregation say “In Christ Jesus our Lord” in the joyful tune, then the priest prays the Prayer of Thanksgiving. The chanters chant the special verses with the Palm Sunday Tune. Then the priest says, “O God who created man with His hands alone…” for the marriage vow, and when he mentions the bride and groom, he makes the sign of the cross on their foreheads. Afterwards, the deacons chant verses with the Palm Sunday Tune.
The priest prays the Vestment Prayer, which commences with “O Master Lord Jesus Christ…” and when he ends with “Amen,”, the deacon answers with “Amen.” This is followed by the hymn “The spiritual garment…” chanted by the deacons during which the priest puts the vestment on the bridegroom and the wedding rings in the hands of the newly married couple. Afterwards, the chanters say the hymn Tai souri and Tenouwst, and the Pauline is read in Coptic, then in language of the congregation from Ephesians 5:22-6:3. At this point, the chanters say the hymn Pi`pneuma – except during the Holy Fifty days preceding the Pentecost – then the Trisagion in the joyful tune, followed by the Gospel’s litany, the Psalm from 18:5,6 and 127:3,4 and the Gospel from Matthew 19:2-6 in Coptic, then its translation.
When the deacons chant the Gospel Response, the priest then chants the litany prayers for the newly wed couple, and the congregation responds with Kuri`e `eleicon following each verse. Next are the three short litanies (for peace, the fathers, and assemblies) and the deacons answer with the usual responses. Then the deacon says En covia … followed by the Creed.
The priest prays the three matrimonial prayers, each one followed by a response by the deacons, chanted in the Palm Sunday tune. After those three prayers the priest prays a Prayer of Submission, starting with “Incline Your ear, O Lord…” which is also responded to, by the deacons, in the Palm Sunday tune.
The priest prays over the oil before anointing the bride and the groom, and after each verse, the deacons reply with “Amen.” While the priest anoints the bridegroom and the bride, the chanters sing the parts specific for the anointment of each. Then the priest concludes the anointing with “O Lord, God of powers, whose mercies are numerous…”
Now, the priest takes the two crowns and prays over them; and at the end of each verse the congregation responds saying “Amen” then the priest places the crowns over the groom and his bride. While the crowns are being placed over the couple’s heads, the chanters sing a joyful response. Afterwards, the priest prays over their heads and the people answer him saying “Amen.” He then places the head of the bride and the groom close to each other and says “Crown them with glory and honor…” while making the sign of the cross over them, and the people say “Amen” after each litany.
At this point, the chanters sing khenefran, Axioc and the rest of the hymns. The priest then reads the Admonition for the bridegroom and his bride, and the chanters respond by Kuri`e `eleicon three times after each admonition. The priest prays over the couple, followed by the Lord’s Prayer and the three absolutions. The priest concludes with the blessing and the deacons proceed in front of the couple chanting Shere Maria
It should be noted that if the Matrimony was done after the Matins Prayer, then in the Liturgy the Pauline is read from Ephesians 4:1-13, the Catholic Epistle from 1 Peter 3:1-12, the Praxis from Acts 4:32-35, the Psalm from 21:1-2, and the Gospel from John 2:1-11.
Rite of Untying the Ribbon
This rite is also called (in Arabic) “Al-Tagleesa”, which is translated as the “enthronement” or the “lifting of the crowns.” It was usually done in the evening of the wedding day, and in the old days it used to be done after three days – and in some occasions after a week – from the day of Matrimony.
In this celebration the married couple enter the church with the priests and deacons who sing while they enter the church. Then they are enthroned and surrounded by candles and the priests holding their crosses, and the Holy Bible is placed in front of them.
The priest starts with Eleicon `ymac and the Lord’s Prayer. He then prays the Prayer of Thanksgiving and raises the incense; then the deacons sing Tenouwst. The Pauline is read from1 Timothy 4:9-15, then the Trisagion and the Litany for the Gospel. The Psalm is read from Ps. 128:3 and the Gospel from John 1:14-17.
After the Gospel, the Introduction to the Exposition Hwc eP=o=c is chanted, then the Exposition. This is followed by the song “Rejoice and be glad in the Lord O groom and his bride…”, and at the end of each part of it they say Axioc.
The priest prays the three litanies (for peace, the fathers, and assemblies), then the Creed. After this the priest says a prayer which starts with “The God of our fathers, the Father of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ…”, and he concludes with the Lord’s Prayer and the blessing. He then lifts the crowns off the bride and the groom’s heads, unties the ribbon and sends them in peace.
Rite of the Second Marriage for Widows
The priest starts with Eleisonimac and the Prayer of Thanksgiving. After he raises the incense, the congregation say the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 50, then Tenousht, followed by the Pauline from Heb 13:1-6 or 1 Corinthians 7:7-9. After the Pauline, the Trisagion is chanted, followed by the Litany for the Gospel, the Psalm “Your wife shall be like a vine” and the Gospel from John 3:27-29.
After the Gospel Response, the priest prays the three short litanies, which is followed by the Creed. Then he says “O Master, Lord God Almighty…” and the congregation answers him saying, “Amen. Amen. Amen.” Next, the Lord’s Prayer, the three absolutions and the blessing are prayed. Afterwards the priest anoints the couple with the oil and says the Admonition, which starts with “Glory be to God the Ancient who is since the beginning…” and the congregation reply with “Amen. Amen. Amen.” He then says “God, whose name is dignified…” and people respond, “Amen. Amen. Amen.”
The chanters sing “And the peace…”, then the usual conclusion of prayer.
Mikhail, Deacon Albair Gamal, The Essentials in the Deacon’s Service, (Shobra, Egypt: Shikolani, 2002), p. 990-1004. Translated in part from Arabic by Bishoy K. R. Dawood and Mina Girgis, edited in part by Alexander A-Malek and Bishoy K. R. Dawood.