In our prayer books the meaning of betrothal is explained as follows: “Betrothal is the beginning of marriage; because, for example, the tree blossoms first and then it bears fruit, so the bridegroom and the bride blossom first through the engagement and then through the wedding ceremony, they bear fruit. According to the church order, the priest is obliged to examine the bridegroom and the bride to ensure that they have no spiritual or blood relationship. Nor must he marry a young girl with an old man, or a boy with an old woman. The groom should be at least 18 years old and the bride 15 or 16 years old. He should sit them side by side on the chair, - and not in a heathen way in secret. As a sign of engagement, a ring, a bracelet, an earring and a red net are to be placed in front of the groom, and a veil is to be placed on the bride. The ring is placed on her fourth finger, which has the vein to the heart, and shows that the bride loves the groom with all her heart. The bracelet on the wrist shows that the bride obediently binds herself to the man of her own will, the earring - that she has heard with her ears and with her mind (and heart) agrees. The earring and ring are all that expresses the agreement of the heart and will. The red net and veil express that she truly becomes the bride of the boy to whom she becomes engaged. The priest stands and explains the sacrament of the betrothal, that this is not a novelty but the life-giving sacrament announced by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary (Great Book of Prayer).
At the end of the engagement ceremony, the priest gives a teaching "as at a wedding". According to this section, this instruction is established. Then the priest sings the hymn "In the Sign of Thy Cross Almighty", reads the relevant passages from the Gospel and the prayers. He blesses the rings and places them on the ring finger of the right hand of the bride and groom. He also blesses the bracelet and earrings and puts them on the bride's arm and ear. In some regions, the bride gives the groom a belt, which the priest also blesses and puts on the groom. Finally, the officiating priest gives the blessing and sends the congregation in peace.
Although the tradition of the separate church engagement is partly preserved, this ceremony is performed in connection with the wedding ceremony in the church. However, this custom is still practiced in some places.
The day before the wedding, the priest hears the confessions of the groom and the bride individually. Then he gives them Holy Communion. If the wedding ceremony takes place during a mass, the newlyweds are given communion while singing the hymn “Christ is sacrificed”.
During the marriage ceremony, the groom stands on the north side of the church with the bride on his right, "the queen stands on your right" (Psalm 45:10). The godfather and the male attendants of the bride and groom stand at the groom's side and the women at the bride's side. In the vestibule of the altar, the officiating priest blesses the engagement rings and places them on the left ring finger of the groom and bride. In the prayer that follows, he asks God to bless “the male and female servants” and lead them “to good works”.
This ceremony is a public promise, an agreement between the bridegroom and the bride, made in the church before God in the presence of the congregation. The officiating priest first reads the instruction, then he asks the groom and the bride the same question, whether they will submit to one another and care for one another. After the question is answered in the affirmative, the shaking of hands takes place, in which the priest clasps the right hands of the bride and groom and says “When God took the hand of Eve”. The handshake is based on the biblical tradition that after God created Eve, he gave her to Adam and united and blessed them both. Thus the priest, as the ambassador of Christ, hands over the bride to the bridegroom, unites them both and blesses them.
After the prayer "When God Took the Hand of Eve", the priest twists the thread for the bridegroom's headband and recites the words of the Psalm 21:2: “Lord, the king rejoices in your power; he rejoices loudly at your help!” Then he twists the yarn for the bride’s headband and says: “She is led to the king in colorfully embroidered clothes, virgins are her attendants, her friends are brought to you” (Psalm 45:15). He places the ribbons on the bride and groom's shoulders.
The newlyweds are led in front of the bema (the stage on which the altar is located) to the accompaniment of the hymn “Rejoice, O Holy Church”, while the priest and the deacons appear in front of the altar. On the altar, the priest lifts the gospel and lets the bridal couple kiss it. The deacon reads the readings determined by the marriage order, a passage from the Gospel, and the creed. This is followed by the reading of a long prayer explaining the sacrament of marriage. During the prayer, the bride and groom turn to the altar.
The officiating priest blesses the crowns (or the headbands twined in the vestibule of the altar) and places one on the groom's head first, then the other on the bride's head. The deacon hands the godparents standing behind the bride and groom a cross, which he holds between their heads.
This section is followed by the hymn "O thou blissful one," with the bride and groom seated but the godfather and other attendants standing, as a token of honor like a king and queen. Here the terms "king" and "queen" are to be understood in a spiritual sense. Through the church blessing, the bridal couple is strengthened with spiritual grace, like the first Armenian kings Abgar and Tiritades, as well as his wife Ashkhen, who received the heavenly crown of Christ through their conversion to Christianity during their earthly reign and were thus given the honor of to enter as saints into the everlasting kingdom of God.
Kings and clergy alike had an obligation to defend the faith and to ensure the permanence of the faith of their citizens. Similar to a family relationship, the parents have the leadership and are obligated to impart the divine graces they have received to their children so that they may grow in faith and keep those graces. In this sense, too, the married couple is called to work in the spiritual field. In the above hymn, "O thou most blessed," Kings Abgar and Tiritadis, who were the first defenders of the Christian faith, are asked to intercede with God that the newly-wed couple may remain strong and steadfast in their faith.
Then the ceremony begins, in which the crowns or headbands (narod) are removed. After the large prayer book, the deacon reads a teaching with the godfather holding the cross over the heads of the bridal couple. The officiating priest removes the headbands and continues the prayer with the words: "...send your angel of peace to come and keep them..." The godfather also takes down the cross. The bride and groom turn to the altar.
The process of this ceremony has changed over the centuries. It was originally held outside the church. After the wedding ceremony, the bride was led to the bridegroom's house on horseback, accompanied by sacred and folk songs. A day or a week after the wedding ceremony, depending on local tradition, the priest would visit the couple in the bridal room and remove their headbands in prayer. Up until that point, the couple had been forbidden from any physical relationship.
After the ceremony of removing the headband, the wine is blessed. The deacon pours the wine into a cup, which the priest blesses and gives to the groom and then to the bride to drink. The cup is then presented to the close relatives of the newlyweds. The blessing and distribution of the wine commemorates the wedding at Cana, where Christ turned the water into wine and gave it to the host to distribute to the other guests. By this miracle, Christ blessed that marriage and shared in the joy He brought to the wedding guests.
Wine has always been a sign of joy and praise, as the Marriage at Cana shows us. In this context, however, the wine is also the symbolization of the Holy Spirit, who gives life. The Holy Spirit is the real meaning of life, the source of knowledge, happiness and vitality. By drinking the wine, the bride and groom accept the Holy Spirit, which stimulates and guides future family life.
The sacrament of marriage ends with the prayer "Christ our God, guardian and hope of the faithful", the Lord's Prayer, the blessing and the dismissal.
The post-marriage ceremony also has a biblical basis. In Genesis 21:8 we read that when Isaac was weaned, the patriarch gave Abraham a great feast. King David also prepared a feast in honor of Abner and his companions (2 Samuel 3:20). When his prodigal son returned, in Luke 15:22-24 the father throws a big feast. The marriage at Cana also expresses such joy. So the tradition of holding a celebration after weddings or baptisms and similar happy events has been preserved through the centuries. Nevertheless, such occasions, when the gifts of God are distributed to many, should not become an occasion for exaggeration and scandal. The command of God should always be kept in mind: “So whether you eat or drink or do anything else, do everything for the glory of God. Give neither Jews, nor Greeks, nor the Church of God cause for reproach!" (1 Corinthians 10:31-32).
Unfortunately, it must be said that today's celebrations are far removed from the commandment of the above-mentioned gospel. In some cases they become the subject of boasting and boasting, spending thousands on hall rentals, banquets, bands and singers. In contrast, people haggle over the church fees, which are already quite low, or even threaten to ask other churches where the ceremonies are carried out free of charge. There are also people who, despite their weak financial situation, compete with the wealthy and finance their celebrations with loans. All of this, however, bears no relation to the joy of a holy marriage and misses its true meaning. The purpose of such festivals is to celebrate within the framework of religious and folk traditions in the community of family members. Such a celebration can also take place in a modest setting, the important thing being holiness and sincerity. The celebrations that follow a baptism are particularly striking. These celebrations have now become so lavish that they resemble a competition between families. The parents of the baptized are so occupied with their guests and the fun that the focus of the day (the baptized) falls into oblivion. It is observed with astonishment with what emphasis the child is put to sleep so that the parents will not be late to attend the celebration. Many of the guests leave the celebration without even having seen the baptized. The actual meaning of the celebration is to rejoice with the baptized child that the Christian church has gained a new member. The celebration should also be designed with this in mind.
But let's go back to the wedding party. It is proper for a clergyman to bless the banquet table, who also extends his congratulations to the newlywed couple and to the guests. It is also important that at the celebration the bride and groom go to the guests and thank them and accept their congratulations for starting a family and doing a good deed.
[Armenian: Khachjeghpayr (cross brother)]
The best man is the one who holds the cross at the marriage ceremony. He is often referred to as "Godfather" as at baptism. In the ancient Armenian tradition, the godfather was a person who was either godfather of one of the spouses or godfather of one of the parents, therefore he is called godfather. He is the official witness at the wedding ceremony.
The godfather must be baptized in the Armenian Apostolic Church and currently a member of the Eucharist. He is not only a witness, but also a guarantor that the married couple will remain faithful to the Armenian Church and lead their lives according to the sacred tradition of the Church. It should therefore be someone with a firm Christian faith so that he can offer advice to the young family.
Nowadays it is also common to appoint people who do not belong to the Armenian Orthodox denomination as godparents. Personal interests are often the motive for such a decision, such as the desire to build up a relationship through marriage in order to obtain a possible right of residence in a country. Such considerations are contrary to church traditions and church teaching. It is incomprehensible how people belonging to another denomination can be expected to provide religious assistance to an Armenian family. Conversely, it is just as difficult to expect an Armenian to be the godfather of a person from another denomination.
Nevertheless, the Christian churches have developed an upright relationship with one another on the ecumenical level and are trying to break down the sectarian barriers that separate them. In this spirit of Christian brotherhood, the questions of sponsorship and interdenominational marriages should also be dealt with. Nevertheless, in such cases, the person concerned should at least be informed about the history and traditions of the Armenian Church, so that the purpose of a godparent as a supporter of the family is satisfied. Professing atheists should not be considered as possible godparents, because they could give rise to family breakdowns and even be a stumbling block.