There are different cultural rituals which are performed by people of different cultures. A cultural ritual refers to an event or activities that are valued within a certain group of people or society and which they relate with in a way that is unique from other communities. The cultural ritual that I was able to observe and take some notes was a wedding ritual under the Orthodox Church. The wedding ceremony is known as the “Orthodox Sacrament of Marriage”, and is primarily made up of two major parts. The part that got me fascinated was at the point where the couples are required to exchange the rings. The ritual, which took place just at the point of entry into the church, is considered to be special. It is taken to be the point at which the couples leave the world and transit into another world as they get into the church.
The events that take place in this ritual include prayers for the couples by the priest as a way of blessing the union of the couple. It was observed that there artifacts which are needed and involved in the ritual. These include the rings which the couples put on their right hand. During one of the wedding ceremonies, it was noted that after the rings have been obtained, the next step that is taken after the couples have been blessed by the priest is the placement of the rings. The rings are not just placed on any finger or hand. The right hand is used to place the -295275-47625000rings. From what the believers say as it emerged is that, under the Orthodox wedding, the hand where the rings are place is the one that is believed to be used in making of promises and oaths, that is, right hand of the bride and that of the groom. It later also emerged that the right hand is used because it is the one which is used to recognize the presence of God Almighty. Quite interesting, or may be because it is believed such as in Christianity, the right hand is the hand of blessings.
During the wedding, it was observed that when the couples were progressing with the wedding, it is that the right hand was the one used to make the sign of the cross. A cross from my view is a symbol of some sort of belief in a sect or religion. According to the faithful followers of this church, the sign of the cross is made as a way of recognizing that there was God in that ceremony. It is to be note that after placing a ring on the finger of the groom, a ring is then placed on the finger of the bride. From the wedding ritual, the artifacts, in this case the rings are of great significance and are greatly treasured. Without the rings, there cannot be a wedding and the priest is not allowed to give permission uniting the couples.
The participants, that is, the bride and the groom are expected to know what placing the rings on their right hand means to them. Rings are a symbol of unity between the marrying parties as well as the families of the bride and the groom. The bride and the groom are required to know that they are leaving the “outside world” by standing at the entry to the church, and they are entering a “new world”, that of Christianity. The exchange of the rings by the couple illustrates their commitment not only to uphold the principles of the church but also to continue with the faith and belief of the church. The couples are united to each other as well as the church since the wedding takes place inside and outside the church, whereby the move from the outside to the inside of the church, symbolizing transformation of lives.
The exchange of the rings however, only takes place after all the parties are asked questions on their commitment to the marriage and they make a promise. The bride first makes the promise after which the groom makes the promise. At this point, the priest is seen to be very keen on what the bride and groom say, may be for future reference in case the couple run in to marriage problems or issues that may require the intervention of the priest.
Furthermore, the bride and the groom are expected to be aware that the placing of the rings on their right fingers signifies their agreement, betrothal, stewardship and authority towards each other. It is the belief of the participants that the rings represent their agreement, service to each other, commitment as well as authority in their marriage. The use of the rings in the ceremony means that the couples will always strive to support and be there for each other and that each of the two will gain from their union in marriage.
The bride and the groom are expected to realize that when they exchange the rings, they have total commitment to each other and are bound to share as well as have an exchange of their spiritual belongs and their physical belongs till death separates the two. The love that they pledge to one another is expected to be eternal with full devotion and service to each other. Therefore, it is important that the groom and the bride understands what it mean by having the rings placed on their right hands during this ritual conducted at the entrance of the church with the help of a priest.
The Orthodox followers shun marriages without weddings and one is shown great respect when they marry or get married through a church wedding. The family members are expected to be present during this time when the couples exchange the rings and the absence of one or both parents is considered as a curse. It is believed that failure of the parents to attend, if they are alive, means that the wedding is not blessed. The ritual of exchanging the rings at the entrance of the church is significant in the lives of the couple hence not taken lightly. The value that is placed on the exchange of the rings is noticeable even on the reaction that the bride and the groom display after the exchange of the rings. Joy and happiness is expressed through songs by the crowd that has attended the wedding as they exchange the rings. Generally, the wedding ritual of exchanging rings in the Orthodox Church is currently practiced even in other churches to signify unity of the couples.
Father Constantine Varipatis; Marriage and the Freedom of the Human Person (1995) viewed from http://www.saintstylianos.org.au/orthodoxy/marriage.html on 23rd November 2014
Our Wedding Ceremony viewed from http://web.mit.edu/manoli/www/wedding/ceremony.html on 23rd November 2014