Singing the Crowning Service with the Divine Liturgy

This article covers the practical aspects of singing the Crowning (wedding) service in the Byzantine Catholic Church when celebrated with the Divine Liturgy. For theological background, see The Mystery of Crowning.

You will need a copy of the wedding service as used in your parish, and this leaflet with propers for Crowning.

Before the service

If the couple has not already been betrothed, then the formal betrothal is celebrated in the narthex before the crowning. Although this service is very simply, and may even be celebrated somewhat privately, a cantor should be present since some of the responses are sung. See Singing the Betrothal Service.

The crowning service

The crowning service itself begins when the priest and deacon lead the couple to be married from the narthex into the nave of the church, while Psalm 127 is sung by the cantor and people.

This psalm should NOT be sung to a simple psalm tone; traditionally, the Tone 7 troparion melody is used, though other melodies could also be chosen. Here is the setting used in the MCI leaflet:

Crowning Psalm

Astute readers may notice that this translation does not exactly match the one on the Euchologion page. In fact, since several different translations of the Crowning service and its hymns are in circulation, this is to be expected. You should sing whatever text is in front of your congregation, adapting the music to the text as best you can.

The psalm is followed by an exchange of consent, and then the priest gives the opening blessing: "Blessed is the kingdom...." This blessing is used for the Divine Liturgies, and for the Holy Mysteries which are most intimately connected with the building up of the kingdom, namely Baptism/Chrismation and Crowning. The "Amen" is immediately followed by the Litany of Peace, with additional petitions for the crowning; use the ordinary melodies for the litany responses.

Next there are three prayers, each of which is introduced with "Let us pray to the Lord." As we mentioned in the article on Singing the Betrothal Service, it is important that every cantor be prepared to sing

Lord, have mercy

whenever the deacon or priest intones, "Let us pray to the Lord." As usual, after the priest's prayer, lead the congregation in singing:


Then the priest joins the hands of the couple, they may exchange vows if that is the local custom, and they are crowned by the priest. During this part of the service, there are no responses by the congregation and cantor.

Readings follow the crowning itself. The deacon or priest intones, "Wisdom!", and the cantor and congregation sing the prokeimenon of crowning:

Crowning prokeimenon

And noted above with the processional psalm, there are several translations of this prokeimenon in circulation; use the one that is in front of the congregation, adapting the chant accordingly.

After the reading from Saint Paul's Letter to the Ephesians, the Alleluia is sung:

and the deacon reads the story of the wedding at Cana from the Gospel according to Saint John.

After the Gospel, a Litany of Fervent Supplication is intoned, with an additional petition for the newly-married couple; use the ordinary melodies for these litanies. (The prayer, "Lord, in your saving providence", along with the Angel of Peace Litany and the Lord's Prayer that are intoned and sung at this point in the Crowing Service are NOT included, since they will form part of the Divine Liturgy.)

After the Litanies, the priest leads the newly-married couple in procession around the tetrapod while four hymns are sung by the congregation: one for protection, one to the apostles, one to the martyrs, and one in praise of the Mother of God. As noted already, there are several translations and sets of music in circulation; here are the current MCI versions.

Crowning troparia

Notice that the three troparia use the same melody as the processional psalm: namely, the Tone 7 troparion melody.

The couple's crowns are removed (there are no responses for this part of the service) and we move into the Divine Liturgy.

The Divine Liturgy

The Divine Liturgy is celebrated as usual, beginning with the Litany for the Catechumens and the Litany of the Faithful (if catechumens are present) and the singing of the Cherubic Hymn.

At Holy Communion, the newly-married couple should receive Communion immediately after the clergy.

After the Ambon Prayer, the remaining parts of the crowning service are inserted:

followed by the dismissal of the Divine Liturgy.

The priest will ordinarily intone Many Years, and the cantor should be prepared to lead the singing here once more.

Pastoral considerations for baptisms and weddings

Due to the religious diversity in our current American setting, a number of issues ought to be taken into consideration when planning a baptism or wedding.

Consider celebrating the baptism or wedding service WITHOUT a Divine Liturgy

Due to Latinization of our churches in the 19th and 20th centuries, the Divine Liturgy became the only service that most parishioners attended, and an emphasis on Eucharistic piety contributed to the idea that unless everyone could receive Holy Communion, then the service was somehow incomplete.

Our traditional baptism and crowning services do not include the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, and are each theologically rich and expressive all by themselves. Good arguments can be made for sometimes celebrating a baptism in the context of the parish Divine Liturgy, as long as this doesn't become so frequent that it causes the liturgical cycle of the parish to become disorganized. Weddings, too, involve the entire community, and if most of the attendees are Catholic, celebrating the Divine Liturgy along with the wedding may be appropriate.

On the other hand, if many of those present will be non-Catholics, or Catholics unable to participate in Holy Communion, then it may be better to celebrate the complete baptismal service or wedding service by itself, without the Divine Liturgy. This is especially true for a wedding if either the bride or groom is non-Catholic, since this would unnecessarily introduce a division at a service which should symbolize and foster unity.

Be attentive to the needs of guests

If there will be a substantial number of non-Catholics or Catholics from non-Byzantine churches present, consider providing some means of educating them in a small way about the service at which they will be present. Providing a good service book is one solution, but another is to simply encourage guests to listen to the service and participate in the prayers and singing as they feel best.

On the other hand, be careful not to interrupt the services with explanations, page numbers, or directions.

Even if most of those present are Byzantine Catholic, some may come from parishes with different musical traditions, and others may have been away from church for some time. Wherever possible, choose the most beautiful AND easy-to-sing melodies, leaning toward those that are well-known across our church. Put extra effort into preparing and leading the singing at these services, since this may be the first opportunity that some guests have had to experience worship according to Eastern Christian traditions.

Recognize that our traditions are sometimes countercultural

For example, our wedding service very explicitly calls for the bride and groom to enter the church together; there is no "giving away" of the bride, or a place for a wedding march. In most cases, requests for such things will be handled by the pastor and celebrating priest. But as a cantor, you should be able to explain our services in a way that is accurate and appealing.

Similarly, our baptismal service includes elements such as anointings and exorcisms (not to mention the giving of Holy Communion to infants!) which may surprise or perplex some of those present. All Byzantine Catholics - and especially cantors - should learn about our services so that they can both understand and communicate how they teach our understanding of human and divine things, and bring us closer to God.