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Laura’s Wedding: Changing religion for love

Laura Peppas

             For the first of this three-part series, we asked our journalist and bride-to-be Laura Edwards to talk about her decision to have an adult baptism for love.

Most wedding preparations are fairly similar for each bride – locking in a venue, searching for the perfect dress, finding a photographer.

I had one not-so-minor added detail that I had to tick off before walking down the aisle for my upcoming July wedding – my baptism.

A little bit of context: my husband-to-be, Peter, is Greek Orthodox, and was eager for us to be married in the church he had been christened in. Having never been christened as a baby myself, the only way for us to do that was for me to have an adult baptism.

Initially, it wasn’t as tough a decision as you’d think – I wasn’t raised religious and consider myself agnostic, so it wasn’t as though I was leaving a religion I had known all my life. I knew it was important to Peter and his family for us to be married in the church he had been christened in, so I was happy to do what I could to make sure that happened.

Before my own, I knew very little about adult baptisms. In fact, the most I knew was from watching Sex and the City’s Charlotte convert to Judaism (and walk nake through a pool to do it). So, I’ll admit, I was a little tentative.

To start the process, I wrote a nervous and overly formal email to the church’s priest expressing my intention to become a member of the Orthodox church. I was surprised when I got a casual and friendly reply back almost immediately, asking me to meet with him at the church.

At my first meeting with the priest, he was extremely welcoming – and surprisingly modern. He could flick through emails on his iPhone with ease and was a photographer on the side. I was impressed. He explained that in order for me to become a member of the Orthodox church, I’d have about six lessons before my baptism, with no exam (much to my relief). The lessons would explore the traditions and beliefs of the Orthodox faith.

Before my ceremony, I was asked to choose a godmother, and decided on Peter’s cousin, Anastasia. (The fact that she’s only a few years older than me didn’t fail to amuse us.)

Laura with her godmother and fiance at the church.

Laura with her godmother and fiance, Peter, at the church.

Traditionally, it is a rule of the Orthodox faith that every person, child or adult, should have a godparent at their Baptism. To serve as a godparent (nouno/nouna in Greek) is considered a special honour and, along with the parents, is charged with the responsibility of assisting in the spiritual development of their godchild.

For my baptism, I was given a special Christian name: Flora. For the Greek Orthodox tradition, Flora is associated with Agios Floros (St Floros) a man who lived in the sixth or seventh century AD.

When a baby is baptised in the Greek Orthodox church, they are held by the godmother while the priest bathes them in holy water in a small baptismal font. As I was a little bigger than a baby (I’d like to see my godmother try lifting a 5 foot 10 woman), the priest explained I would be baptised in a bathtub.

He told me I would have to wear a swimsuit for the ceremony, which worried me a little (though at least I didn’t have to be naked). On the evening before the baptism, I bought a white cotton dress to wear over the swimsuit for a little modesty.

On the morning of the baptism — a sunny, gorgeous Saturday in March — I’ll admit I was nervous. My godmother and her family, together with my parents and parents-in-law, travelled up from Melbourne to watch, so it almost felt like my own little wedding day. Especially when they bought gorgeous little bonbonnieres for the post-baptism lunch.

But as soon as the ceremony began, all my nerves calmed and I felt at ease.

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During the baptism.

To begin, the priest read aloud from the Holy Bible, to which I then read a passage from The Creed and renounced Satan (this part is called “the exorcism”).

After that, I was told to change out of my clothes into my swimsuit and robe.

Once the priest and my godmother dabbed olive oil on me (to signify that with Christ’s help I would be able to elude the grip of sin), I was to stand in a small plastic tub while the priest poured lukewarm water over me and instructed me to kneel and stand three times. The water, the priest explained, is used for cleansing of all sins.

The priest then cut a few locks of my hair, which is an expression of my gratitude to Christ.

After getting changed out of my wet swimsuit and into dry clothes, we walked up to the front of the church again while my new godmother placed a necklace in the shape of the Holy Cross on me. Slowly, we walked in three circles around the font holding the baptismal candles. This is an act of rejoicing with the angles in heaven and the other Christians present at the addition of one more member to the flock of Christ.

The priest ended the ceremony with a touching little speech about the commitment I had made to Peter through my baptism.

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In the robe afterwards.

After the ceremony (and a few hugs) it was time for lunch.

Since I had heard from my godmother I’d have to withhold from showering for three days after the baptism, I was relieved when the priest assured me I could in fact wash afterwards. (I had a feeling the HerCanberra girls would be steering clear of me if I still had olive oil in my hair come the following Monday).

Do I feel different after my baptism? It’s hard to say. What I do know is I feel grateful for a newfound connection to the priest who will marry us in July, and a deeper understanding of the Greek Orthodox religion and its traditions. This was something I wanted to do for the person I love, who is forever thankful. And for someone who wasn’t raised with many traditions, it’s a beautiful thing to now have a special day of my own to hold onto.

Next in this series: Choosing wedding vendors

Have you or would you ever change your religion for love?

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Laura Peppas

Laura Peppas is HerCanberra's senior journalist and communications manager and is the Editor of Unveiled, HerCanberra's wedding magazine. She is enjoying uncovering all that Canberra has to offer, meeting some intriguing locals and working with a pretty awesome bunch of women. Laura has lived in Canberra for most of her life and when she's not writing fervently she enjoys pursuing her passion for travel, reading, online shopping and chai tea. More about the Author

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