Adelphopoiesis, a Wedding to Reaffirm a “Bromance” in Ancient Times

Adelphopoiesis could solidify a friendship between two men, but also serve as an alliance that made them stronger.

Gabriela Castillo


For many centuries, there has been a ritual to strengthen a friendship that goes beyond simple camaraderie. Men would spend a lot of time together and have deep mutual feelings, but their relationship was not always recognized as a romantic one. Thus, adelphopoiesis was born, a kind of Byzantine marriage between Christian men to unite two friends for eternity (or as long as their love lasted).

The word adelphopoiesis comes from Greek and literally means “brother-making.” Suppose two men were very close friends, even if they were married with their own heterosexual marriages and families.

If they truly wished to spend more time together and live together, they could do so through this ritual. It had two purposes: to solidify a friendship between two men, but also as an alliance that made them stronger (think of a Game of Thrones vibe, where every interpersonal relationship is also a way to strengthen oneself politically).

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Adelphopoiesis began as an innocent way to become even closer friends and to unite spiritually (without going as far as “carnal love,” as we are talking about the Church here). It was around the sixth century that men discovered the power of this Christian marriage and used it strategically.

Over time, adelphopoiesis could be practiced with more than one person (although it tended to be one “couple” at a time). Emperor Basil I used this wedding between friends to help found the Macedonian Empire, and also had several wives throughout his life.

Pavel Florensky, in his book The Pillar and the Ground of The Truth: An Essay in Orthodox Theodicy in Twelve Letters, describes the steps to follow in the adelphopoiesis ritual:

  • The men stand in front of the cross and the scriptures, with the older one on the right and the younger one on the left.
  • Prayers are made asking that both be united in love.
  • They are tied with a belt, place their hands on the gospels, and each receives a lit candle.
  • Verses from First Corinthians 12:27 to 13:8 and from John 17:18-26, as well as the Lord’s Prayer, are read.
  • The “brothers” receive the sanctified gifts of a common cup and exchange kisses (on the cheek).One of the prayers that can be read during the “wedding” is as follows:”Almighty God, who existed before time and will be for all times, who deigned to visit men through the womb of the Mother of God and Virgin Mary, send your holy angel to these your servants, that they may love one another as your holy apostles Peter and Paul loved each other, and Andrew and James, John and Thomas, James, Philip, Matthew, Bartholomew, Simon, Thaddeus, Matthias, and the holy martyrs Sergius and Bacchus, as well as Cosmas and Damian, not by carnal love, but by faith and love of the Holy Spirit, that all the days of their lives may remain in love. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”