8.4.11

Pagan Handfasting Weddings

Article

Unlike traditional Christian weddings, the Pagan wedding practice, called ‘Handfasting’ allows couples to renew their marriage vows each year, or terminate the relationship if they are not happy.

The Handfasting ceremony is the oldest Pagan ritual of marriage. It was a popular way to be married, before the 1753 Marriage Act declared that only marriages performed by the clergy were legal. The Pagans beliefs include nature worship. The rituals are often held outside at sacred sites such as Stonehenge, and at times of natural change such as a Full Moon.

A Pagan Handfasting, wedding ceremony, is one of the earliest forms of marriage. :-

  • Handfasting ceremonies either celebrate the beginning life-long union of two individuals, or their coming together for ‘so long as love shall last’. If the latter proves to be the case, the couple will choose whether or not to renew their vows each year
  • The clothes that the betrothed couple and guests wear at a Handfasting ceremony depends on if a theme is chosen. If a theme is chosen, it is usually medieval or Renaissance in nature. The theme will often include traditional games, such as jousting
  • According to Celtic tradition, the bride will wear a veil or some type of netting – and the colour, scarlet, which is strongly associated with the Celtic wedding ritual. The wedding couple’s personal choice of wedding attire is to reflect their personalities
  • The ceremony is conducted by a priest or priestess, and begins with the marking out of a sacred space to perform the ceremony. It is often in the shape of a circle
  • The priest or priestess then honours the elements, and calls on the gods and goddesses to bless the couple and their future life together, or ‘coming together’. Symbolically, the ‘coming together’ is performed by the grooms right hand being tied to the brides left hand, with a sanctified ribbon or cord
  • The couple verbally recount their oaths, which they have written together with the priest or priestess before the ceremony, and then their hands will be untied
  • The couples hands being tied together and then untied, and their vows spoken, represents that they are entering into the union of their own choosing. The vows in the ceremony will often invoke the power of the goddess and imagery from the natural world.
  • An example of the vows - ‘By seed and root, by bud and stem, by leaf and flower and fruit, and by life and love, in the name of the great goddess I take thee’
  • The couple then exchange rings and (literally) jump over a broomstick together, symbolising that they are leaving their old lives behind, and leaping willingly, together, into a new life together
  • Most Pagan Handfasting wedding ceremonies will be followed by a time of feasting and celebration, with the celebration taking place at the wedding site. Sometimes a civil wedding ceremony will follow a Handfasting ceremony

Variation to the vows (mentioned above) can include: - ‘a year and a day’, ‘a lifetime’, ‘for all of eternity’, or ‘for as long as love shall last’.  Whether the ceremony is legal (officiated by a legally recognized minister or celebrant), or a private spiritual commitment, is a personal choice.



© Copyright Jan Reid-Lennox. All Rights Reserved.