By Jacqui Winn, Sep 22 2015 02:22PM
This is a question that we get asked many times and the simple answer is... whenever you want! People pick their dates for all kinds of reasons. It can be an anniversary, a date special to you both, a time when you hope the weather will be good or simply a date that is practical. However, there are dates within the Pagan calender that may be auspicious energetically or that lend themselves to your particular ideas of handfasting and magic. These dates are part of the Pagan Wheel of The Year, and are celebrations that we call Sabbats. These follow the old pastoral year and the cycles of the Sun, celebrating the changing seasons. Each offers something different to celebrate and a way to learn more about ourselves and the sacred earth around us. By working with the Sabbats we hope to make positive changes in our lives and to know ourselves a little better. When it comes to love and marriage, each has something special to offer...
Imbolc is a festival that celebrates the first stirrings of spring. The days are still cold and the nights are still dark, but the first signs of life returning to the world are visible- catkins are on the trees, snowdrops and crocuses are opening in the fields and gardens, lambs are being born and birds are nesting. This festival is all about new beginnings and fresh starts. It’s a time of planning for a future and filling it with your hopes and dreams. It has a lovely energy for a handfasting, but the weather needs to be taken into consideration. If you were planning an outdoor event it could be cold and/or wet, so maybe think about having the ceremony indoors. Perhaps a barn, heated marquee or yurt, a village hall or any number of the beautiful listed buildings around that allow weddings. These places are usually happy to hold a handfasting once they know what it is.
Other times to consider a handfasting around this time are the new moon or full moon closest to this date. Even Valentines day can be considered as the roots of this festival are to be found in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, a fertility festival celebrated around the 15th of the month.
21st March (22nd & 23rd)
This is the celebration of the arrival of Spring. The great Wheel has turned from Imbolc to Equinox. This is the time of year when the length of the day and night are equal. From this point on the days are filled with more light and the nights grow shorter. Both the equinoxes (spring and autumn) are about balance. We celebrate the balance of light and dark, day and night, Goddess and God, and man and woman. This is a great time of the year to hold your handfasting if you are looking for a balanced and happy future, honouring one another and celebrating each others differences as well as the things you love most about each other.
Beltane is a joyous occasion in the Pagan calendar, one that celebrates fertility and the joining together of the Goddess and the God in sacred marriage. In ancient times, May was often thought to have been an inauspicious time for weddings because of this – the month was set aside for the sacred marriage of the Divine only. However in modern times May is now a popular time for handfastings and people are revelling in the energy that the magic of this month brings. The natural world around us is full of blossom and blooms. The air is fragrant with the many scents of nature and the sun is often shining and warm. The days are longer and everyone has shaken off winter’s cold grip and are in the mood for merrymaking. A wedding in May can be a real celebration of the turning of the Wheel and the summer to come. The energy of this time is around fertility, creativity, passion and the life force both within ourselves and within nature.
21st June (22nd & 23rd)
The Summer Solstice is the time of year when the sun has reached its highest point in the sky. The days are as long as they are going to get and it is the shortest night of the year. The year has reached its zenith. June is a time when the gardens are blooming and summer is in full swing. Warm days and sultry evenings are usual. June is a fabulous time for weddings with the season adding its beauty and magic to the event. Our ancestors saw June as the luckiest month to get married, and this continues in the modern tradition of June weddings. The full moon of June is often known as the Mead Moon, or the Rose Moon. Mead has long been associated with love and fertility and it is from the custom of drinking mead each night for one moon cycle after a wedding to encourage fertility that we get the term “honeymoon”. Roses have long been associated with love, and they are in abundance at this time of year. A Summer Solstice wedding is a time to celebrate the strength of your relationship, to acknowledge the time you have spent together and to forge ahead with energy and an understanding of the changes that marriage may bring. It is a time of transition and a marriage celebration is certainly that!
This festival marks the first harvest, the grain harvest. The wheat is high and ripe in the fields and the farmers are working all the hours they can to bring it in. The days are hot and, although shortening, are still fairly long. The ancient Celtic societies in Ireland saw August as a very auspicious time for a Handfasting. The month of August and the festival of Lughnasadh/Lammas is my personal favourite for marriage. This is harvest time and we can celebrate all that we have sown and are now reaping, no better highlighted then in a Lammas wedding. The work and the love, the nurturing and the sacrifices we make in our relationships can really be celebrated at this time of year as a joining of two people in marriage.
The full moon at this time is also a very auspicious time for a handfasting, again signifying the growth and fulfilment of relationships.
21st September (22nd & 23rd)
Like the Spring Equinox, this is also time of balance. Night and day are once again of equal length, but this time when the scales tip they will bring longer nights as the autumn draws in and eventually winter will follow. This is a time when we can begin to look inward at who we are and contemplate where we have been and where we want to be in the future. It marks the second harvest in the Pagan calendar, the harvesting of wild fruits such as blackberries and elderberries, so is again a time of fruitfulness and celebration of all that we are and can be. This makes it a lovely time for a handfasting if you wish to celebrate this aspect of your relationship. Autumn weddings can be very beautiful, with the natural world changing colour from rich greens to the yellows, reds and oranges of the season and, if you work this into your handfasting celebration, it can look so beautiful. The Autumn Equinox teaches us to gather to us the things we need for the future, and this can translate into our relationships on so many levels. A handfasting brings together all the people we love and care for to celebrate the joining of two hearts in marriage and it's an amazing time to give thanks to all those who we invite for their love and support in our lives.
This is a time when autumn has really taken grip and winter is on our doorstep. It is the third and final harvest of the Pagan calendar. Often the last of the apples are gathered and apples are associated as the fruit of love. This Sabbat was seen by our ancestors as the Celtic new year and therefore a time of looking back before we move forward. It is a time of deep magic and mystery, and we can often feel this in the beautiful mists of the early mornings at this time, or in the late evenings. It is a time when we believe that the veils between this world and the next are thin and we honour our ancestors and those of our friends and family that have travelled to The Summerlands (the afterlife) before us. It is a deeply magical time and those that choose this time for a handfasting do so understanding this. It is perfect time to acknowledge all that we are and all that we have been. As a couple planning a handfasting it is a great time to acknowledge this about yourselves, both as individuals before you met, as the individuals you are now, and as the couple you have become. You can honour the past, acknowledging all you have learnt from it, and embrace the future fully as you cross a threshold together into your new life.
21st December (22nd & 23rd)
A Winter Solstice wedding can be so romantic! It is often overlooked as a time for a handfasting because it is midwinter and the weather is cold and the earth sleeps soundly about us. It is also a busy time as celebrations for Yule/Christmas take precedence. It is a time of hustle and bustle, of gathering family and friends in celebration and many of us are running around getting all prepared for the festivities. But, if we stop, take head of the season and see it for what it is – gathering those we love close, celebrating the season with lights, trees, colours, candles, gifts etc, we can see that this time of year lends itself very well to a celebration of love, which itself is a light in darkness. We can bring a real feel of celebration into a Solstice wedding, when the night is at its longest and the day it shortest... for we know that even though we are in winters grip, slowly, slowly, day by day the light will return. This is a time of hope, of looking to a bright future, of celebrating family and friends and of coming together. A handfasting perfectly illustrates all that this time of year embodies.
Of course any of the full moons would be good for a handfasting. The full moon represents a time of fruitfulness and accomplishment. It is a time when we honour the Goddess in her aspect as Mother, making it a time of love, contemplation, fulfilment, and it can help teach us to nurture the people we love most.
The new moon too can be an auspicious time for a handfasting. This phase of the moon signifies new beginnings and new journeys. A handfasting is certainly that! It represents the Goddess as Maiden, so is a time of learning and exploring, a time when we can begin to grow and transform, to move forward and to make plans for a bright future.
Whatever date you chose for your ceremony, be it inspired by the cycles of the sun or of the moon, whether it is a special date for you both, or it is simply a convenient time for all to gather, have a look at the world around you, at nature and the seasons and let the natural magics speak to you. Fill your day with love and joy, friendship and togetherness, and may you carry the magic of your day into the rest of your life together.