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Who gets Handfasted anyway ...?

By Jacqui Thackway-Winn, Oct 29 2017 01:24PM

In our roles as Priestesses and Wedding Planners we get many enquiries from people from all over the world asking about Handfasting ceremonies. Over the years Pagan Wedding Planners has joined together many couples in this beautiful ritual. Many couples who come to us are Pagan through and through. They want a marriage ceremony that reflects their deep spiritual beliefs and honours who they are. These couples are deeply connected to their chosen paths and they will work very closely with us so that the ceremony encompasses all they hold dear. We work very hard with them to facilitate what they want.

Often fellow Pagans will be from a very different tradition to our own – I am a High Priestess in the Witchcraft tradition, Emma is from a more Shamanic and Animist background - but always we remember that it is our couples and their beliefs which matter. We have both been walking our own paths for over 35 years now so we have a broad understanding of many traditions. We know that at the core of them all are similar beliefs and practices, and we can turn our hands to most of them with confidence. We have worked with people from different Witchcraft traditions, with Druids, with High Ceremonial Magicians, Shamans, people who follow Norse traditions, healers, spiritualists… and can be in ceremony with all the above with confidence. This experience helps us greatly when working through scripts, vows and planning the ceremony with Pagans from many different paths. It also allows us to learn more about others' beliefs and ways of working and we both enjoy this immensely. It broadens our horizons and constantly encourages us to explore and to think outside the box.

We also get a lot of couples where one is pagan and the other is not. Often the other will say that they do not have a particular faith or indeed they may have no faith at all but are sympathetic to their partner’s beliefs. These couples will obviously have chatted together about what is important to them and again, as wedding planners and spiritual folk we want to incorporate these aspects into their ceremonies. It is our job to reflect this and make the ceremony balanced between the two, offering advice along the way.

However, more and more people who have no particular faith at all are now approaching us. They may feel a connection with nature and the cosmos but do not want to label it in any way. With these couples it is important to sit down with them and chat about what they may believe and feel is right for them. We always offer to soften certain aspects of the ceremony for those that feel that these practices and beliefs do not entirely fit with their own ideas. For instance, they may feel that the mention of a God and Goddess does not fit in with what they feel is right for them but they may be happier mentioning the Spirit of Nature and feel more comfortable with this. They may not want a full ceremonial Circle cast but are happy for the elements of nature to be acknowledged. We are always very happy to facilitate non-Pagans' wishes and honestly believe that you do not have to be Pagan to marry in this ancient tradition. We know there will be those in the Pagan world that do not agree with us and have had many a lively debate on this subject. It is our firm belief, however, that all are welcome.

We do always stress to our non pagan couples, though, that a Handfasting is indeed a ceremony rooted in Pagan belief and as such will contain Pagan imagery, no matter how “tamed down” it might be. It has been our experience, however, that these non-pagan couples all have a love of the natural world, a need to express themselves freely (or they would not be considering a ritual like this in the first place) and a respect for the beliefs expressed in the ceremony. And that is enough for us.

We are also seeing an increase in same sex Handfastings. Paganism is traditionally very accepting of other peoples life styles and sexual preferences. We do not judge. We believe that Deity, in whatever way we choose to see it, loves indiscriminately and so we should do the same. We are all a part of the whole and we are given the freedom of allowing ourselves to be who we truly are. Love, no matter in what form, between consenting adults, is pure and brilliant and should be celebrated in all its rainbow colours.

Handfastings are becoming more and more popular in this day and age. People are looking for alternatives to express their desire to marry in ways that are far more expressive of their beliefs and personality. For far too long we have only had the traditional church weddings or registry office to commit to each other. A Handfasting, although not a legal marriage, allows each couple to be individualistic in their approach to the way they marry. No two ceremonies are exactly alike as each couple brings their own ideas, personalities and feelings about each other to the service. These are unique rituals which celebrate love and joining in many different ways.

We have held Handfastings that are simple and very private with just the couple involved; we have held big and bold ceremonies with the couple's family and friends all taking a part in the ritual; we have had a circus themed Handfasting (that was a fabulous event!), and a beautiful fairy Handfasting (so magical). We even conducted a Handfasting that involved the couple and their children from previous relationships. They all stood in the Circle, had their hands bound, and all jumped the broomstick as a symbol of two families coming together as one. Moving and beautiful. We have Handfasted teachers, police, IT consultants, business men and women, nurses, folk from the LGBT communities, farmers, scientists, anatomists and even a lighting engineer for a very well known band. We have had people from Canada, Italy, Austria, America, Mexico, Australia and Spain coming to us here at Pagan Wedding Planers all wishing for a Handfasting as a deeply personal expression of their love for each other and in ways that they felt allowed them to express who they are in an individualistic way. Handfastings are perfect for this. People from all walks of life have passed our way and have brought something new and unique to each celebration we hold.

So, in answer to the question who gets handfasted? The answer is a resounding ANYONE can be joined in marriage in this ancient and sacred ritual of love. There are no bounds and no rules. If you have a love of nature, an open mind and an open heart, a desire to be a little different from the norm and want to express your love for each other freely, then this may well be the wedding ceremony for you.

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