Handfasting ceremonies are a Wiccan or pagan wedding that lasts as long as the love does. Based on personal experience, Sky explains the advantages and disadvantages – and what actually happens at a pagan handfasting.
What is a handfasting?
A handfasting is a pagan wedding ceremony. Paganism is a term encompassing religions which are nature-based and are usually polytheistic (have more than one God). Popular forms of paganism in the UK are Druidry and Wicca.
A handfasting binds the couple together in the eyes of their gods for as long as their love lasts. Traditionally a couple would have a handfasting for a year and a day, after which if they still loved each other and neither partner was barren a second handfasting would seal their marriage. This year and a day handfast became the engagement period we know today.
Advantages of a handfasting
– A handfast lasts as long as the love does. This means if you fall out of love you can break up without a messy divorce. A pagan divorce is called a handparting when a couple peacefully go their separate ways.
– A handfasting ceremony is very flexible. Unlike a civil wedding you can have whatever words and music you want. Dark pagans can even include a midnight blood oath (not advisable if you have a lot of squeamish guests).
– You can have the handfasting ceremony wherever and whenever. In the UK, civil weddings must be at certain times of day in places certified for weddings. If you want to be handfast on a beach at 2am then you can.
– You don’t need to give notice and there is no paperwork involved. Although there’s nothing to stop you making your own certificate, some companies sell handfasting certificates – as well as other goodies for the ceremony, such as cords, daggers and jewellery. These handfasting companies can easily be found online.
Disadvantages of a handfasting
– Handfastings still aren’t legal, so you won’t be Mr. And Mrs.
– Parents and other guests may not understand – or worse, may be unwilling to attend your special day.
– Hearing a lot of people say “So you’re not really married then?” Not having to justify the validity of the marriage would be nice.
What to expect in a handfasting ceremony
Your own beliefs will determine how the ceremony runs, dancing, singing, chanting, mask and costume are among the things that can be incorporated to invoke the gods and raise power. The service itself is very unique but there are common elements to look out for if you are invited to or are planning a handfasting.
Invoking the gods will happen at the beginning of the ceremony, this may include ‘calling the corners’ or invoking the powers of each element north, south, east, west this is done to establish the sacred space the ceremony takes place in.
Tying the hands binds the couple together and is where the handfasting gets its name, usually a knotted cord is used.
Jumping the broom happens and the end of the ceremony, the couple jump over a broom for luck, usually thought to symbolism a leap of faith by the couple and first step into married life. Like carrying a bride across the threshold to fall when jumping the broom is bad luck. After Christian marriages became popular unmarried couples who lived together were often referred to as ‘living over the broom’.
You can also look forward to a toast, a well prepared couple will have non-alcoholic beverages for any non-drinkers. Don’t forget it is bad luck to toast with water. This may be part of ‘cake and wine’, pagans eat and drink at the end of ceremonies to ground themselves (to get your head out of the clouds).
If you are invited to a handfasting
Don’t be nervous about joining in, if your hosts expect you to they will provide copies of any chants or songs and no one will force you to join in against your wishes. You may hear blessed be or so mote it be this is similar to the Christian Amen and is asking the gods to bless the occasion or make something come to pass.
If you have nut allergies you may want to bring some cake, biscuits or bread with you that you can eat cake and wine are part of the ceremony. Non-drinkers may want to bring fruit juice or similar to toast with.
Depending on where the ceremony is you may want to wear sensible shoes.