This is the first handfasting ritual that I wrote and the second handfasting I had the pleasure of officiating. Originally the Bride and Groom were going to write the ritual, but they ended up running out of time and it fell on my shoulders. A lot of people seemed to enjoy this ritual and I've ended up using it a handful of times since. This is a "stealth Pagan" handfasting. There's nothing explicitly Pagan about it, yet it's definately Pagan if you bother to read between the lines. So many of my friends over the years have had to balance their own spiritual needs against the needs of their extended families, and this ritual seems to fit that bill.
This ritual came straight out of my Book of Shadows, where it was originally written in Jason style shorthand, so I hope it all makes sense to you. As I was typing it here I was amazed at how it encompasses all four elements. There's a chalice component (water), a candle lighting (fire), ring exchange (earth), and the actual handfasting its self (air I supposse). Very cool.
Italics indicate spoken words, when no speaker is explicitly identified than those words are for the officiant, it all makes sense when you read it.
The altar sits to the right of the Priest. Upon the altar there are three candles (or the candles can be mounted on a stand). Two of the candles are of the same size, the third candle is larger than the other two). There should also be a lighter on the table and the cord to be used in the handfasting, if it's not being carried by one of the attendants.
The ritual opens up with music and the flower girls scattering petals in a circle to create sacred space. The Groom enters first followed by his attendants, one carrying a chalice half full of water. The Bride enters with her attendents one carrying a chalice half full of water. The Priest welcomes everyone to the handfasting after both the Bride and Groom have entered and begins by explaining the meaning behind the handfasting ritual.
Today we will be performing a handfasting. For those of you who don't know, a handfasting is a marriage rite that began in the Middle Ages. At that time when peasants got married they usually were unable to afford a clergyman to hear their vows or diamond rings to signify their love, so they began the ritual of handfasting.
In a handfasting a cord is wrapped around the wrists of the two people exchanging vows. Long ago this was tangible, physical proof that two people were married. They didn't have licenses, pictures, or videotapes, but they could keep a cord as reminder of their love and commitment. Back in those days the cord was left wrapped around the happy couple's wrists until the union was . . .uhmm . . consumated. I think the reception might end up being a little tricky if we follow that custom.
This cord we will use to bind our Bride and Groom is a symbol of their love for one another. It is love that binds them together, and love which has brought them here together today. This cord will always be seen by them as a symbol of that love.
(Attendants tie the wrists of the couple togehter. In the original performance of this handfasting a song was sung at this time.)
This cord is a reminder of today, and a promise of the days to come which will be shared in your love for one another.
(The cord is untied and placed on the altar.)
The world surrounds us with reminders of nature's duality. There is night and day, moon and sun, female and male, sadness and joy, light and dark, life and death. Many label these traits as masculine or feminine. These candles represent that balance found in nature, the male and female energies which surround us on a day to day basis.
Bride: I light this candle to represent me and all I bring to this marriage.
Groom: I light this candle to represent me and all that I bring to this marriage.
(Both now use the flames from their individual candles to light one larger candle between them.)
Both: We light this candle to signity that we are stronger when united, in balance with nature and giving of ourselves.
A marriage is a committment, a promise between two people to love, cherish, and honor one another. No one can better articulate that promise than the two here who are sharing their day with us. These cups are symbols of the promise that the two of you share, by sharing your words and the contents of these chalices, you are physically and verbally sharing your vows and love for one another.
The Groom shares his vows with his Bride and when he is done she drinks from his chalice.
The Bride shares her vows with her Groom and when she is done he drinks from her chalice.
(This is a tricky part in the ceremony, and some couples have no desire to share their vows in public, or to write anything for themselves. If that's the case you could always forget the part of the vows and simply have each participant say This chalice represents my love for you and my desire to give all of myself to you. I share the contents of this cup and my life with you.)
There is no greater symbol of the love shared between two people than the ring. Circular, it has no beginning and no end, much like the love between two people being wed. (Groom's Name) do you take this woman to be your wife, to love her in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, for as long as your love shall last?
Groom: I do.
(Bride's Name) do you take this man to be your husband, to love him in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, for as long as your love shall last?
Bride: I do.
I now pronounce you husband and wife, you may kiss the bride!
Bride and Groom kiss, music starts, and they leave followed by their attendants. Priest instructs the guests were the reception will be held or steers them to the receiving line. He is the last to leave.