Handfasting can either take the place of or be incorporated into a wedding ceremony amongst Pagans, Neopagans, Wiccans, what have you. It can be for a year and a day, for a lifetime, for ‘as long as love shall last’. In the past, it was more of an engagement period. Generally, once the people who are being married have declared their intent, their hands are bound with a cord, symbolically joining them together.
I chose ‘Handfasting’ as my topic for this week because it’s something that has been on my mind for a while. I’m not engaged or anything. In fact, I never have been. I’ve only dated a couple of people in my lifetime, and now I’m with my Aussie. We’ve been together for a couple of years and a bit, but we can’t get married yet. Why? Well…that’s another story for another time.
I rather like the idea of a handfasting or even jumping over a broom as part of a wedding ceremony. I have put a lot of thought into how I would approach such an event, and I will present to you some of the ideas I have had. A handfasting can be incorporated into any marriage, whether it be opposite sex or same sex. For my purposes, I will be referring to what my partner and I would do.
First, we would be separated for three days. The time spent apart serves as a way of strengthening the desire to see each other and to be joined. ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder’ and all that.
The day before the ceremony, for approximately 24 hours, there would be fasting. Not a strict fast, mind you (we can’t have anyone fainting or hangry at the altar), but one in which lighter, less grounding foods and beverages are consumed.
Three days before the ceremony, on the first day apart, a candle should be lit for personal deity. This would be a time of reflection, prayer, and meditation.
Two days before the ceremony, a candle should be lit for the bride or groom’s partner. This would be a time of reflecting upon that person’s traits, influences, etc. Time should be spent reflecting on the relationship.
One day before the ceremony, a candle is lit to ask for blessings upon the union. Again, more reflection, meditation, prayer, whatever. On this day, all three candles should be burning. You can save the candle stumps and use for part of the ceremony or for a private ritual, if desired.
The ceremony itself would take place outside. Friends and family members would be part of the circle, but not the circle where the elements/quarters are called or anything like that. That would possibly be taken care of before the non-Pagans in the family gathered together. I’d like the area to be swept and saged beforehand. Once everyone has gathered, the person performing the handfasting would light one candle to welcome the divine/God/Goddess. I think the bride and groom should light a candle together at some point either before or after being joined at the wrist. It would be a way of stating intent and welcoming and thanking any spiritual presences.
I’m not big into the idea of bridesmaids and such. I would rather have a very small gathering of family and close friends together in a circle around us as we recite our vows (which we may possible compose ourselves).
I would most likely ask my Sister to perform the ceremony because she is my Sister and I love her very much. She also has a gorgeous singing voice, which might come in handy later. In lieu of gifts, I would ask guests to provide us with entertainment, hugs, and kind words and thoughts.
For me, the highlight of the ceremony would be the binding of the hands to symbolize joining our lives together. I think a few trips around the circle would be in order. The cord can be removed after the ceremony is over and the circle is closed.
After the ceremony, the party would begin. As a kitchen witch, I have put a lot of thought into the feast. Since we would only plan for around 50 people at most, I would most likely prepare the food with some help from volunteers. That would be my way of thanking our guests for attending and participating in the event.
I dream of a wedding around or shortly after Samhain. That way, our ancestors could more easily attend. We would have a separate altar for them, and our guests would be allowed to participate in this part of the ceremony by bringing pictures, mementos, or simply writing down the names of loved ones who have parted.
I’ve sat down and planned seasonal menus for handfastings throughout the year, and I am going to share my autumn wedding feast menu with you all. Some of the offerings are marked with a “v” to indicate vegetarian. I don’t think I have any vegans in my intimate circle of friends, but of course I would make something lovely for them if I knew any.
Tartlets with roasted red peppers, goat cheese, thyme, caramelized onions, pine nuts –v.
Cream of wild mushroom soup
Bacon-wrapped rolled turkey breast cutlets with (chestnut) stuffing
Butternut squash lasagna – v.
Roasted vegetables – broccoli, carrots, parsnips, squash, potatoes
Mixed seasonal greens with red onion, apples, candied nuts, pomegranate dressing (Persephone’s Salad) –v.
Hazelnut pie (similar to pecan) (cornmeal crust)
Baked apples with vanilla bean ice cream
Mulled wine and cider; beer
Spiced tea and coffee
So there you have it. That’s what I would do on the days leading up to the handfasting, what I would serve, and of course, the significance it holds for me.