H is for Handfasting

H

 

Handfasting

 

The actual term “handfasting” comes from the tradition of the bride and groom crossing arms and joining hands — basically, creating the infinity symbol (a figure-eight) with the hands. In Neopagan ceremonies, the clergyperson performing the ceremony will join the couple’s hands with a cord or ribbon during the ritual. In some traditions, the cord remains in place until the couple consummates the marriage. While some people may choose to have their handfasting be a permanent bond, others might declare it to be valid for “a year and a day”, at which point they will re-evaluate the relationship and determine whether to continue or not.

Getting Handfasted: Start Early on Your Rite!

Getting Handfasted: Start Early on Your Rite!

by Paul Stephens

So you’ve decided to get married. Everyone is congratulating you and offering you best wishes. You are going to be busy picking colors and people to wear them, finding flowers and someone to arrange and deliver them.

I hate to ask, but have you asked your priest or priestess if they are available on your happy day? Have you written the ceremony? Do you even know what kind of ceremony you would like to have? Did you know that most priests and priestesses would require that they see you and your mate-to-be for at least three premarital evaluation sessions to see if they will perform the ceremony? There is always so much to think about with a wedding or handfasting that you might well have assumed that this friend of yours would have nothing better to do than to spend the weekend before your ceremony and the day of your ceremony with you and all your family and friends.

Before you start off on the wrong foot, let’s do a little time travel and look at how you should go about arranging your pagan wedding or handfasting. As soon as you confirm that you will be married, six to nine months before the ceremony but before selecting a particular date, get together with your priestess or priest — or, better, both — and find out what their calendars have open. They are busy people who teach classes, run meeting groups and manage circles, groves or covens. Often, they also attend meetings with various groups to organize multifaith gatherings —  and, unbelievably, they need time for themselves. Unless you have a very understanding group and a tolerant priest or priestess, you can forget sabbat rituals for your wedding day.

Once the four of you have set the date, you can schedule the evaluation sessions that most pagan priestesses and priests require before officiating the ceremony. You can discuss who will write the ceremony and resolve yourself to writing at least part of it. Where will it be? Outside weddings are always so nice — unless it rains. Be sure to plan alternatives, or plan for the worse and expect the best.

Speaking of the worst, I am reminded of a priestess who was involved in an accident a week before she was to perform a wedding. It is a good idea to have an alternate officiant so that the wedding can go on even if the worst should happen.

The priest or priestess will supply some ritual tools and weapons, but you will be required to supply some materials as well, so now is a good time to make that list. The plans thus far will take place before we tell Mom or call that nice lady who makes your robes. It might even happen before you pick the colors.

After spending the better part of a day with your officiant, you can begin thinking about the invitations, colors, wedding party and assistants. You can begin writing the ceremony first draft. You can begin making all the arrangements for flowers, tables, chairs, portable gazebos, music, gowns or robes and the caterers. Be sure to get a good night’s sleep, because until after the ceremony, you will have precious little time for sleep. You are the ones who have given yourselves plenty of time. You have six to nine months before your wedding.