Thursday, March 6, 2008

Top 3 Pagan Wedding / Handfasting Questions

Wedding season is just around the corner and many couples have been contacting me throughout the last few weeks to organize their wedding ceremonies. There are some specific concerns that people ask about when it comes to creating their perfect Pagan or Wiccan wedding ceremony. In this vein, I wanted to post my answers to the three most common questions that I receive.

#3 - Can we do a handfasting as part of our wedding ceremony? Isn't a handfasting just a year and a day?

Handfasting can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Some people use it in the strict sense of the old term which is to say, a temporary joining. Handfastings in this sense were usually only valid for a year and a day, and sometimes they would be renewed for longer. However, a lot of legal weddings I have done have had the handfasting symbolism and the handfasting cord be part of the legal joining ceremony, so it really depends on the couple. Many couples enjoy incorporating this ancient custom into their wedding ceremony, and it really gives great meaning to the term "tying the knot" in the literal sense! Regarding the handfasting cord, I do work with the couples who come to me to teach them how to create a real, traditional handfasting cord from scratch, that is always included in my services to the couple if that is something that they want in their wedding ceremony.

#2 - Are you able to do real "legal" wedding and handfasting ceremonies here in Utah?

Yes! In Utah, the legal requirements as per the Utah State marriage statute is briefly summarized as "Ministers of the gospel or priests over the age of 18, of any denomination, who are in regular communion with any religious society may perform marriages." As the Office of Spirit for Sacred Circle and the Reverend for our membership, along with Rev. Pamela, we qualify under the definition in the Utah statues to do so.

#1 - We want a ceremony that reflects our beliefs, but we are worried about everyone being comfortable with the way our ceremony is done.

This concern is really quite common to couples here, since many people either come from an LDS background or have extended families who are either strongly LDS or some other mainstream faith. The answer is complex, since every family differs, and some couples are more sensitive to this facet of their special day than others. Unless the couple is very open with their beliefs and wants a very obviously Pagan or Celtic Wiccan wedding ceremony, I tend to provide a ceremony which is very normal and traditional looking, or which may sound just a little more poetic than usual. Weddings are very magical and beautiful to begin with, and usually, the more traditional parts of a wedding ceremony such as the vows, ring exchange or unity candle ceremony can be infused with other symbolic elements that only the couple or their close acquaintances may recognize as having a much deeper meaning. For the most part, I think that people tend to be more forgiving of romantic, flowery or poetic language at weddings and don't really recognize a circle casting or calling of the elements for what it really is, since it is so far away from their normal belief system.

For instance, I very often use a circle cast which is very simple, in which I walk around the couple and spread rose petals in a loose circle. Very few people would think that this is more than just a surface gesture, but to the Wiccan or Pagan couple, it can be a meaningful start to the ceremony. I certainly don't announce in the midst of the ceremony that I'm casting a magic circle or calling the quarters, and yet if you know what I am doing, many of the traditional elements of pagan or wiccan circles are present in some form during the ceremony.

Some couples may take the symbolism even further by planning their wedding day to coincide with a traditional holiday such as Beltane, Yule or even the 4th of July, or by having a themed wedding such as a Renaissance, Fairy, Scottish or even Gothic wedding! Some couples choose a date near a full moon, or even a date with numerological meaning (such as 7/7/07). There are so many ways to add meaning to your wedding! Finally, some couples who contact me for a wedding are not even strongly Pagan or Wiccan themselves, but are simply looking for someone who is willing to work with them on the kind of ceremony that they want without introducing a lot of pressure to conform to the celebrant's own faith beliefs, or who want a ceremony which reflects their love of nature.