In the Clans of old, a Celtic Priest or Priestess performed
a "promise" ceremony called a Handfasting. The name
comes from part of the ritual where the Shaman binds the hands
of the couple together for the duration of the ritual. Some believe
the phrase "giving one's hand in marriage" started
during this ceremony.
Handfasting was not necessarily made for life. Celtic tradition stated
that a couple would remain in the bond for a selected period of time.
At the end of the selected time period, the couple may chose to renew
their vows, but only if they both agree to another commitment.
this was the common tradition, there were variations across the
many clans of the green isle. The differences in time had
a lot to do with the successful fertility of the couple. The
bond was designed for procreation, in addition to caring and
love. Sometimes the procreation was all it was designed for.
If the couple continued to be childless, one or the other partner
had the right to bow out of the union and seek fertility else
A couple may chose to:
Join for three years and renew their vows only if both agree.
Join for six years and renew their commitment only if both
Join for a nine month trial. If after the trial they both
agree, the couple bonds for three years. At the end of this time,
the couple can decide to renew again, but this time for a life-time
The most common period was to Join
for 1 year and a day trial. At the end of this period the couple can
decide to renew for a life-time. The final day of the 1 year and a day commit will be the
date of the wedding, if you wish to conduct your service with historic
commitment would often depend on procreation more than the desire to be
together. When someone asks for a Traditional handfasting, this is the
ceremony and commitment they're referring to. Though most don't realize
it. What they're generally asking for is the modern day version of a
Today, a Handfasting is celebrated as an announcement and
celebration of a promised union, the period of engagement. This event formalizes the promise
made by the intended couple through their promise to marry. It honors
the commitment they have given and accepted to provide for and
care for their newly formed partnership with honesty, trust, support
and love. But it can also be the marriage ritual.
For the engagement ceremony the couple is joined hand in hand and provide their oath of intent
and agreement to wed. Today the wedding typically takes place
1 year and a day after the Handfasting ceremony. But this is
not set in stone. Some couples simply like to make a formal announcement
and celebration out of their engagement and this ritual is the
perfect event to share the news and joy with family and friends,
while adding a bit of pomp and circumstance to the event.
The Wedding Ceremony
Ministers at the Center are licensed in the Commonwealth
of Virginia to perform wedding services. We have performed services
in Virginia and North Carolina. Provided with enough lead time,
we can work with other States and Counties for licensure in other areas.
The center provides a variety of Wedding Services for spiritual
and non-spiritual couples, as well as, Gay and Lesbian couples.
Whither you're an atheist, agnostic, Metaphysician, Pagan or
any other spiritual denomination we can work with you to customize
the best ceremony for you.
Today there is no set process or outline for a wedding ceremony.
Some couples prefer the traditional wedding as conducted through
modern Christian or Jewish ceremonies. Others prefer no mention
of spirituality, God or GreatSpirits. While others enjoy incorporating
their personal spiritual perspectives into their marriage rite.
Here at the Center we are open and tolerant of ideas that couples
wish to include or omit from their personal marriage ceremonies.
While there are some requests that we may turn down out of respect
for our own beliefs, we are willing to discuss your ideas to
make your service the best and most memorable event for you,
your family and friends. We provide guidance, and facilitation
for both the Rehearsal and Wedding ceremony itself.
If you would like to review an outline of our wedding ceremony
program; click here. Any of the
following ideas can be incorporated and customized into your
Ritual & Ceremony Ideas
Here are some ideas and processes you could incorporate into
your Handfasting or Wedding service. You can incorporate one
or more of these sections into your own service. Or work with
us to customize your own ideas to make your service the most
memorable for you.
Candle Lighting also called Union Candles or Unity
3 candles are used. Two small tappers and one larger pillar candle.
This process is used before the exchange of rings. The couple
individually states their intentions (these are not vows), this
is the time to express your love, the reasons you want to join
together and be in a bonded partnership. After the intention is
stated, the person lights his/her candle and places it into a
holder on either side of the pillar. After the exchange of rings,
the couple picks up their individual taper and together they
light the pillar. Showing the bond of their commitment igniting
the light of the large soul. The soul/spirit of their union.
A rope made of natural fibers (cotton, vines, a garland of flowers
for instance), measured 3 feet in length. As the couple begins
the statement of their promise to each other, their wrists are
bound together by the rope. They remain tied during the exchange
of rings and the final kiss. They are presented to the gathering
as a bonded couple, and then they can be 'freed'.
Sand Pouring also called Union Sand or Unity Sand.
Unity Sand symbolizes the flow of life as a process of balance
between two lives. Initially thought to be a tradition from south
West Native Americans, it's practice can be found in many cultures
around the world.
Today couples enjoy this idea of pouring colored
sand into a single glass vase or container to symbolize their
respect, love and commitment to balance as their two lives become
Traditionally two different colors of sand are used. Couples
can choose to mix the sand together fully, or take turns making
a pattern in the single glass vase. Another practice includes
the use of a 3rd color either held by the minister or the bride,
to signify the spiritual aspect of the couples life and commitment.
Exchange Of Rings.
This is more of a modern tradition worked into an old pagan practice.
Rings were not always exchanged during a marriage. The cost of
such luxuries was better spent on caring for the family. Today
it is a common practice and can easily be added into a binding
Exchange Of Life.
A more common pagan practice. The exchange of life is an exchange
of blood. The couple is ceremoniously cut or pricked and they
exchange and intertwine their blood to become one life.
Some couples do this in combination with the Candle lighting.
After the main pillar is lit, the blood is drawn from the ring
finger of the left hand of both by a prick, usually with the
tip of an athame. The blood is then dripped together onto the
flame of the pillar. Allowing the union of blood to seep into
the wax and become permanently joined. Gods willing, the dripping
of blood does not extinguish the flame - which is a sign of good
fortune. If it does, it's a sign that this could be a stormy
union which will need work from both sides to succeed.
Another method is to fill two small pendant type vials with the
blood of your mate. And exchange those pendants to be worn by
your partner. Always having a piece of their life with you at
all times. Once again the prick or small cut is made with an
athame. The vials are chosen by each partner (they are rarely
identical). The groom gives his vial, hung on a chain, to his
bride who holds it as he fills it with his life force. When complete,
the vial is sealed and then he places the chain around her neck.
The same process occurs for the bride as she gives the gift of
her life to him. (This is one of my favorite rituals to add to
a Handfasting, but many couples are squeamish about the exchange
of blood. - So it's important to note, these ideas are solely
up to you as a couple. Don't feel as though you have to do any
Then there's the exchange of blood from body to body. Making
a small ritualistic cut on the tip of the middle finger (yes
middle finger - which symbolizes the sexual union of the couple)
on the left hand , again with a ritual athame, and joining those
cuts together as an exchange of blood from one partner to the
other and vice versa.
Broom jumping. A ceremonial broom is prepared, typically by the hand maidens.
The broom does not have to be a certain length. It can be a traditional
broom from any hardware store, a special crafted broom made of
natural materials, or even a small broom intended solely as an
When the couple steps before the Shaman, the broom is ceremoniously
placed behind them, setting a symbol for a doorway or wall that
separates the couple from the world outside. The bristles are
placed behind the groom, the hilt behind the bride. This sets
a balance of masculine/feminine energy with the couple. The bristles
being feminine, the hilt being masculine.
This is now their spiritual space and no one may cross into it
without permission. After the ritual when the couple is ready
to be presented to the gathering and world, they turn to the
broom and 'hop' over it's wall, walking into public as bonded
Another tradition has the groom raising the broom from the hilt
and standing it on the bristles, allowing his bride to walk through
the doorway he will now protect. He follows her and once on the
other side, gives her the broom as a gift. She accepts the broom
as a gesture to care for their home (more than just a physical
building, in this case, home is the family, their union and so
Staff n Broom
Concept is the same as broom jumping. But instead of just 1 symbol, 2
are used. And once again, the size doesn't matter. The broom for her,
as a sign of nurturing for the family, and the staff for him as a sign
of guiding the way. Remember these gestures are based on the old days,
when a woman's job was in the house and the man's job was protecting
the family and providing. In this case the broom is decorated by the
brides family and the staff by the grooms family. It's important that
the wedding couple themselves do not participate in the selection or
decoration of the symbols. These are items "passed on" to the couple so
that they may stand on their own and care for their own newly created
Sword n Broom
This is the one I actually prefer to conduct. And size does matter. But
both items must be the same length (which includes the bristles of
the broom and hilt of the sword). At a minimum the sword and broom
should be at least 3 feet long. The broom is prepared by the grooms
family, the sword by the brides. This is an exchange of ideas and
energies from one family to the other as a means of blessing the union.
items are laid at an angle; a "V" shape, with the bristles and point
directed toward the gathering. The brides family places the hilt
behind the groom and the bristles pointing to the brides family. The
grooms family places the hilt of the sword behind the bride and the
blade pointing toward the grooms family. The broom is laid first, so
that the point of the blade is laid ontop of the bristles of the broom.
When the couple has been joined, the bride raises the sword and
offers it to the groom as a sign of her willingness to protect
their union and her new family. The groom accepts the sword as
a sign of his willingness to work with her in that protection,
leading the fight if needs be.
He then raises the broom from the hilt and presents it to her as a
symbol of his willingness to nurture their union and care for their
family. She accepts the broom as her willingness to work with him in
that care, taking the lead if needs be. A statement of promise is made
to the partner as the item is presented to them. Additionally an
acceptance of responsibility to that promise is made by the opposite
partner when receiving the gift.
The exchange is completed by unbinding the wrists during the
exchange of rings, and seamlessly moving the rope to bind the
broom and sword together to show they are willing to take on
both duties and share responsibilities as needed throughout their
union. In many cases, I have gone to a couples house after this
type of exchange, and seen the ceremonial items hung on the wall
in an X pattern, still tied by the ceremonial rope.
Be Creative There
are many traditions from around the world that can be incorporated into
a wedding ceremony. Don't be afraid to discuss them with your
officiating minister. This is your wedding and you should make it
memorable for day. Simply consider holding respect for the guests who
are gathered, your families and the position of the minister
officiating the wedding.
Each service is unique and each
request can be dealt with on a case by case basis. There maybe aspects
you want to conduct in private, before or after the public ritual.
There maybe items you want to exchange that are personal and meaningful
to you or your families that aren't traditional in a wedding service.
Each of these can generally be worked into your service for your