Handfasting was a popular custom in the British Isles centuries ago. Now, however, it's seeing a rising popularity among modern Pagan couples who are interested in tying the knot. Many Pagan and Wiccan couples choose to have a handfasting ritual instead of a traditional wedding ceremony. If you're lucky enough to have someone you love this much, there are a few things you may want to keep in mind in order to make your handfasting ceremony a success.
- Plan as far ahead as possible, especially if you're going to be writing your own vows. It will be far less stressful if you -- and your clergyperson -- have been able to get familiar with the wording, rather than waiting till the last minute.
- Consider how long the ceremony is going to be. If you want people to stand in a circle, and have elderly relatives or small children present, anything longer than about half an hour is going to require chairs for some of your audience. In total, try to keep the ritual to about an hour -- if the crowd is really big, make your ceremony even shorter.
- Bear in mind that if you want to have a circle, you're going to need far more room than if you just stand at the altar with your beloved. Dancing, spinning, calling of the quarters -- all that stuff takes up space. Make sure that your location will accommodate all of your guests.
- Many Pagan and Wiccan couples hold their handfastings outdoors. If you choose to do this -- great! But make sure you've done your homework -- some public places like parks require you to have a reservation, or to fill out paperwork if there will be a large crowd present. When you make arrangements in advance, if you're concerned about public perception, you don't have to say "It's a Wiccan handfasting ceremony." Typically just the phrase "family gathering" or "we're getting married" will be sufficient, and both are truthful. Regardless, make sure you have permission to be where you're having your ceremony.
- If you hold your handfasting in a public place, be sure to respect the rules of the area -- if there are signs that say "no open flames," then don't have a bonfire. If food and beverages are prohibited, then go somewhere else for the potluck after the ceremony. Make sure you check into noise and entertainment ordinances as well -- the last thing you want is the police showing up at your handfasting because your drum circle was too loud. Be sure to plan ahead to have a cleanup crew -- designate specific individuals to be in charge of this task, rather than just saying "Hey, can someone pick up the trash?" as you and your new partner leave the site.
- If you plan to invite non-Pagan relatives or friends to the ceremony, you should probably prep them in advance. Don't ask them to do anything that makes them feel uncomfortable, but do let them know that the ceremony has aspects of your spiritual path in it. Depending on just how Pagan your handfasting is going to be, and how your non-Pagan family feels about it, you may want to let them know about any non-traditional activities before the ceremony -- and not at the last minute. That way, if great-aunt Matilda feels icky about you calling upon a bunch of gods she's never heard of, she can bow out altogether. It's a good idea to provide seating outside your circle for those who would like to watch but are uncomfortable with actual participation.
- Don't use your handfasting as a way of coming out of the broom closet. You need to be able to focus all of your energy on the handfasting itself, and not spend it worrying about what your parents are going to think when they find out you and your beloved are practicing Wicca. Have that conversation well ahead of time. If you have family members or friends who are adamantly opposed to your having a Pagan ceremony, remember, it's your marriage, not theirs. You can either have a non-Pagan ceremony later and invite them to attend, or you can tell them that if they can't attend your handfasting, you understand and you love them anyway.