It's become popular in many Pagan and Wiccan traditions to have a bonfire as part of the handfasting ceremony. If this is something you'd like to do, here are some tips on how to make things go smoothly.
- Make sure you have room. If you're in a very small space, you might have to go for a table-top brazier or a fire bowl instead. Also, be sure that the location of your handfasting permits open fires -- some public parks do not.
- Put someone you trust in charge of the bonfire as a fire tender. This person is responsible for laying out the fire beforehand -- no one wants to stand around for half an hour while you and your beloved stack up a bunch of logs. Traditionally, a handfasting bonfire was started with natural methods such as flint and steel. If you're going to do this, practice beforehand. Be sure that whoever is starting the fire is sober.
- Don't use accelerants such as lighter fluid. Use traditional elements of fire -- fuel, tinder and kindling. If you don't know the difference between the three, find someone who does, and have them be the fire tender.
- Once the fire has started, make sure the fire tender knows where fire-suppression items are located -- a bucket of water, a bucket of sand, a fire extinguisher. Make sure guests understand that children are not to play around or near the fire.
- The only thing that should go into the fire is wood. Since the handfasting bonfire is sacred, paper trash should be thrown away rather than burned (one exception to this is if guests are offering blessings to the handfasting couple and wish to offer them into the sacred fire). Don't let anyone throw beer cans, food, plastic, aerosol cans, aluminum foil, or other items into the fire. Make sure no one pees in the fire either (yeah, I know it sounds gross, but people do it).
- When the ceremony is over, the fire tender should be responsible for making sure the fire has gone out completely before leaving. They can either wait for it to burn out on its own -- although this can make for a long night -- or they can put it out with sand and dirt.
- Take some ashes from your handfasting bonfire and save them in a jar. You can use them later on to bless your home or in other ritual workings.