What is handfasting to us
Alex and I love each other and we want to celebrate that love with a ceremony/ritual before our friends and families. The thing is I personally do not believe that the government needs to have a hand in that love and that I should not have to sign a legal document to express my love for this man or his love for me and Alex agrees.
If Alex is the man I choose to be with for the rest of my life why do we need to have a ceremony? Because we can is the easy answer, because we want to is easy as well but it is not the only reason. We want to express that love to our friends and families, to share with them a symbol of our love and affection and the ritual of handfasting allows us to share it quite well.
There is some conflict about the ancient rituals of handfasting, whether it was simply an engagement to be married that lasted a year and a day or if it was in fact a trial marriage lasting the same length or at the choice of the couple for life.
But modern Wiccans and Neo-pagans as well as those with Celtic ancestry have embraced the concept of handfasting as a form of wedding ceremony that they can choose to adapt to their needs, such as making it legal or not by choosing whether to have papers signed, or including friends and family in the ritual and even by choosing which parts of the ritual they wish to have or adapt to better suit their personal beliefs and wishes.
Alex and I are pretty much loosely Agnostic with Pagan/Wiccan leanings, we have talked about this and agreed that we think there could be something more but neither of us feel a driving need to put a name, face or gender to that something. While we don’t follow any one belief system we do pick and choose amongst the ones we respect such as Wicca, Paganism, Buddhism as well as bits and pieces of others including Christianity in some of it’s aspects.
Often a handfasting ceremony is very similar to the classic wedding ceremony with different overtones. And yet in some ways a handfasting is quite different from the typical marriage ceremony since most couples design a unique ritual which fits their needs using basic concepts of handfasting rituals while adding their own spin to it.
Some of the concepts we are choosing to adapt from modern and ancient Handfasting rituals as well as from classic wedding ceremonies (many of these were adapted from each other) are:
Outdoors. Most often Handfastings are held outdoors in wild place or a place with great personal meaning, in our case Alex agreed that my Grandmother’s backyard is the perfect place for us to hold it since it is lovely and has a slightly wild aspect to it.
Rings. While we are not exchanging rings at the ceremony we are giving each other engagement rings before hand, we already wear matching pendants as a sign of our love and think it would be nice to have something else to celebrate the occasion.
Sharing a toast from one glass: First we drink separately from the same glass then we give each other a drink, this symbolizes the need for a balance between apartness and togetherness in our relationship.
Holding hands. Often in a handfasting a couple will create a figure 8 with their hands and have them bound as such, we plan to stand side by side and hold hands the way we do when we walk places, it means a lot to me that I feel so comfortable holding his hand and that he doesn’t make me feel off balanced or rushed and that he always seems to want to hold my hand.
Presider. Often in handfasting the couple chooses a person who represents their personal beliefs or who is legally able to marry them to conduct the ceremony. We have chosen a dear friend who is part of how we met and while he will help guide the ceremony most of it will fall to Alex and me.
Ale and Cake. Often part of the ceremony is the sharing of Ale and Cake, something that is believed to have lead to the current tradition of the bride and groom feeding each other. In our ritual we are using Mead (honey wine) and Welsh Honey Cake which we will cut in a ritual way and share while our hands are bound.
Cords/braids. There are many different symbolisms to the chose of cords, the color, the number of cords and how they are knotted, this is one thing I adapting totally to my own beliefs and thoughts of symbolism.
Vows. Alex and I will not be saying classic vows instead we will agree that we have chosen each other “as long as love does last” and then we will ask blessings of the elements.
Unity Candle. We will not be lighting the classic unity candle but instead I am using wax from reclaimed candles to make a 3 wick candle, at the start of the ceremony we will light 2 of the wicks by separately lighting sticks of incense and then the wicks, at the end we will use new sticks and together light the third wick from the first two.
(I will have to write a set of posts on the reasons for many of the rituals we are doing)