Rites of Passage
~ Handfasting Ritual~

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Paganing/Wiccaning Ritual
Springtide Ritual
Handfasting Ritual
Saging Ritual
Separation Ritual
Crossing Rituals

. . . whose beginning was a glance
and whose ending is eternity.

I wrote this HANDFASTING ritual for my Handfasting. I stole elements for parts of it, rewrote some and originated others. Plus, as we rehearsed, everyone got into the spirit of things and kept adding extras; my "Heraldess" tossing flower petals gathered in her skirt, my Candle Mistresses adding curtsies, my Escort and Page adding bows...

We had seven attendants each, plus a page and my escort, with each having a role to play other than to just stand there and look good during the ceremony. We had no "best" attendants, only first, second, third among equals who stood with us. The other four pairs sat in the front rows, either finished with their parts as heralds, Ushers, or Guest Book attendant, or poised to do their parts in the ceremony.

This ritual was also very public with about 150 guests, combining not just family and friends but business associates, most of whom did not know we are pagan. So, we disguised the ritual describing it as a Renaissance theme using poetic language. Even our minister felt using the poetic term "the gods" and "lord and Lady" did not betray her belief in a one true god. (We were unable to find a pagan minister who would work with us.) If you listen closely at the wording of the ceremony, you can hear some of the elements, however only suggested at, in a Wiccan Handfasting ceremony.

We call the elements to open the ceremony, as is my family tradition. (I blessed and warded the room the night before at the rehearsal, when no one was looking.) Although we do not invoke the Lord and Lady, the Gift of Life and Gift of Light ceremonies are dedicated to them and their blessings. We share a cup of wine (from my ritual silver chalice, over twenty years old) that represents the Lady Moon's blessing and we reverse the standard wedding candle ceremony by both taking a flame from a blessed single candle carried by an attendant which represented the Sun Lord's blessing. As a private ritual within these two ceremonies, (unknown to those watching) I placed a silver charm of a flame under the Sun candle. I also placed a silver charm of a chalice was in the ritual wine. After the ceremony I retrieved these two charms which we wore as talismans throughout our honeymoon and for the first year of our marriage. The charms now reside together on one chain that I wear, especially during our anniversary trips.

The preparations for the wedding took seven months because everything (but the flowers we carried, the cake we ate and the building we stood in) was custom made and required all hands on deck, three to four nights a week, plus week-ends. My clan personifies the term attendants. And for this wedding, it would never have been accomplished if the groom just showed up on the wedding day. He was the driving force and equal partner of much of the design and creation of the ceremony, including designing my wedding rings. Everyone worked on everything, from glittering and assembling the invitations that he designed, the programs I designed, the hand made hair ornaments and lapel favors, to the hand stamped and embossed initialed matches and napkins ((stamped with a custom-made rubber stamp of the wolf pin (that I wore) and the sword (that he carried), made into our wedding symbol, the one at the opening paragraph)).

Everyone worked on the eighteen silk and velvet or brocade costumes for the bridal party. We even hand-painted some of the fabric for my escort's jerkin to look more elegant than the groomsmen. I edited the music and had a dear friend burn it onto a CD to score the ceremony without error. My ladies wore custom-made jewelry and my husband wore custom made boots. Even our guest book has custom made parchment pages that were hand gilded on the edges in gold. Each page had a song lyric from one of our favorite songs decorating it. I even sewed a matching velvet and brocade stole for our lady minister and I printed a booklet bound with a silk cord of the ceremony with large lettering, color-coded to prevent misunderstanding as to who was doing what. It was insane and fabulous.

We had a winter wedding and so booking a room that had formerly been a nursery was a second best choice to an outdoor garden. It had live trees and plants still growing along the walls of the room. We had to have several rehearsals due to the complexity of the ceremony and the fact that it had a score, cause a friend to say that we were putting on a play not a wedding, and afterwards said it would surely win a Tony award. She was nearly right.

To simplify the ceremony, you can have attendants place all their ceremonial items on a side altar or with fewer attendants, they can be laid out on THE altar before the ceremony and the officiant can access them from there. One critical point is that my ladies couldn't carry bouquets because they had their hands full of other things, so we had wristlets made for them with draping ribbons and flowers to free their hands. When we posed for pictures, they simply held their wrist at their waist and it looked great.

Much of the ceremony has specific and somewhat obscure meaning to us, that you may want to edit out or rewrite. And, I have replaced our vows with more traditional vows, those that I wrote for my two Heralds who married two years later with this ceremony rewritten and adapted for them. (Although, I may at a later date post part of our vows, they were so beautiful and fun and notorious - that they still talked about. I'm the writer and my husband is an artist. His vows were breathtaking.)

So - adapt, steal, and rewrite all or whatever portion you may like. This ritual in its entirety is not for the shy or hesitant, and has some tricky timing. Everyone works, but if everyone remembers his or her part, each only has one thing to do (except the first maid who had a bit of juggling to do.) The ritual seems lengthy, but it only took about thirty minutes. Even as I wrote it, I was prepared to be relaxed enough that if someone forgot their cue, I would gently prompt them, taking the mistake as all a part of the fun. Since it was my ritual, I decided that nothing could go wrong that couldn't be handled with humor. So, write to me with questions, advice or assistance. Because as I format this ritual six years after the fact-(with few stage directions!) I have no idea how we pulled it off so beautifully.

Handfasting Ritual

The Heralds

Music: The Immigrant (trt: 6:04)

Female Herald and Male Herald enter before the ceremony. She is carrying rose petals in her upturned skirt and she tosses them before their path as they walk to the bower, then turn to face the audience.

Female Herald says:
M’ Lords and Ladies—(insert names of Bride and Groom) share a love so strong and vital that they wish to proclaim it publicly through the ceremony of marriage. We join them in celebrating their union and contemplate their future with joy. As most of you know, they are both very romantic characters. Consequently, they have decided to have a very personal ceremony filled with symbols and words that they hold sacred. From the heart of History, expressed in mythic prose, they have interpreted these traditions from ancient Keltic origins. Traditions kept by a people who witnessed the sacredness of life in the midst of each common day.

Male Herald says:
(insert names) Groom and Bride extend their sincerest welcome. And would like you to know how deeply they appreciate your being here tonight to witness this union. It is appropriate that we, their family and friends are here to participate in this wedding. The ideals . . . the understanding . . . and the mutual respect which these two bring to their marriage . . . have roots in the love, friendship and guidance with which you have provided them. And your love and good wishes will be an essential part of this ceremony when using the candle each of you carry.

Female Herald says:
The lore and meaning of these traditions are further explained in your program. Again welcome and thank you all so very much for coming tonight.

Heralds seat themselves in front row.

Music Fades (trt 1:30)

The Procession

Officiant enters.

Music: Caoineadh Cu Chulainn (continues) (trt: 4:09)

Burgundy Guardsman 3 enters first carrying the Handfasting Cord. Stands third among equals stage left.
Burgundy Guardsman 2 enters carrying Groom's Ring Box. Stands second among equals stage left.
Burgundy Guardsman 1 enters carrying Groom’s Sword. Stands first among equals stage left next to groom.

Groom enters carrying scroll with vows.

Groom's mother is seated by Green Guardsman 1.
Bride's mother is seated by Green Guardsman 2

(Music fades)

Music: For love the of a Princess - Braveheart (trt:4:07)

Burgundy Maiden 3 enters first carrying a burning White Candle. Sets it on altar. Stands third among equals stage right.
Burgundy Maiden 2 carrying Bride's Ring Box. Stands second among equals stage right.
Burgundy Maiden 1 carries a Silver Chalice filled with wine. Sets it on altar. Stands first among equals stage right next to bride.

Escort and Bride arrive exactly on cue as the music swells.
Page follows--carrying Bride's train.

Escort kisses Bride’s cheek, bows to her and recedes backwards a few steps turns and sits second row isle seat stage right.
Page lays the train and seats himself second row isle stage left.
Bride hands Bridal bouquet to Burgundy Maiden 3 (who now has nothing in her hands having placed the candle on the altar)

Music fades

Officiant says:

Welcome friends and kindred all. This is the night--the old gods sing-- For tonight, in this beautiful garden . . . we come together to celebrate Love . . .and it’s blessing on (insert names) Bride and Groom.

May the earth in her glory smile on this pair,
May the winds of triumph cast away care,
May their bond be forged with passionate fire,
May the sea of creation unite and inspire.

(trt .25)

A Gift on Honor
The Presentation

Groom and Bride stand facing each other--holding hands crossed at wrist (infinity sign)

Officiant says:

By the creative spirit that resides deep within you . . .
By the blood that courses through your veins . . .
By the love that resides within your hearts . . .
Is it your desire to take each other . . . to hand, heart, and spirit?
To be the chosen one of the other?

If this is true--please answer together-”I do so desire.”

Both respond:

”I do so desire.”

Officiant says:

The ancient ones, proud and unyielding, did not bend easily. Both men and women lived life with the warrior spirit of independence. They accepted neither crown nor collar. Yet upon their union, they offered each other a noble gift to symbolize all that they were and all that they had. These symbols you offer to each other now as a promise to honor each other . . . above all others.

Burgundy Guardsman 1 offers sword to Groom
Groom—kneels to Bride—to presents his token.

Groom says:

With this token--I dedicate myself to loving you.

Bride accepts the sword and hands it to Burgundy Maiden 1. Unpins her broach. In a deep curtsy she presents her token to Groom.

Bride says:

With this token-- I dedicate myself to loving you.

Groom pins on broach. Groom extends hand to help Bride rise.
(trt 1:30)

The Opening Blessing

Groom and Bride. Facing each other--hold hands again

Officiant says:

A wise man said when he saw the rushing river . . . I could drown or ride the white water. He dove and then grew gills.

A wise woman said when she saw the precipice . . . I could fly or fall. She jumped and then grew wings.

It is a blessing when someone believes in the dream of our ideal selves . . .while still loving the real. And even greater when someone wants to help make the dream come true.

(insert names) Bride and Groom, You both have already weathered many challenges together. You have met them with humour, understanding and compassion. Time has proved that you are well matched. Yet you make no small commitment. You have carefully considered both the beauty and obligations assumed when lives are wed. Thus, we rejoice and celebrate one of Life’s richest gifts--the love you share--

--“Whose beginning was a glance and whose ending is eternity.”

Above you . . . are the stars,
below you, the stones,
as time blesses you . . .
like the stars, may your love be constant,
like the stones, may your love be strong.

(trt 1:15)

A Gift of Life
The Wine Ceremony:

Officiant turns to the alter--picks up a single silver chalice of wine and hands it to Groom.

Officiant says:

For thousands of years the Chalice has been symbol of renewal, regeneration, and rebirth. The sweet wine within is a sacred image of Life. As this vessel of Moonlight reflects the hope of this moment, may your life be a reflection of the love you bare each other. Drink now, and may the cup of your lives be full to overflowing.

Groom holds chalice to Bride’s lips while she sips.

Groom says:

And may it always taste sweetest from my hand.

Then Bride takes chalice and holds it to Groom’s lips while he sips.

Bride says:

And may it always taste sweetest from my hand.

The chalice is then handed back to the Officiant who sets it back on the altar.

A Gift of Light
The Candle Ceremony begins:

Officiant says:

For over three thousand years, people have used candles as a source of light and inspiration. This flame is a symbol of creation, the glowing, living, force that gives us breath. The flame is our passion and our deepest connection to the soul.(insert names) Bride and Groom, you enter into a union which is most sacred, requiring a complete and unreserved giving of self.

Together: Burgundy Guard 1 and Maid 1, step up to alter (Maid 1 must temporarily hand sword to Maid 2). . .each takes 3 candles from the altar. She (takes back sword) passes one each candle to Maids 2 and 3. He passes one each to Guards 2 and 3 (trt 2:00) (Audience was given each a candle by Green Maiden 3 before being seated.)

Officiant says:

As this tiny beacon of the Sun illuminates this moment, may your love always shine brightest for each other.

The Officiant steps aside and motions for Groom and Bride to pick up the Bridal Candles from the alter (place there before the wedding).

Music: Riverdance (edited version) (trt 4:00)

Bride and Groom light their candles from the Source Candle on altar. (Place there by Burgundy Maiden 3)

Then Bride lights candle of Maid 1. Maid 1 passes flame to Maid 2, Maid 2 passes flame to Maid 3.
At the same time…
Groom lights Guard 1. Guard 1 lights Guard 2, Guard 2 lights Guard 3’s candle.

Bride and Groom stand facing their guests still holding their lit candles
Then - Green Maidens 1 and 2 (candle lighters, each sitting in the front row isle seats) walk to the Bride and Groom (curtsy before them) and take the Bridal candles from Bride and Groom.

They walk down the isle, lighting the candle possessed by each person sitting in each isle seat. And instructs that person to pass the flame to the person sitting next to him/her who continues to pass it on. This continues until all candles are lit and the candle lighters return to their seats in the front row.

Music fades


Officiant says:

May I have the rings.

Burgundy Maid 2 and Burgundy Guard 2 step forward and open ring boxes and hand rings to Officiant and return to their places.

Officiant says:

A circle is the symbol of the sun, the earth, and of the universe. It is a symbol of wholeness and perfection, continuity and protection. The rings you give and receive this day, are symbols of the circle of life and love into which you enter together as husband and wife. (insert names) Bride and Groom, you have invited us to witness the happiness that you have found in each other. Are you ready to make the pledges to which you commit yourselves to each other in a covenant of love?

Bride and Groom, say together:

We are.

Officiant says:

(insert Bride’s name), since you have chosen to commit to (insert Groom’s name), I ask you now to tell all who are present-- and (insert Groom’s name) -- of your love for him.

Music: The Level Plain (trt 4:38)

Bride recites her vows

“My Lord . . . I choose you to be my husband. To live with you and laugh with you. To stand by your side and sleep in your arms. To be the joy of your heart and the light of your soul. To encourage the best in you and, for you, to be my best.
For you, My Lord,
All that I am . . . All that I have . . ..I promise . . . That I will love you freely, as the sunset loves the night . . . as the garden loves the rain.
That I will love you greatly, with my tender passion . . .with my loving words and manner.
That I will love you joyfully, with my body, with my humor and my delight.
That I will love you truly, with my kindness and my deepest care. And I will love you completely, from this day forward . . .as your friend and companion . . . your helpmate and lover . . . through all the seasons of our life together . . . seamlessly, endlessly and forever.

Music fades

Officiant says:

Now that you have declared your love before the gods and this company, (insert Bride’s name), place the symbol of your love upon (insert Groom’s name), finger.

She places ring on his finger

Officiant says:

Will you love him and keep this pledge—on your hope of Tir Na nOg? (Tear-nan-oak)

Bride says:

I will.

She kisses his ring.
(trt 7:50)

Officiant says:

(insert Groom’s name), since you have chosen to commit to (insert Bride’s name), I ask you now to tell all who are present-- and (insert Bride’s name), -- of your love for her.

Music: Lift the Wings - Riverdance (trt 3:00)

Groom recites his vows.

“My Lady . . . I choose you to be my wife. To live with you and laugh with you. To stand by your side and sleep in your arms. To be the joy of your heart and the light of your soul. To encourage the best in you and, for you, to be my best.

For you, My Lady, All that I am . . . All that I have . . . I promise . . . That I will love you freely, as the sunset loves the night . . . as the garden loves the rain. That I will love you greatly, with my tender passion . . .with my loving words and manner. That I will love you joyfully, with my body, with my humor and my delight. That I will love you truly, with my kindness and my deepest care. And I will love you completely, from this day forward . . .as your friend and companion . . . your helpmate and lover . . . through all the seasons of our life together . . . seamlessly, endlessly and forever.

Music fades

Officiant says:

Now that you have declared your love before the gods and this company, (insert Groom’s name), place the symbol of your love upon (insert Bride’s name), finger.

He places ring on her finger

Officiant says:

Will you love her and keep this pledge—on your hope of Tir Na nOg? (Tear-nan-oak)

Groom says:

I will.

He kisses her ring.

Cord Ceremony

Bride and Groom hold right hands together. The officiant will accept the cord from Burgundy Guardsman 3:

Officiant says:

We tremble at the words . . . ”The bond of marriage.” But your love is already a greater bond than any law can impose. Because it is not the kind of love which is used with vagueness and sentimentality. It is a love so real as to be an example to all who witness it. It is both an honor and a duty to bind ourselves in love. And to the wise, it is sweet freedom and fulfillment.

The officiant wraps the cord around the right wrists.

Holding the ends of the cord. . . .
Officiant says:

I bind thee with a cincture of protection
I bind thee with a nine-fold Blessing:

Peace of Morning
Song of Wind
Laughter of Stream
Strength of Stone
Clarity of Crystal
Surrender of Tides
Patience of Earth
Protection of Oak
Welcome of Twilight

From the heights, to the depths,
May you be encircled
in love and safety.

(trt 1:00)

Candle Ceremony ends:

Officiant says:

Our community is also shared by those who have transcended this life. Connected by the gift of memory . . . preserved in the old songs. We know that they are dancing in celebration too, it’s just that they dance to music we cannot hear. So we dare to say to you in their absence . . .

May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be ever at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
the rain fall soft upon your fields,
and until we meet again-
May god hold you in the hollow of his hand.

We now ask you all . . . dear family and good friends, to make a wish for (insert names Groom and Bride) for long life, good fortune, or any special intention you may have . . .

Now gently blow out your candles (pause until all candles are blown out)

“These go out, but not the sun . . .
It does not end . . .what is begun."

(trt 1:00)

The Closing Blessing

Officiant says:

Let us rejoice this day in the marriage of Bride and Groom. Let us celebrate the love that brought them to this day . . .the love that has deepened through the years. May you continue to know its meaning and its mystery. May the enchantment, which you hold for one another . . . grow in strength and beauty. And may you be ennobled by the blessings that comes to those who truly love.

May your home be a sanctuary of welcome for all who enter it, a place where the old and the young are renewed in each other's company - a place for growth, a place for music, a place for laughter. And when shadows and darkness fall within its rooms, may it still be a place of hope and warmth for all who enter it.

May those nearest you continue to be enriched by the beauty and the bounty of your love for each other. May you live in peace and joy.

And may you grow old together . . .
. . . on one pillow.

(trt 1:15)

For as much as (insert Bride and Groom). have grown in knowledge and love of one another, and because they have agreed in their desire to go forward in life together, seeking an even richer, deepening relationship, and because they have pledged to meet life’s challenges together . . .

I proclaim. . .By the Sun and the Moon, by fire and water, by day and night, by earth and sky And by the power vested in me by the State of (insert states name),That . . . (insert Bride and Groom). . . are husband and wife.

Would you like to greet your wife . . . your husband . . . with a kiss?


They Kiss

Officiant removes the cord.

The Presentation

Officiant says:

May the Lord and Lady grant you their love, light, and protection.
M’ Lords, Ladies and gentleman, may I present Mr. & Mrs. (insert Bride and Groom).

The Recessional

Music: Driving Through Scotland (trt 4:00)

Exiting. . .
Bride and Groom
Burgundy Guard 1 and Maid 1
Burgundy Guard 2 and Maid 2
Burgundy Guard 3 and Maid 3
The Heralds
Green Guard 3 and Maid 3
Green Guard 2 and Maid 2
Green Guard 1 and Maid 1

Music fades . . .

© 1997-2012 Ardriana Cahill

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