Welcome to the Order of the Sacred Star! This Pagan/Wiccan group, based in Winnipeg, Canada, is committed to teaching the Craft to all those who wish to learn. Our goal is to provide a complete and fulfulling learning experience. Our public classes are offered through the Winnipeg Pagan Teaching Circle.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Modern Wiccan Handfasting and Its Components

Handfasting is the word many Wiccans and some Pagans use for marriage ceremony. Unlike some other forms of marriage, the Wiccan rite does not promise “’til death do you part.” Instead, the Wiccan ceremony joins a couple “for as long as the love shall last.” If the love between the couple should dissolve, they are free to go their separate ways.

Components of Modern Handfastings

These days, most Wiccans will write their own handfasting rites. There are many examples that can be found on the internet alone. A quick search for “handfasting rite” or “handfasting ritual” will produce many results. In general, modern Wiccan weddings may follow this outline (with certain steps omitted, based upon the complexity of the ceremony):
  • Preparation
  • Consecration
  • Processional
  • Circle Casting
  • Quarter Calling
  • Bride’s Arrival
  • Vows
  • Closure
  • Recessional
Not all of these will necessarily be included, but the more complex rituals will have most of them. A brief explanation of each step is below.

Preparation for a Handfasting Ceremony

Preparing the handfasting ritual site will vary according to the preferences of the couple, and the site chosen. Usually, an altar and ceremonial circle are erected, but the details are completely different from one ritual to the next. In more complex rituals, separate areas (tents or rooms) will be required. For the more simple ceremonies, a single site will do.

Wiccan Handfasting Consecration

Before the bridal party begins to enter the ritual site, the Priest or Priestess usually briefly cleanses the ceremonial space. This is known as consecration. Sometimes this is done before the guests are seated, but it is almost never omitted.

Processional in a Handfasting Ceremony

At some point, the bridal party does have to enter the ritual site. Usually, the groom and attendants will enter at his point. Whether the bride enters now is personal preference. Some couples like to have some bits of ceremony, such as the casting of the circle, in between the arrival of the bride and groom. Other will choose to have the bride within the circle when it is cast.

Circle Casting

A common element of most Wiccan rituals is the casting of the circle. This occurs now, and can be a standard casting, or something special, created specifically for a handfasting. A common circle casting at weddings might be:

Creature of the Earth, where thou art cast,
Let no adverse purpose last,
Not in complete accord with me,
As I will, so shall it be.

Quarter Calling

For a handfasting, the calling of the quarters is usually something a little more specific to the setting. The following may be appropriate:

Powers of East, Powers of Air, I call thee forth.
Come forth and bear witness to [bride] and [groom], who have come to know great love for one another.
Hail and Welcome!

This would, of course, be altered for each of the four quarters.

Bride’s Arrival During the Handfasting

If the bride didn’t arrive during the processional, she must at this point enter the circle, in a manner appropriate to the particular ritual used. Flower girls are quite common at handfastings, and usually precede the bride.

Wiccan Handfasting Vows

The exact vows spoken are almost never the same from one ceremony to the next. However, many Wiccan ceremonies have several phases of the ‘vows’ component. These may include commissioning; legality and capacity; and vows.

During commissioning, the Priest or Priestess speak of what handfasting entails, and the duties and responsibilities of the parties involved; the exact nature of this is usually decided on by the couple, in consultation with the Priest or Priestess.

Legality and capacity relates to the nature of the marriage (i.e. whether it will be a legal marriage.). If the handfasting is also to be a legal marriage, there are certain questions and assertions that must take place; these are governed by local governments, and are the responsibility of the person performing the marriage ceremony.

Vows are usually written by the couple, the vows are traditionally where the couple agrees to share their lives together, for as long as love exists between them.

Closure of the Handfasting Ceremony

Even the most beautiful of ceremonies must come to and end. This is usually announced by the Priest or Priestess, but in some cases, the couple may choose to do this. The circle must be closed and the quarters dismissed. Also, some couples choose to incorporate a broom jump. Finally, a pronouncement is made, declaring the couple married.

Handfasting Recessional

The bridal party must exit the ritual area in a manner of their choosing. After this, pictures and a reception usually follow, as with most modern wedding ceremonies.

No matter what ceremony you use, the handfasting should be a beautiful and memorable event. Flowers and d├ęcor should not be overlooked. For those non-pagan guests, a program to assist in following the ceremony might be in order. A well-planned handfasting does take work, but is definitely worth the effort.

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