(For multi-religious groups)
The following is a Handfasting (Wedding) Ritual that can be used for crowds that are non-denominational or have Christians among the wedding party or audience. I performed it in June in San Diego for about 100 people. I left a few things blank, which you can fill in or change to your liking. If you have questions, just email me or write me at:
The presider and her/his assistant shall enter the area from the “Northern End” (the side away from the audience) and shall walk clockwise around the circle to be created. They will stop so that their backs are to the audience. The presider will then light the male and female candles that are represented in the form of a black and white candle on either side of the altar, which is in the center of circle. The presider will then turn and face the audience and say (something like…):
In times long ago, a man and a woman came together in the presence of a representative of the Holy One to enter into a contract of marriage known as a handfasting. It is known as a handfasting because the couple joins hands to represent that they must remember to hold fast through all of Life’s challenges. The couple and their witnesses have decided to participate of a ceremony of their own free will and as an external display of their spiritual commitment to this Union.
Some of you may find this “medieval” style of ceremony to be a great leap from the present, however after much thought, (insert first names) have decided to follow their hearts and show the physical world their spiritual commitment in this manner. During the course of this ceremony, many symbols are used which shall be described both to the couple and to you as the worldly witnesses. Should you have any questions at the end of the ceremony, please feel free to ask.
II. The presider will then turn away from the audience and pick up the basket of petals and hold them over her head toward the “North” and say:
Oh, Powers of Nature, which permeates all, come here this day and Bless these petals of the (couple choose a flower) flower which shall trace the Circle to represent the boundary between the physical and the spiritual worlds. May all who enter this Circle come here mindful of their commitment to the Union of (insert couple’s names).
The presider will then give the basket to the assistant who starting from the north and moving in a clockwise direction sprinkle the petals to form a Circle. The basket will then be replaced on the altar after the presider sprinkles a few petals in a circle over the altar.
III. The presider will then lift the Water Chalice above the head to the North and says:Contained within this Vessel is the Water that flows and ebbs through our Lives. The circle shall be traced with this water to remind those who enter that Life is a never-ending series of challenges and triumphs. May the powers of the Water be present with us on this day so that the couple shall start their life together mindful that they must flow with the Tide of Life through their challenges and triumphs.
The presider will then replace the chalice on to the altar after pouring some of the water into the chalice that the couple has selected and some into the water bowl.
IV. The presider will then lift the crystal plate of Salt (preferably Sea Salt) above the head to the North and say:
The Salt which preserves and binds the Water of Life shall be added so that all who enter this Circle shall be reminded of the Earthly commitment that is being made on this day by (insert names).
The presider will then put a pinch of salt into the Couple’s chalice and the water bowl.
The Blessed Water is the symbol of the spiritual and emotional commitment, which they make on this day. This Salt is the symbol of the physical and material union that (insert name) will make. By joining the two, as we join (insert names) today, two separate entities become one. In tracing the Circle with the joined water and salt, (insert name) are provided with the image of their new relationship beginning on firm ground.
The presider will then pass it to the assistant whom starting from the north and moving in a clockwise direction will sprinkle the Blessed Water. He will then replace the Chalice to the altar.
V. The assistant will the light the Sage. The presider will then lift the Sage above her/his head and say:
All that is unseen to mortal man join us on this day to bless this union. With this Sacred Sage, we now trace this Circle to remind all who enter that this is a Holy endeavor.
The presider will then blow out the burning Sage and trace a circle above the head and hand it to her assistant who starting from the north and moving in clockwise direction will trace the Circle in Sage. The assistant should make large sweeping circles while moving in a circle. The assistant will then take whatever if any is left and place it in the designated spot in the East.
VI. The presider will then take the Staff from her assistant and tap it once on the ground in the North and call the bridesmaids. Then will say:
On this day, you who represent the Bride’s life up to this point, have come here of your own free will to witness this Union. I call to the portal: (insert names of the bridesmaids but not the maid of honour).
The presider will then briefly greet each of them. The assistant will escort the bridesmaids around the circle to their designated places on the circle edge to the Northwest.
You four (or however many) come on this day to witness this Union and to remind the Bride of her chosen commitment to (insert name). Do you understand your role on this day?
The bridesmaids will signify their response. The presider will then strike the staff again and says:
I call forth (insert name of Maid of Honour) to this Circle on this day.
The presider will then greet the Maid of Honour and lead her to the white candle on the altar facing out toward the audience.
Throughout the course of their marriage, you have accepted the role of the woman who is to remind (insert name) of her promises on this day, do you accept this responsibility?
The maid of honour will then signify her response. The presider will then strike the staff again and say:
I call to the portal: (insert names of the groom’s men). These four gentlemen are representative of the life which (insert name) held before this union.
The presider will then briefly greet each of the men while the assistant takes them to their position on the edge of the circle in the northeast section.
You have come on this day of your own free will to bear witness to the Union of (insert name) to (insert name). Do you accept all the responsibility that comes with this?
The men will signify their response. The presider will then strike the staff and say:
I call forth (insert Best Man’s name) to the Circle on this day.
The presider then greets the Best Man and leads him to the black candle and says:
You have come here to bear witness to (insert name) commitment to (insert name). During their lifetime together, you are present to remind him of all that he chooses to commit to on this day. Do you accept this responsibility and all that comes with it?
The best man then signifies his response.
VII. The presider will then strike the staff and say:
I call to the Portal the woman who has chosen to commit herself freely and thoughtfully to this Union.
The Bride will then appear at the designated spot. The presider will then lead the bride to the Bridesmaid spot and the two will then greet with a kiss and the assistant will lead the Bridesmaid to the other women. The presider will then take the brides hand and says:
Who comes here on this day?
To which the bride will state her full legal name. The presider will then say:
You, (insert name), come here on this day of your own free will before these friends and family to show your spiritual and physical commitment to the man you have chosen to be your lifemate. Is this true?
To which the bride will signify her response.
VIII. The presider will then strike the staff again and say:
What man comes here on this day to join with this woman?
The groom will then appear at the designated spot. The presider will then greet the groom and lead him over to the best man who will greet the groom. The assistant will then take the best man over to the other groomsmen. The presider will take the groom’s hand and say:
Who comes here on this day?
To which the groom will respond with his full legal name. The presider will then say:
You, (insert name), come here today of your own free will before these friends and family to show your physical and spiritual commitment to this woman, (insert name). Is this true?
To which the groom will signify his response. The presider then will take the bride and groom’s hands and join them.
These two have come here to join together in marriage, is there anyone among those present who sees any reason why these two should not be married on this day?
The presider will wait for a response. Then will ask the groom and bride to place their wedding rings or whatever is the symbol of their union into the wedding chalice. The presider will then say:
As a symbol of their Union, (insert name) have chosen the traditional circular representation of a continuous love and life, the ring. They are now placing their rings into the wedding chalice which represents their commitment. The vessel contains Blessed Water which will cleanse the rings so that when (insert name) place them on each other’s fingers they will be symbolically starting anew.
IX. The presider will then ask the bride to light her tape from the white candle on the altar and then light the wedding candle. The presider will say:
The candle which (insert name) is lighting is the Wedding candle. She brings to this union all that is feminine, all that is (insert name). By lighting the wedding candle first does not mean that her energy is more important, but rather that contained within her is the essence and origin of all that is Life.
The presider will then ask the groom to light his taper with the black candle on the altar and then light the wedding candle. The presider will say:
(Insert name) brings to this union the spark, which is masculine; all that is (insert name). By joining his energies using the symbolic candle, (insert name) infuses his life essence and that which is the catalyst to a new Life. The wedding candle is now a symbol for the course of their marriage of the commitment that they make to each other. In the old days this candle would be kept on the dining table or anywhere prominent in the home, so that the couple would have a tangible way to rekindle their love when rocky times would occur. I hope that (insert names) will light this candle also during the good times as well as the bad.
X. The presider will then lift the candle off the alter and ask the couple to hold the candle together while facing the audience. The presider will then say:
(Insert names) must learn to work together if they have not already. By asking these two to bear the burden of their love in the form of this candle, they begin to understand the weight of the commitment they make on this day.
The assistant will then picks up the red cord (about 1 yard long) and hold it up so that the audience may see it. The presider will then say while taking the cord from the assistant:
A tradition, which no longer takes place, is the symbolic tying of the two participant’s wrists together by a red cord or scarf. (Insert names) have elected to uphold this tradition. As I bind these two together, let no man or woman break them apart.
The presider will then tie the two together at the wrists while they continue to hold the candle. (Since most people won’t understand that the couple could only be untied after they had sex which they would do before the end of the ritual by going off somewhere and then coming back. This part has been modified for the benefit of Christian and multidemoninational settings).
(Insert name) may not untie this until the traditional end of ceremony kiss to represent this physical commitment to this union. The red cord also symbolizes that these two people must work together as one unit. Sometimes this is easier said than done.
The presider will then lead the couple around the circle once in a clockwise manner, stopping at the north once, then stopping finally in the east.
XI. The presider will then say as the assistant lights a stick of incense and a candle in the east:
Since this is a spiritual commitment, I ask all that is of the spiritual realm, the ancestors of (insert names), as well as the air which they breathe into their lungs to Bless this union. (Insert names), remember that this union is all that you breathe and all that you breathe into it. Remember that you take from this union, but that you must also give back to this union. May you be blessed on this day by all that is unseen.
The presider will then lead the couple to south after the candle and incense has been lit. The assistant will then light a red candle and stick or incense while the presider says:
The physical representation of this commitment is your passion, love and deep sincerity. (Insert names), may you take from the fire of the earth around you the energy of strength when you feel that your commitment wanes. But also remember that the fire of passion must be balanced. Do not get carried away with your love. However nice it may seem, remember that every fire needs to be stoked and needs to be watched so that it does not consume all that is around it. May you be blessed on this day by the energies of fire.
The presider will then lead the couple to the west. The assistant will light a stick of incense and a blue candle as the presider says:
Water is the essence of all Life. But it teaches us that what gives life can drown as well. (Insert names), like with the Fire of Passion, be balanced when dealing with your emotions of love. Remember that your love is not a constant thing, but that it will ebb and flow and that it will grow and change, as it is living within you. May you be blessed on this day by the balancing and soothing essence of water.
The presider will then lead the couple to the North. The assistant will light a stick of incense and a green candle as the presider says:
The three aspects of your love presented thus far are nothing without the Earth
you can stand on. (Insert names) you are comprised of all the elements and like these elements, need the firmness and stability of the Earth to hold you together.
Remember that your spirit is contained within an Earthly vessel. Sometimes you may become too set in your ways, too stubborn or too proud, (insert names) remember that the Earth also changes like the other elements. What was once stable can be shaken and destroyed by one earthquake. So, keeping that in mind, communicate with one and other throughout your lives together. Do not keep secrets from one another and be honest with one another. Through honesty change and hope can occur.
XII. The presider will then take candle from the couple replacing it on the altar. The assistant will lead the couple to the front of the altar where they will kneel without the assistance with their backs to the audience. At this point, the presider will take the wedding chalice containing the rings and allow the couple to take the rings from the chalice. The presider will then say:
Are you ready to make this commitment?
The couple will signify their response.
Do you, (insert bride) take (insert groom) to be your lawfully wedded lifemate?
Bride will nod.
Since you have chosen to commit to (groom’s name), I ask you now to tell all who are present and (groom’s name) of your love.
The bride will then tell all present of her personal vow to the groom. The presider will then say when she is finished:
Now that you have vowed you love, (bride’s name), place the symbol of your love upon (groom’s name) finger.
Bride will place the ring on the groom’s finger. The presider than says:
Do you (groom), take (bride) to be your lawfully wedded lifemate?
Since you have chosen to commit to (bride) I ask you now to tell all who are present and (bride) of your love.
The groom then tells all present of his vow to the bride. The presider then says:
Now that you have vowed your love, (groom), place the symbol of your love upon (bride) finger.
The groom places the ring on the bride’s finger. The presider then helps the couple to their feet, while the assistant motions to the attendants to take their second position. The assistant escorts the attendants to their places with their backs to the audience. The presider then lifts the bread basket (the couple can choose cake but they must make it) and the altar goblet (filled with the drink of choice of the couple) above the head and says:
With this Bread and Wine this couple partakes of their first meal together. Symbolically, this represents the fact that their love leads them never to thirst nor hunger for anyone else. Since there are so many who have come to witness this marriage, (insert names) have elected to have you partake of this part of this ceremony at the reception.
The presider will then have the couple feed each other. The assistant will then give a piece of bread to each attendant beginning with the women followed by the presider who will give them a sip of wine. When the last has had a sip, the presider and assistant will finish the bread and wine. The assistant will then lead the attendants behind the altar facing the audience, and the presider will then lead the couple to the west where they will face sideways in preparation for jumping over the broom.
In ancient times, the care and protection of the house was shared by both. A long gone symbolic tradition of jumping over the hurdles of home and hearth is the hopping over the broomstick. (Insert names), jump into the unknown future together as a couple who agree to share the responsibility of the home whether it be monetary or pragmatic, like doing the dishes. This broom shall not just hang in their home but should be used symbolizing the work involved in this or any union. I now invite the couple to jump over the broomstick.
The presider then grabs the maid of honor’s and the best man’s hands. She then says to them:
I turn to (maid of honor name) and the (best man). I thank you for coming on this day. Remember your commitment to (insert names) as their pragmatic internal voices.
Then the presider turns to the other attendants and says:
I thank the other attendants as well. You ten are now released from this circle. I ask you now to walk down the aisles to announce the couple’s good fortune.
The attendants then walk down the aisle or out of the circle among the audience. The presider than grabs the red cord and says:
By the power invested in my by the State of (whatever) and the powers that be, I now pronounce (insert names) a married couple. (Insert names), you may now kiss.
They kiss and as the presider removes the red cord.
I thank you for coming, and now I present to you, (insert names).
The couple may now leave and the assistant and presider dispels the circle. This ends the ritual.