Drawing upon ancient rituals and invoking the elements of nature, there are a range of alternatives to the traditional wedding ceremony to consider

Pagan rituals and ceremonies are sacred occasions based upon ancient rituals and a healthy respect for the powers and forces of Mother Nature.

Steeped in tradition, these rituals often date back thousands of years - but there's no reason they can't be just as relevant for loved-up couples today.

Step back in time

A romantic, roaming people acclaimed for their loyalty, passion and bravery, the Celts considered a wedding to be more than an agreement between two people - they saw it on an individual, social and spiritual level.

Paganism debunked

While its origins may be ancient, paganism is actually a growing religion.

Essentially paganism is a modern version of ancient European spiritual Christian beliefs, dating back to pre-Christian times.

But these days it's been given a modern twist with the added influence of environmental, egalitarian values...and the old-school perception of Pagan animal sacrifice is not what we're talking about here!

Types of Paganism

The three main branches of Paganism are :

  • Wiccan, which is faith focused on nature and seasonal cycles;
  • Druidry, which recreates ancient Celtic practices, focusing upon poetry and storytelling;
  • Asatru, which is about ancient Northern European noble virtues of courage, truth and honour (a bit like Vikings really!)

Who officiates a pagan wedding?

When it comes to pagan-style wedding rituals, such as hand fasting, there are a few options to run the show, including Pagan clergy or even a friend.

However, if you want to ensure the wedding is legal, you'll need to have a legal ceremony either before or after the wedding conducted by a legally authorised Civil Marriage Celebrant.

The four elements

Celtic, Wiccan and Pagan marriage ceremonies place significant value on a love and respect for nature based around four elements representing the four points of the compass:

  • NORTH - Fire
  • SOUTH - Air
  • EAST - Water
  • WEST - Earth

During the ceremony, specific symbols can be used to represent each element.

For instance, a red candle can represent fire and passion, a fan can represent air and intellect, water can represent....well, water and emotions, and a piece of crystal or a rock can represent earth and physicality.

What does the pagan-style wedding ceremony look like?

Firstly, it's nearly always held outdoors. The bride usually wears a crown of flowers and carries a bouquet of herbs and flowers to ward off evil spirits and symbolise love. The groom wears a crown of ivy.

Typically, family and friends (and often plenty of kids) circle the bride and groom, while they kneel before an altar where the four elements are placed. Then the wedding celebrant blesses the circle and invokes the presence of Spirits or Goddesses.

Dionysus is usually thought of as the God of wine, but he is also the God of faithful marriage.

A popular ritual to include has the bride and groom partaking of water, wine, milk and/or mead from a breakable shared goblet known as ‘The Invocation'.

There might be burning incense, drums, sprinkling of sacred water, bells ringing, tossing herbs and flower petals, wine blessing, a Maypole dance, and the exchanging of a token of love, whether that's rings, necklaces or even lighting a unity candle.

Broom Sweeping ceremony

Another popular ritual is jumping over a broom. Usually a friend is asked to sweep away bad luck with a broom, then later the bride and groom will both jump over it.

The symbolism behind this is multi-layered:

  • brooms symbolise the threshold, the line between single and married life;
  • brooms represent sweeping away the past to start anew;
  • brooms can symbolise the everyday element of marriage, such as doing household duties together.

The Hand Fasting ritual

hand fasting ceremony

Larissa Cleveland

Another popular ritual is ‘Hand Fasting', where the bride and groom's hands are bound by natural twine, fibre or cloth. Either the couple can do the binding themselves, or have it done by the officiant, even a friend.

Just before rings are exchanged, the binding is slipped off with the knot remaining intact to show that the couple will be always be ‘bound together in marriage'.

And if you'd like to have a civil ceremony featuring ‘Hand Fasting' without any other Celtic, Wiccan or Pagan traditions, we say....go for it.

Here is a Hand Fasting verse to get you started...

Now you are bound one to the other
With a tie not easy to break.
Take the time of binding
Before the final vows are made
To learn what you need to know -
To grow in wisdom and love.
That your marriage will be strong
That your love will last
In this life and beyond.

The Giving of the Rings

During the exchange of rings in a Pagan-style ceremony, the celebrant often reads a spiritual verse, such as:

I take you my heart
At the rising of the moon
And the setting of the stars.
To love and to honour
Through all that may come.
Through all our lives together
In all our lives,
May we be reborn
That we may meet and know
And love again,
And remember

Inspired? Keen to find out more...

There are some excellent reference books around giving the lowdown on paganism and similar spiritual beliefs.

Search online or ask at good book stores or New Age shops.

We recommend:

  • The Celts by Aedeen Cremin
  • Rites Of Passage by Pauline Campanelli
  • The Pagan Family by Ceisiwr Serith

 

 

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