Performing a handfasting wedding

Performing a handfasting wedding April 25, 2016

Here’s how it started: a farmer friend reached out to me and asked if I could officiate at a marriage. Two of her farming apprentices wanted to get married right away so it would basically be that same week. Since her farm is ten minutes from my house, I said sure, I can do that.

Actually, we have to go back a few weeks for how it really started. I am doing a series of theurgic workings to the twelve Olympian deities. While I was doing Hera in February she asked if I would perform a small service for her. I agreed without really thinking about it. So when my friend reached out to me I knew who had sent her my way.

First thing I did was check the relevant RCWs (Revised Code of Washington). They hadn’t changed since the last time I looked; any representative of a religion can perform a wedding, and if the couple believes the officiant is qualified, the marriage is binding. I hold an elder credential with Covenant of the Goddess, and since the couple wanted a handfasting that’s what I used. I would have referred to my ordination as a priestess in Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica if they were more esoterically inclined.

Next, I did a counseling visit with the couple. They aren’t Pagan but they’ve seen handfastings which are a popular alternative to the impersonal justice-of-the-peace civil ceremony. I let the two of them know they are in a community property state so all property they acquire during their marriage will be equally shared. I asked them why they were getting married so quickly (that’s their business) and if there would be family present (yes). I asked them if they had a color scheme (white, black and green).

I offered them alternatives for the ceremony. First, what powers did they want to invoke? The Gods, the Goddesses and Gods, Spirit? As farmers they wanted work with the powers of the growth of life – air, water, soil (earth), and energy (fire). How did they want to symbolize the binding? For fire they could light a single candle from two tapers, or for water they could pour two vessels of water into a single cup. They sensibly chose water to avoid the problem of keeping candles lit outdoors. They did want to trade rings and liked the idea of jumping the broom to finish the ceremony. I gave them some sample vows to serve as inspiration for their own.

Next step: shopping! I hit the local craft stores, but apparently decorative brooms are a fall item. Fortunately I discovered there are commercially made jumping brooms wrapped with white netting (who knew)? Amazon Prime delivered one in two days. I added some green ribbons to the handle.

On my second visit with the couple we did a quick rehearsal. I brought a length of commercially made cord and several skeins of yarn in different shades of green. I showed them how to twist the yarn to make a cord. I left them with the homework to create their own cord and to finish their vows.

I came early on the day of the wedding. They had great stories about their attempts to create a cord until it finally came out right. I thought it was an excellent idea for the couple to make their own – how they do it will say a lot about how the union will work! We rehearsed the ceremony again, this time with props.

When the family arrived I introduced myself to the parents. I explained that I am Pagan, and while the bride and groom do not share my faith, they had chosen their own words and symbols. I suggested we could all bring our own spiritual understanding to the event. I let them know if they had any questions I would be happy to answer them afterwards. I also let them know about my C.O.G. credential and that this was a legally binding ceremony. Everyone was perfectly happy and no one had questions or objections.

The couple held their wedding underneath the apple trees blooming on the hundred-year-old farm. The bride wore a crown of flowers she made herself. The family had brought a young woman who could play fiddle tunes, a ring bearer, and two flower maidens to strew petals. Everything came off without a hitch: the kids did everything they were supposed to do, the music sounded great, the green candle on the altar stayed lit, the cord got wound around their wrists and tied, and the crowd laughed when I held the broom up at waist height and asked the surprised couple “can you jump this high?”

Then the family took over, making them cut the cake and feed it to each other and posing them for pictures. The couple and their witnesses signed the license for me to take to the county courthouse to file. I asked the newly marrieds to donate to food banks throughout their career as farmers.

After I posted the happy news to Facebook people started to ask me if I am an officiant and as a result I picked up two bookings next year. So apparently now I do weddings. Note to self: when a deity asks you for a favor, explore what that means! In the event I’m happy with this new addition to my spiritual life. Hera is the Goddess of marriage, but she is also a Goddess who renews herself every year. I see her in the apple blossoms, I feel her in the quickening of the year. The two people whose wrists I tied together were incandescently happy. To be in the presence of new love is a blessing in itself.

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