Melbourne Wedding Pagan

What Is A Pagan Wedding?

Modern Paganism is one of the world’s fastest-growing religious bodies. In its simplest definition, Paganism is a modernised recreation of the indigenous spiritual traditions of Europe; it’s a revival of the old pre-Christian beliefs and practices. However, this is the 21st century. Modern Paganism has been heavily influenced by current values and ethics, such as feminism and environmentalism.

We’ve also been chatting to Jacqui and Emma over at Pagan Wedding Planners in the beautiful town of Glastonbury. Between them, they have 60 years of experience working both magically and ceremonially, priding themselves on giving their clients confidence in their company and their ability as Priestesses – lookout for Jacqui’s comments along the way!

Ceremonies are special occasions, and most are regarded as sacred to those who believe in them. Those who share in a Celtic, Wiccan or Pagan belief acknowledge and generally respect the beauty of life and powers – the forces or elements of nature. Celtic, Wiccan and Pagan Ceremonies are steeped in tradition – ancient tradition and ritual, dating back thousands of years.

Indeed, a Pagan wedding will probably be very, very different from what you’re used to. The good news is that Pagans believe in inclusiveness, and the happy couple is almost sure to be almost hyperaware that some people may be anxious or uncomfortable. They’ll be very careful to let you know what’s coming and will give you at least a brief overview of what it all means. If you want to know more, just ask – they’ll be as happy to explain the symbolism of their wedding as you would be to talk about yours.

What if your religion doesn’t match? First off, let’s get a little terminology out of the way. Technically, any wedding that isn’t Christian or Jewish is Pagan, but your friends who call themselves Pagans are probably drawing from Celtic or Druidic traditions (or their best guesses at reconstructing them). Pagans and Wiccans have a lot in common, but they aren’t necessarily the same thing. If the wedding is a Wiccan wedding, they’ll call it that.

The desire to make your wedding feel like it’s truly and uniquely yours is normal. One way contemporary couples seek a more personal bent for their wedding is by adding a “unity ritual” to their ceremonies. As the name suggests, a unity ritual is any sort of symbolic gesture that demonstrates a couple’s commitment to each other. Across the wide and ranging variety of unity rituals, one stands out in popularity: handfasting. This is where a couple joins hands and has them wrapped in ribbon, binding them together spiritually and physically (yes, this is where “tying the knot” comes from). While this ritual most commonly appears as part of an otherwise traditional ceremony nowadays, it used to be a (sometimes wholly unromantic) ceremony unto itself.

Pagan wedding ceremonies are steeped in history and date back thousands of years. With their strong spiritual connections and meaningful beliefs, they offer couples the opportunity to commit to each other in unique ways.

Pagan wedding ceremonies derive from the Paganism belief. They usually encompass three main religions and spiritual beliefs. Wicca – A nature orientated faith focusing on the seasons’ lifecycle: Druidry- Celtic storytelling traditions. And lastly, Asatru- Think Vikings and the Nine Noble Virtues. Couples vow to honour, love and spiritually respect each other.

Pagan weddings

Pagan wedding ceremonies are called handfastings and mark two people’s coming in a formal, loving and equal sexual partnership.

Pagans take the swearing of oaths very seriously and believe it important that they articulate the sincere, considered intentions of the individuals concerned rather than merely repeating a standard formula.

Accordingly, the vows a couple will swear to each other before their Gods and Goddesses during a handfasting will be carefully discussed and decided upon by them beforehand, in consultation with the Priestess and/or Priest who will officiate at the ceremony.

While all couples will vow to love, honour, respect and protect both each other and their children, the responsibility for forming the committed relationship they are undertaking ultimately lies with them.

A couple may choose to handfast for the traditional period of a year and a day, and it is not uncommon for Pagans in long-term relationships to renew their vows after each year. A day has passed so that neither comes to take the other for granted. Others vow to handfast for life while a few, following Pagan beliefs in reincarnation, do so for all their future lives as well.

As with all other Pagan ceremonies, considerable variation in the precise form an individual handfasting rite will take, but some parts are all but universal.

The ceremony will be held out of doors if possible and will begin with the marking out of sacred space (usually in the form of a circle), the honouring of the Four Elements, and a welcome for all who are present.

The Gods and Goddesses will be called upon to bless the future life of the couple. The couples’ right hands will be bound together (hence ‘handfasting’), they will swear the oaths that will henceforth define their relationship, and their hands will then be unbound in token that they remain together of their own free will.

Rings will be exchanged, and the ceremony will conclude with ‘jumping the broomstick’ – the couple leaping hand in hand over a broom held horizontally before them, thus crossing the symbolic boundary between their old lives and they’re new, shared one. As with most Pagan rituals, a handfasting will be followed by feasting and celebration by the company.

What is Paganism, anyway?

There is a wide array of religions and spiritual traditions that fall under the “Pagan umbrella,” and yes, some are legally recognised faiths. The main three religions you will find within Paganism are:

  1. Wicca: A nature-oriented faith that focuses on the cycle of the seasons. One of Wicca’s main tenets is the Rede, which is summarised as, “An it harm none, do as thou wilt.”
  2. Druidry: A recreation of ancient Celtic practices, with a strong focus on poetry and storytelling. An example of a Druid wisdom teaching would be this Celtic triad, “Three things loveable in a person: tranquillity, wisdom, and kindness.”
  3. Asatru: A reconstruction of ancient Northern European beliefs. Think “Vikings”, and you aren’t so far off. Asatru has the Nine Noble Virtues, three of which are courage, truth and honour.

Modern Paganism is derived from the ancient and worldwide polytheistic belief of Paganism, where a number of deities were worshipped through sacrifice, meditations and spiritual offerings. Paganism pre-dates many of our modern-day religions, and throughout history, those practising it have been accused of performing black magic – but this is incorrect, of course.

Neo-paganism – modern-day Paganism – takes a much gentler view; although beliefs and practices vary wildly amongst different groups, there is a common belief that stems throughout each, mainly that a polytheistic approach to religion is beneficial, allowing for wider diversity, freedom and tolerance of worship.

A Pagan wedding ceremony is called a ‘handfasting’ and is a vow to love, honour and respect your partner. Unlike other religious ceremonies, there are many ways of holding a handfasting, as the emphasis is on meeting each couple’s considered needs rather than repeating a standard process. Many couples choose to handfast for the traditional ‘year-and-a-day, renewing their vows every year, others vow to handfast until their love ends, and others for eternity.

Pagan Wedding in Melbourne

Are Pagan Weddings Legal? Is Handfasting A Real Marriage Or Not?

A Pagan handfasting can be several things, depending on the couple’s wishes. It can be a legal marriage. It can be a commitment ceremony for common law or civil union. It can be a kind of trial marriage for a couple who wish to ease into married life. It can be a formal wedding.

The ceremony can be led by an officiant, Pagan clergy, a friend, or be a self uniting ritual. Sometimes, due to our religious body’s small size, it can be difficult to find a clergy member who is also a legal officiant.

As such, Pagans who wish to become legally married will often “get legally” before or after the wedding. They will have the legal paperwork and requirements taken care of at the local clerk’s office or another government-specified office.

What can I expect to see during the ceremony?

You may be surprised at how familiar much of the ceremony will be

  • There will be vows.
  • You might see a bride in a white dress.
  • You may see a wine blessing or the sharing of a loving cup by the couple.
  • You may see a bride wearing a veil; after all, this practise goes back to ancient Pagan Rome, when brides wore brightly coloured veils to protect themselves from evil spirits.
  • You will probably see the couple exchanging rings or some other token of their love, such as necklaces. Rings and other jewellery have been used for binding people to an oath since at least the Iron Age. You may see the lighting of candles, possibly even a unity candle ceremony.

The Ceremony

Pagan ceremonies vary widely because there are many different kinds of Pagan, and couples tend to design their ceremonies.

The ceremony will often start with casting a circle. (Though sometimes you’ll walk in and see a circle that has been cast and consecrated a few hours beforehand.) This involves the officiant turning to each point of the compass and honouring the four earth elements, water, fire, and air.

You may see an altar in the circle, with traditional implements such as a cup, a knife, and a trowel. You may see objects that symbolise the elements, such as salt (earth), a candle (fire), a feather (air), and a bowl of – you guessed it – water.

It’s unlikely that you’ll see the bride given away because Pagans tend to be egalitarian, but you may see something that honours the families – and even the ancestors – of both the bride and groom. The couple will probably approach and enter the circle from the east to symbolise their relationship’s growth.

Like the weddings you’re used to, the officiant may ask if there are any objections to the union. The couple will state their vows – almost always highly personalised – and the couple will usually exchange rings.

The officiant may have the bride and groom cut locks of each other’s hair and put them in a wooden or silver box to symbolise their union, or you may see them drink from the same cup.

Traditionally couples hold two handfasting ceremonies, the first lasting for a year and a day, and the second lasting for life if they are still dedicated and devoted to each other.

A handfasting is the binding of hands to create a sacred bond. The cords used are traditionally coloured to the wedding couple’s choice. Each colour symbolises something different; for instance, red – for will, strength, courage and fertility, orange – for encouragement, attraction and kindness, and blue – for patience, understanding, health and loyalty.

The second notable event within a Pagan wedding ceremony is the jumping of the besom broom. This action represents the sexual union between the now-married couple and the threshold they are about to cross, being husband and wife. This tradition dates back to Africa before slavery was abolished. At this point, legal and religious marriages were not viewed as appropriate for slaves. So this small ritual was created to distinguish between a casual relationship and those settling down into marriage. This action of jumping together over a broom was and still is used in African American marriages today.

Handfasting

Many Pagan weddings involve handfasting – wrapping a cord or ribbon around the couple’s joined hands. This symbolises different things to different people – a traditional handfasting was a trial marriage, in which the couple stayed together for a year and a day and then had the opportunity to make their marriage permanent. Nowadays, a couple is likely to consider the marriage permanent immediately but keep the handfasting ritual as a part of their ceremony. They may come together in a year and a day to repeat their vows. (If you’re an attendant at a Pagan wedding, be aware that they may exchange vows while their hands are tied, so part of your job may be to hold cards with the vows on them for the bride and groom.)

The officiant will probably give the couple some sage advice on treating each other well and tending their marriage and then may ask the guests to affirm their approval of this union. You’ll probably be told what to say here, but if not, any positive sentiment delivered with enthusiasm will do.

Pagan Wedding Melbourne

Are Pagan Weddings Legal? Is Handfasting A Real Marriage Or Not?

A Pagan handfasting can be several things, depending on the couple’s wishes. It can be a legal marriage. It can be a commitment ceremony for common law or civil union. It can be a kind of trial marriage for a couple who wish to ease into married life. It can be a formal wedding.

The ceremony can be led by an officiant, Pagan clergy, a friend, or be a self uniting ritual. Sometimes, due to our religious body’s small size, it can be difficult to find a clergy member who is also a legal officiant.

As such, Pagans who wish to become legally married will often “get legally” before or after the wedding. They will have the legal paperwork and requirements taken care of at the local clerk’s office or another government-specified office.

So Why Would You Have A Pagan Wedding Ceremony?

Well, there are so many reasons why modern couples choose this option. Pagan ceremonies are normally held in outdoor spaces, so if you fancy wide open moorland or standing stones for your backdrop, then this is for you! They focus on a couple of personal and spiritual beliefs. And usually include the rituals of handfasting-creating a sacred physical bond between two people, along with Jumping of the broom or Besom. Jumping of the broom or Besom symbolises the threshold the couple are about to cross in becoming married. This ritual is often chosen to symbolise the sweeping away of prejudice as well.

Many pagan couples choose the traditional year and a day Handfasting ritual. Where couples commit their love and loyalty, then a year later will be handfasted again to commit, for a lifetime together. So you could have two ceremonies instead of just one.

The guests at pagan ceremonies are often standing and form a circle around the couple—a gesture of community and belief. The location of such ceremonies may be sacred or blessed as part of the ceremony with the burning of incense, laying of herbs or bell ringing.

You can personalise these ceremonies with carefully chosen handfasting cords. Or have each guest engrave or write on the broom for jumping. You can, of course, say vows and make promises too.

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