On the 24th May, exactly a year after falling in love at first sunset, Daniel and I are having a handfasting ceremony. I can't believe how quickly the last few months have gone by. We had been thinking of having a handfasting 'way in the future, next year', and it seemed like a fantasy. Then we started planning in November and met our celebrant in February, and it still seemed AGES to wait. Now suddenly it's happening in 2 weeks! The time has really rushed by. Before meeting Daniel I had never heard of a handfasting, so if you're unfamiliar with it too, read on to see what we're planning!
A handfasting is an old Pagan custom in which the couple make vows and have their hands 'fasted', or 'tied', together, dating back to the time of the Ancient Celts. It was originally a betrothal or engagement period, where two people would declare a binding union between themselves for a year and a day. The handfasting was like a trial marriage; it gave the couple the chance to see if they could survive marriage to each other! After a year and a day went by, the couple could either split as if they had never been married or could decide to enter permanently into marriage. These days you can choose to be handfasted for a year and a day, for all eternity, or for as long as love lasts. We will be having a ‘year and a day’ handfasting to show our love and commitment to each other. It's not a wedding for us...neither of us feels ready to get married, but we've been through some tough experiences together this year and want to voice our love and continued loyalty for eachother.
Daniel has Pagan and Christian beliefs, whereas I would identify as a Christan, so we're not having a particularly spiritual ceremony, it is more of a non-religious, nature-based ceremony celebrating our love and being together as a couple. Some of my friends and family have expressed concern or confusion about us having a Pagan ceremony or worry it will be Wiccan or blasphemous or about witchcraft, but that's not the place we're coming from at all and we wouldn't feel comfortable with that either! There will be some traditionally Pagan elements, as that is the origin of the ceremony, but also some Christian elements. One thing I love about having a non-legal, non-religious ceremony is that it doesn't have to mean anything specific and there aren't any boundaries or restrictions. We've been able to write the ceremony and promises to eachother ourselves so we are totally comfortable and happy with them.
We're having our handfasting in the Quantock hills, which is where we had our first date. We watched the sunset then got ridiculously and scarily lost in the woods in the dark before making it out safely at 2am...a very bonding experience! We have booked an independent celebrant called Kate who is absolutely lovely - she is so sweet, friendly and supportive. Within five minutes of meeting her we knew she was 'the one'! She has looked after us from the beginning - making lists of things we need to do, buy and plan, writing our ceremony with us and helping us through the last-minute nerves!
On the day we will be walking up to the top of the hill for our ceremony, where we will meet Kate. We will then mark a circle using flowers and petals, to mark out the space as positive and sacred and to act as a symbol of unity. She will call for peace and call to the four directions and their associated elements of water, earth, air and fire, and to (the Christian) God, to invoke blessings on our handfasting. We will scatter seed on the ground as an offering to the earth and wildlife of the place, and then she will declare our intent to be handfasted. Our hands will be bound together (using cords we have made) to symbolise the union. We will also exchange rings, which we will wear on our right hands, and make our promises to each other. Last of all, with our hands still tied together we will jump the fire (in the form of candles, as we can’t set fire to the Quantocks!), symbolising moving from our old life to our new life together and overcoming difficulties as one. Then we'll share cake and cider with our friends and wander back down the hill!
We had invited our immediate families and four friends, so twelve guests in total, and we decided not to have our children there. We thought it would be really confusing for them and that they would see it as a wedding. As it will be a celebration of our relationship rather than the blending of our families (which is how we would see getting married) we only wanted the few adults there who we feel have been and who would continue to be a help in supporting our relationship. We also felt that as Daniel will have only just moved in we didn't want to throw more change and upheaval at the children! Sadly some of the people involved in our lives haven't been as understanding as we hoped and it has caused drama, negativity and stress. As I had also been getting really nervous about having people watching us on the day, we have decided to cut back and only have three friends with us on the day. We definitely feel less stressed and more relaxed about the handfasting now, as it seems like less of the huge 'event' that people were inadvertently building it up to be!
So now we have a few last-minute things to do and we're excited about the upcoming day!
Let me know in the comments below or on my social media if you'd like to see photos and details from the day!