Three Forms of Wiccan Handfastings

by JoHarrington

The union of two witches in marriage doesn't have to mean for life. It could be for much longer than that!

Wicca is a Pagan religion, which emanated out of Britain during the 20th century. There are some who claim a much longer heritage than that, and they could well be right.

As with most major religions, it has its rites of passage. A child can be Wiccanned to petition the blessing of deity until they're grown; a funeral will be held to honor our dead; and those committed to share their lives together get handfast.

But they first have to choose the length of that union.

The Number Three in Wicca

Even with a lovestruck couple committed to staying together forever, we talk about handfastings as a plural.

Trios crop up everywhere in Wicca.  The Triple Goddess is only the start of it. 

It's the influence of old Celtic lore which does it, in my humble opinion, but I don't mind that.  I'm as steeped in Celtic culture as I am Wicca!

Yet even so, finding three choices in a wedding may strike some as rather strange. 

The fact that marriages - handfastings in Wicca - come with three options is less to do with the Goddess than it is pragmatism.  Life doesn't always work out the way that we'd like it to.  That perfect partner may seem less wonderful, when you're sharing a home with them. 

Wiccan wedding prospects take into account that the first flush of love may fade.  It's a sad notion, and utterly pessimistic at that, but not so sad as being trapped in a loveless union for life.

In theory, the excited couple should work their way through all three of the handfasting choices.  They start with the first, then renew their vows with the second, before hurtling head-long into the third.

At the very least, it means three different celebration parties and a whole stack of wedding photographs.  So what are these forms that a handfasting may take?   Let's explore them one by one.

Invitations to a Handfasting

Buy a batch of these to invite guests to a Pagan handfasting in style!

Handfasted for a Year and a Day

This is where it all begins. You get to find out if you really can live with your love partner, but there's an out down the line, if you can't.

This is by far the most common handfasting choice. 

It's not even that Wiccans are particularly flighty, it's just that some of them have this ceremony, then later roll up at the registry office. 

They've had one spiritual big day, with all the fuss around it; then they've become legally married in the eyes of the National Registrar. They just really can't be bothered with pursuing it further.

Then, of course, there are those who quickly learn that a year is quite enough living with that person, thank you very much.

I've heard of the year and a day handfasting very irreverently referred to as 'the trial run'.  The couple are one in the eyes of the God and Goddess, but only for the prescribed time.  Once that year and a day is over, then so is the handfasting.  They are free to run away as fast as they like, or simply remain together without being handfast.

Or, of course, move onto the next stage, either renewing their vows for life, or opting for another year and a day.

Incidentally, there is a mini union incorporated into this one.  The physical handfasting comes when one each of the couple's hands is bound to that of their spouse.  It remains that way while they leap over a prone broomstick and their marriage has begun.

I've heard tell that in the old days, the newly weds would remain with one hand each tied together for a day and an hour.  It forced them to learn how to work in tandem, right at the outset of their union.

However, I've never known a couple who've done it at any handfasting I've officiated at.  They've gone for an hour and a minute instead!  (Or even a minute and a second.)  Cowards.

Wiccan Handfasting Cards | Cards for a Wiccan Wedding

Invited to a Handfasting? Check out these cards to present to the bride and groom.

Handfasted for Life

This is the form most recognizable to non-Wiccans. It's the version that's used in most other marriages, religious or secular.

I've also officiated at plenty of these in my time.   They are the second most common form of a Wiccan handfasting.

Ideally, this follows on from the year and a day handfasting.  The couple have lived together, shared their lives and now have a very firm understanding of what that means.

For those ready to make the commitment, this form is exactly what the title implies.  They vow to stay together for the rest of their mortal life.  What they do in the Afterlife is their business.

However, not all Wiccans bother with the year and a day first.  Again that's usually a purely practical decision.  If they're going to bring all of their family and friends into one spot, hire photographers, throw a party and have a honeymoon, then why repeat it?

It puts guests to the expense and hassle of attending (and for some, there's the awkwardness of some beloved people not quite accepting the whole Pagan thing).  Plus there's the personal expense, if they're making both ceremonies the centerpiece of a big day.

In my experience, the year and a day is generally quite low key.  Just a few close friends and an informal setting.  The life handfasting is where people go all out, acquiring access to stone circles or choosing some other great natural environment, and inviting all and sundry.

This really is the big day and the majority are content to leave it at that.

Wiccan Handfasting Photograph Albums

You will take a great many pictures on the big day, why not grab a Pagan wedding album to present them well?

Handfasted Forever - From This Life to the Next and Beyond

It helps if you remember that many Wiccans - if not all - believe in reincarnation. This isn't just talking about one lifetime.

Could you love someone so much that you're prepared to spent all eternity with them?  I'm not just talking about this life, but every incarnation hereon.

No matter where you're born, you will find each other.  Your true soul mate spanning endless time.  No matter how you are born, you will reach out and your lover will come running.

Handfasted forever is serious business.  It wipes out at a flash and a whim all your future pathways and grafts them alongside another.

It might sound like a romantic ideal, or some scene from Cloud Atlas, but it exists as an option in Wicca.  I could well stand in a circle before you, and officiate while your union is made this complete.

But I won't.  I've never been asked to, but I'd turn them down anyway.  I see no good reason why anyone would want to do this to themselves.  I understand love.  I understand commitment.  I understand passion and lust.  I get that some people really do meet and marry their best friend, who complements them in every way.

That is this life.  It's not the next.  None of us know what's going to happen then.  A true love binding now might appear dangerously artificial then, or just simply dangerous.  Social convention might fling you far apart and the yearning for each other would cause untold misery.

Or it might be fluttering blue-birds and love-hearts.  Who knows?!  And that is the point really.  Beyond everything else, life lessons and other unions could be missed completely to fulfill this kind of tomfoolery. 

But that's just me, and perhaps I haven't got a romantic bone in my body.  What do you say?

Should People Handfast Forever?

You don't have to be Wiccan to join in this debate. If you don't believe in reincarnation, then assume for this purpose that it exists and air your views!
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No, marrying for all incarnations is bad because...
ember on 10/17/2014

in an ideal life it would be amazing however what if the next your on opposite sides of a war? Sounds like a good movie but a rather traumatic life. Yet love transpires all right? I believe that if you know that this isn't the first life you've met some soul searching may help (maybe you've already made this decision with said partner)

JoHarrington on 03/07/2013

Wow! Now that really would be an almighty karmic storm!

Sam on 03/07/2013

Not being a Wiccan, as you know, but that one could through up a real karmic tantrum! Let's say Person A has been handfasted forever in a former life and agrees, in a weak moment, to get handfasted to Person B in this life. What then? Now there is an idea in this for a novel for you to write!

Yes, marrying for all incarnations is good because...
I.B. Loud on 02/04/2014

For a LONG time I cried for my other half...I felt so incomplete and lonely. Same for my beloved and then one day we found each other. We have been together ever since. I NEVER grow tired of his company. And now that I have found him, My greatest fear is that in death I may never see my beloved again. Some people are soul mates and having a forever and beyond ceremony gives each person comfort that they will ALWAYS be able to find the other from one life to the next.

Its not a commitment to take lightly and from day one we have discussed with each other the seriousness of taking this step. If you don't see things this way then perhaps you have not found such a lover. It's not a given but a gift.

Darla Sue Dollman on 03/08/2013

This reminds me of the hand fasting my husband and I had at our Irish wedding. It was a tradition from his mother's side of the family. Beautiful. I would like to think that people who love each other deeply are bound together in future lives, but if reincarnation is a method for working through unfinished, painful business from past lives, which is how it was explained to me, then I'll probably end up married to that nightmare I dated in high school in my next life! You need a button that says, "Define reincarnation first!"

Products for a Handfasting on eBay

More about Handfastings on Wizzley

I first officiated at a Wiccan Handfasting in 1998. As a High Priestess, I get to see all of the background stuff which makes up the big day.
Running around naked and sacrificing babies or virgins are two things that will not happen at a witch wedding. Read on to find out what will!
In a Wiccan Handfasting, the Bride takes on the aspect of the Goddess Herself. But where does that tradition come from?
Wiccans aren't very good at being told what they can and can't wear, especially when it involves their own handfasting. Anything goes! (But especially red wedding dresses.)
Updated: 02/05/2014, JoHarrington
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JoHarrington on 03/08/2013

All good, Sam. Nice to see people canting here. :)

Ralpapajan on 03/08/2013

Up to you Sam. You can look or you don't need to. No sweat ~ though I think you pre-judge. Also translated into Romanian.

Sam on 03/08/2013

". Megré accepted, but as they began the trek deep into the forest, Anastasia began to shed her clothes…" I think I pass, I had a look at the website and it seriously looks like a scam a la "great new revelation - to get the most benefit out of it buy this sacred xyz" Sorry Jo, for having hitch-hiked your article! SY

Ralpapajan on 03/08/2013

Seems ok. that is the USA Site. there is also a UK one.

Plus one must also look at this ~

Ralpapajan on 03/08/2013

I'll try - never done this before...

There ~ how is that?

Sam on 03/08/2013

@Ralpapajan Linky-link please, if Jo doesn't mind!, sounds extremely interesting ;-) SY

JoHarrington on 03/08/2013

Oops! My mistake! Though it underscores the point that I haven't yet read them.

They do sound interesting though, so I've added them to my mental wish list. Thanks for the head's up.

Ralpapajan on 03/08/2013

Er... they aren't novels. Written by Vladimir Megre and translated into many languages Book 1 has sold more than 10 000 000 copies in Russia alone. Many of the precepts contained in the writing have been accepted and followed by the Duma (Russian Parliament) The Earth Day of 21st July each year to celebrate the Dacha Movement (Home grown vegetable areas) that Anastasia propounded has been put into place. Millions of hectares of land have been given by the State in perpetuity to Russian families as she suggested.

These pieces of the Motherland now produce more than the food needed to feed all Russians using the system she has concentrated on. My belief is that these books are the most important of all the books I have ever read. I have tried to write articles about them but the Russian Editor of the English translation, Dr Leo Sharaskin already writes so much, so clearly that all I have done is tell people about them.

Hopefully inspiration will come along one day.

JoHarrington on 03/08/2013

I'm glad to hear it, especially the part about inspiring elements of your book. Sorry to learn of your hassles there.

I've not read the Anastasia novels at all. But I find it fascinating how the same ideas go round and round, regardless of religion or outlook.

Ralpapajan on 03/08/2013

As always a superb article. I have a Wiccan relative. Sent her the Links. I have learnt quite a bit from you and am grateful.

Have you read or seen the Anastasia - Ringing Cedars of Russia - books at all?

Chapter 11 of Book 8.2 ~ Rites of Love ~ describes a Vedrus Wedding. I can see very similar 'ideas' as you mention.

I am not a Wiccan - in fact I cannot say what I am because I don't know, having studied most religions in a variety of depths!

Currently I have a novel in course of preparation - another that needs some extra Marketing bits done - I screwed the Meta Data and it was rejected as an Ebook by several places. Then I am also finished a book of short stories but for the final Proof Read and Edit electronically, so am pretty busy. It is however my intention to write another 'Spiritual' novel putting in bits and pieces of a variety of ideas. You have REALLY helped me for which I thank you!

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