What to Expect at a Pagan Wedding Ceremony

by JoHarrington

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!

If you've been invited to a Pagan Handfasting, then you can be sure that you won't be disrespected. Pagan Weddings are very inclusive, but there will be no assumption that all present are Pagans too.

There will be ways to join in, even for those whose own religious beliefs mean that they can't enter the circle. The key will be everyone within their comfort zones.

All that you're likely to discover is a huge outpouring of love and good feeling, with the opportunity to know what's going on at all times.

Handfasting and Wedding Rituals

Read this book to get a more detailed insight into what to expect at a Wiccan handfasting.

Introducing Non-Pagans to a Pagan Handfasting

It doesn't matter what the religious (or non-religious) affiliations of the wedding guests are. If they are in your circle, then they deserve to be included.

The majority of people there were not Pagan. 

They were aunties, uncles, cousins, family friends and work colleagues.  They were the grandparents, parents and siblings of the bride and groom. 

They were all of the people whom you would expect to find at a wedding, only this one was a handfasting and many were unsure what to make of that.

Of course this was no surprise. The bride and groom had delivered each invitation in person, precisely so they could explain the nature of the ceremony.  All of the preconceptions had been answered at that point.

For me as a High Priestess, all I had now were a crowd of wedding guests who had no idea what to expect.  It was exciting.  It was a curiosity.  Yet the over-riding feeling was one of them not wanting to mess this up with a breach of etiquette.

I ensured that there was at least one Pagan standing at each of the cardinal points.  They wouldn't necessarily be holding the symbols of that area (incense for air, a lantern for fire etc.), but they would know the responses. They could lead those around them, who wanted to join in with those.

Some priests and priestesses don't wait for this bit.  They will have raised the circle before the wedding party even arrived.  The guests will be on the outside looking in.  Those 'walls' are invisible, made of energy and imagination, so the view of proceedings is spectacular. 

I do wait.  I think it helps those present to feel included, if they see it from beginning to end.  Even if the raising of the circle is the most overtly Pagan part of all.

I stand in the center with the bride and groom.  There are smiles of welcome, greetings; it's a happy day.  But before the handfasting begins in earnest I address those now forming the circle.  I tell them what to expect and what their role may be.  If they want to speak the responses, they may; if not, then that is not a problem.

Once that brief introduction is over, then all present know the Pagan ceremony, as it affects them.  They can see no terrible surprises up ahead.  

It's fun and I watch people visibly relax to enjoy what comes next.  The energy in the circle is now perfect.

Pagan Wedding Guides

Read these books to discover more about Pagan ceremonies and what happens during them.

What Will Happen in a Wiccan Wedding?

I can only speak for those which I've performed. Those are usually based in Alexandrian Wicca, but each are unique. They have prior input from the happy couple.

All of the guests at a witch wedding will be asked to form a circle.  

Generally people stand throughout, but it's not a long ceremony.   There is also no problem with individuals choosing to sit on a camping stool, if standing will cause physical hardship. 

Speak with the High Priest and/or the High Priestess beforehand, in order to accommodate this.

As all are spread out, in a circle as large as there are people to create it, everyone has a perfect view of what's going on.   The bride and groom will stand in the middle, along with the clergy officiating.  That's where all the 'action' takes place.

Casting the circle will involve the officiant(s) raising an athame in the air.  To the initiated, this will look precisely like a knife or dagger.  But it's symbolic.  They would no more use it as an actual weapon than you would.  It will be used to outline a pentagram in the air.

This will happen at the altar, then at four points around the circle - east, south, west and north.  You will hear them call upon gods and elementals to witness what happens here.  At this point, please do feel free to ask your own deity (or saints, or angels, or djinns, or whatever else may protect you and yours) to equally watch over the circle.

But please don't do this negatively.  Asking your own deity to disrupt the circle is not only disrespectful, but tantamount to cursing the marriage of the couple before you.

I tend to raise the circle within the group of people forming it.  Technically, that means that they are the circle, or are standing just outside it.  If the priest or priestess steps behind you all, then you're firmly inside the circle.

Once it's raised, then the rest may look very familiar.  It's all about saying vows and asking people to witness those being spoken.  Food and drink will be shared.  It'll only be a mouthful - blessed by the bride and groom - as this again is quite symbolic.

The actual moment of marriage comes when the couple's hands are bound together.  That is the handfasting.  They will then leap over a broomstick.   That seals the deal and they are now wed.

There will be a final pause, as the circle is taken down again.  Then all are free to celebrate with a big party!

Kindle eBooks About Pagan Weddings

Peruse these guides to Wiccan handfastings on your eReader.

Accommodating the Needs of Wiccan Wedding Guests

The key for Pagan handfastings is inclusion. We want all of our guests to feel comfortable and pleased to be there.

When it comes to including guests in Pagan wedding ceremonies, real life sometimes gets in the way.  In these scenarios, then do feel free to chat with the High Priest or High Priestess beforehand.  There is usually something which can be done to leap over the obstacle.

In one handfasting, there was an uncle who was a Born Again Christian. He desperately wanted to be there, but his religious views hindered his participation. He didn't want to ruin the day for the couple either.

We gave him a camera.  He had a legitimate excuse to be nowhere near the contours of the circle, while still being present.  He took many wonderful photographs of the proceedings.

In another, a guest wanted to join in, but the food was cake and she needed gluten-free food. No bother, we ensured that the food in the circle was gluten-free!

On another occasion, a wedding guest had an injured ankle and couldn't stand.  Not a bit of trouble this one.  We gave her a chair.

As I said, as long as those officiating know in advance (even moments in advance), then most things can be surmounted.  Our job is to make sure that all can enjoy this ceremony, as happy people make a wonderful atmosphere for the bride and groom's big day.

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More Handfasting Articles 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.
The union of two witches in marriage doesn't have to mean for life. It could be for much longer than that!
Pagan weddings are known as handfastings and couples go through a public ceremony that signifies they are a married couple for a “year and a day” or for “as long as love shall last
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: 03/13/2013, JoHarrington
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


Michael Healy on 08/22/2016

Anything based more on Pagan/Odinist principles?

Nymphire Blood-Willow on 12/22/2015

I was hoping this wouldn't be wiccan, as I'm a pagan who doesn't follow that path yet am looking for ideas for my partner and I. Still was informative though and probably helpful to non pagans.

CarleyClagg on 11/10/2015

Paganism as always been something that has intrigued yet mystified me. Wonderful article!

JoHarrington on 11/18/2014

Hi Mandie, Yes, you absolutely can take some of these elements without the full ceremony. I'd be happy to help you adapt it to your circumstances.

Mandie on 11/17/2014

I am wiccan but my fiance is not religious and doesn't want to do a handsfasting. Is there any way to take some of the elements of handsfasting without doing the actual ceremony?

JoHarrington on 07/04/2013

I once had a lady in her 80s tell me that a handfasting was the best wedding ceremony she'd attended. After eight decades, she was so bored with the other sort!

Lilysnape on 06/28/2013

It sounds like a lovely ceremony and I like the fact it is outdoors in nature.

JoHarrington on 03/11/2013

That and the fact that Wizzley has only just added the Wedding Traditions category, with Pagan ceremonies within it. But it is a very fortuitous timing for handfastings at Beltane!

kate on 03/11/2013

you can tell May is fast approaching with all these Hand-fasting articles! great :)

JoHarrington on 03/10/2013

Thank you!

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