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Sample Wedding Ceremony: Non-Traditional, With A Handfasting


One of APW’s goals is to create a collection of sample ceremonies to aid and abet you in the creation of your own wedding ceremony (feel free to use them as inspiration to power through the last-minute panic of writing your own ceremony, or take them word for word to take the pressure off creating something from scratch). Today, we have a non-traditional ceremony with a handfasting. This service incorporates passages from various authors’ works, including Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Since I grew up as a something of a hippie kid, I’ve been to about as many handfastings as weddings. This ceremony blends the legal wedding ceremony with the traditional handfasting ceremony, and does it with such beautiful language that I’d steal it, even for the most traditional wedding. 

Meg

Sample Wedding Ceremony: Non Traditional, With A Handfasting | A Practical Wedding

by Genevieve Dreizen

Opening

Officiant: Blake and Jessie, today you are surrounded by your family and friends, all of whom are gathered to witness your exchange of vows and to share in the joy of this occasion. Let this be a statement of what you mean to each other and the commitment of marriage you will make.

Address

Officiant: When you love someone, you do not love them all the time in exactly the same way, from moment to moment. It is an impossibility. It is even a lie to pretend to. And yet this is exactly what most of us demand. We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love and of relationships. We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in the terror of the ebb. We are afraid it will never return.

We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity, when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity, in freedom.

The only real security is not in owning or possessing, not in demanding or expecting, not in hoping, even. Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what was in nostalgia, not forward to what it might be in dread or anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now.

Relationships must be like islands, one must accept them for what they are here and now, within their limits—islands, surrounded and interrupted by the sea, and continually visited and abandoned by the tides of life. (Gift from the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh)

The Expression of Intent

Officiant: Blake and Jessie have chosen to incorporate the ancient Celtic ritual of handfasting in their wedding ceremony today. Handfasting is a declaration of intent where the couple clearly states that they are marrying on their own free will.

Jessie and Blake, know now before you go further that since your lives have crossed in this life, you have formed eternal bonds. As you seek to enter this state of matrimony you should strive to make real ideals that give meaning to this ceremony and to the sanctity of marriage. With full awareness, know that within this circle you are declaring your intent before your friends and family as witnesses.

The promises made today and the ties that are bound here greatly strengthen your union and will cross the years and lives of each soul’s growth. Do you seek to enter this ceremony?

Blake and Jessie: Yes.

Officiant: Blake and Jessie, please look into each other’s eyes.

Blake and Jessie: (Hold hands, one partner with his or her left hand and the other with his or her right hand.)

Handfasting Ceremony

Officiant: Jessie, will you share in Blake’s pain and seek to alleviate it?
Jessie: I will.
Officiant: Blake, will you share in Jessie’s pain and seek to alleviate it?
Blake: I will.
Officiant: And so the binding is made.

Officiant:
Jessie, will you share in Blake’s laughter and look for the brightness and the positive in her? (I will.)
Blake, will you share in Jessie’s laughter and look for the brightness and positive in him? (I will.)
And so the binding is made.

Officiant:
Jessie, will you share in Blake’s burdens so that your spirits may grow in this union? (I will.)
Blake, will you share in Jessie’s burdens so that your spirits may grow in this union? (I will.)
And so the binding is made.

Officiant:
Jessie, will you share in Blake’s dreams? (I will.)
Blake, will you share in Jessie’s dreams? (I will.)
And so the binding is made.

Officiant:
Jessie, will you take the heat of anger and use it to temper the strength of this union? (I will.)
Blake, will you take the heat of anger and use it to temper the strength of this union? (I will.)
And so the binding is made.

Officiant:
Jessie, will you honor Blake as an equal in this union? (I will.)
Blake, will you honor Jessie as an equal in this union? (I will.)
And so the binding is made.

Address, Continued

Blake and Jessie, as your hands are bound together now, so your lives and spirits are joined in a union of love and trust. The bond of marriage is not formed by these cords, but rather by the vows you have made. For always you hold in your own hands the fate of this union. Above you are stars and below you is earth. Like stars your love should be a constant source of light, and like the earth, a firm foundation from which to grow.

May these hands be blessed this day. May they always hold each other. May they have the strength to hang on during the storms of stress and the dark of disillusionment. May they remain tender and gentle as they nurture each other in their wondrous love. May they build a relationship founded in love, and rich in caring. May these hands be healer, protector, shelter, and guide for each other. (The Hands of the Couple, Traditional Handfasting Prayer, unknown)

Ceremony of the Rings

Officiant: I will now ask you to seal the vows you share with each other by the giving and receiving of rings. The perfect circle of the ring symbolizes eternity. The precious metal came from the ground as a rough ore and was heated and purified, shaped and polished. Something beautiful was made from raw elements. Love is like that. It comes from humble beginnings, made by imperfect beings. It is the process of making something beautiful where there was once nothing at all.

Officiant: Blake, please repeat after me:

{Blake’s vows here}

Officiant: Jessie, please repeat after me:

{Jessie’s vows here}

Pronouncement and Kiss

Blake and Jessie, on behalf of all those present, and by the strength of your own love, I pronounce you married.

You may seal your vows with a kiss.
Sample Wedding Ceremony: Non Traditional, With A Handfasting | A Practical Wedding

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Photo by APW Sponsor Emily Takes Photos

Excerpt from: Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow LindberghVintage, 1955.


Sample Wedding Ceremony: Non Traditional, With A Handfasting | A Practical WeddingGenevieve Dreizen lives on Long Island and splits her time between the things she most loves: officiating weddings, teaching kids, drawing, and loving on her dog. She’s been officiating weddings since 2011 everywhere from the banks of the Hudson River to the top of the Empire State Building. When she’s not marrying awesome couples to each other in Central Park, find her running, zumba-ing, or redesigning board games. She loves working with APW couples and would be thrilled to hear from you for questions and inquiries alike.

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  • http://acceptorchange.blogspot.com YetAnotherMegan

    Resisting the urge to e-mail our minister to see if we can add a handfasting to the ceremony since I should probably check in with C first. But I absolutely love the wording in that section. If we don’t have the flexibility to do a handfasting, maybe we can try to work those promises into our vows.

  • https://twitter.com/SnippetsofSarah Sarah E

    Bookmarked. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • http://twitter.com/mollyepollard Molly

    What a beautiful, simple ceremony. I had never heard of hand fasting until I got involved in planning my wedding. We are going to the courthouse so we I’m not so sure we will be able to do that but the vows are lovely! It’s nice to see different ways to make a ceremony your own.

  • Michelle

    I love the wording for the ring ceremony in particular, although all of it is fantastic!

  • ANOTHER ANNIE

    Love. Love, love, love. Bookmarked for the future!

  • SamanthaNichole

    This is just beautiful.

  • Rebecca

    Perfect timing, as always! M and I will be discussing this tonight!

  • Laura

    Silly but practical question: How long do your hands stay bound for? Because it seems like it would be hard to do the ring ceremony with one of each of your hands unavailable.

    • jen

      We did the rings first, handfasting second, then we kissed and walked out hands tied together. (Make sure that you face each other and not the officiant for the tieing, so that when you turn to walk away you don’t have to turn in a circle…)

    • http://www.cheerleaderforlove.com Genevieve Dreizen, Cheerleader For Love

      Not silly! Def. practical. When I’ve done weddings with hand fasting it’s varied. -Some couples have slipped out of the fasting immediately and we’ve placed it on a table by microphone. Other couples have walked out with the fastings on. There’s no rule- however it would work for you/your ceremony.

  • http://www.NJVowsNow.com Celia Milton, Celebrant

    This ceremony blatantly appropriates at least two writings by other writers without giving credit to the original authors. The opening is from Ann Morrow Lindbergh. The “hands of the couple” at the end is from an anonymous writer.

    I love hand fastings and I do them quite frequently during my ceremonies, but when I use other peoples’ words, I acknowledge that.

    • meg

      Thanks for pointing that out, and you’re right, use of other people’s words should indeed be credited. We’re going to adjust the post to reflect that. I’m not sure which bit at the end should be credited to an anonymous writer. If you let us know, we’ll look it up and note that.

      • http://www.NJVowsNow.com Celia Milton, Celebrant

        May these hands be blessed this day. May they always hold each other. May they have the strength to hang on during the storms of stress and the dark of disillusionment. May they remain tender and gentle as they nurture each other in their wondrous love. May they build a relationship founded in love, and rich in caring. May these hands be healer, protector, shelter, and guide for each other.

        This portion is from a very popular reading called “The Hands of the Couple”. It’s a lovely reading incorporated into a handfasting; there are several more statements in the original, which is easy to find.

        • http://andshelovesyou.com Lucy

          Hi Celia!

          I’m having trouble finding an original for the blessing – either a book or a website that posts the full text. Is there a source that you could point me to? Even if the author is unknown, I’d like to link back to something as correct as possible. :)

  • Katherine

    Hi! I have been an avid reader of APW since the link was sent to me by my sister about 6 months ago…I just love the feel of it, and the community, and just the happy realness. This is my first comment but I have spent many happy sneaky hours at work wiping away tears and bookmarking ideas. Anyway, to stop my gushing, I just wanted to say a big thanks for this post – I have wanted to incorporate the idea of a ‘Baci’ ceremony (the Laotian tradition where your guests tie white strings around you and hubby’s wrists as a blessing), but wasn’t quite sure how to word it – and this has given me some great ideas. We aren’t having a Buddhist wedding ceremony, but we have spent lots of time in that part of the world (and got engaged in Cambodia) and I want our ceremony to reflect that. Thanks! x

    • http://perkandpearl.com Briana

      Hey, Katherine. My husband and I incorporated a string-tying blessing into our Los Angeles wedding ceremony! We didn’t have a Buddhist wedding ceremony but have also spent a lot of time together in Southeast Asia (we did have a blessing ceremony just the two of us in Thailand before our LA shindig, so we wanted to incorporate part of that into the US celebrations).

      We ended up tying strings on each other’s wrists during the LA ceremony sort of in lieu of exchanging wedding rings. We had our officiant give a brief explanation of the tradition and what the strings symbolize, so our guests would have at least a general understanding of why there was suddenly string involved in our wedding ceremony.

      We also made the tradition our own a bit during the cocktail hour. As we’d experienced receiving the strings as guests in homes around Laos & Thailand, we decided to give out strings to our own guests. It felt like a casual receiving line, where my husband and I could visit with people for a few minutes & tie a blessing string onto their wrists. From the feedback I’ve heard, our guests loved being a part of this tradition (or at least, our version of it) from a part of the world that has been so important to us. Many of them wore the strings until they fell off 6+ months later!

      Anyway, that’s my long explanation of what we did. I love your idea, and as a traveler (and wedding videographer), I love to hear about couples incorporating the important places in their lives into their wedding days.

      • Katherine

        I love this Briana! My hubby to be doesn’t want a wedding ring, he works in the outdoors and thinks he will just lose it, so we weren’t sure what to do…and I hadn’t actually thought of using the strings for us as part of the ring ceremony. Genius! That solves that problem!
        Nice to know that it will actually work in practicality – I also love the idea of you giving them to your guests too.
        Thanks, all the way from New Zealand xx

  • del678

    really like this one best of all the one’s you’ve posted. not too lovey dovey in literal words but still totally feel the love. :)

  • http://www.thedaviesdealings.blogspot.com Kara

    This is beautiful!

  • Ake

    Jessie, will you honor Blake as an equal in this union? (I will.)
    Blake, will you honor Jessie as an equal in this union? (I will.)

    LOVE these words.

  • http://txtingmrdarcy.wordpress.com Brooke

    We had a handfasting as part of our ceremony, and we still have the tied cords in our home. We also included a “Gifts of the Parents” ceremony, which involved our parents tying ribbons onto the cords and offering words of wisdom and love. It was extremely moving, and exactly what we were looking for in a “unity ceremony.”

    Thank you for posing about this option, Genevieve!

  • Riah

    I love the gender neutral names in all of these ceremonies!

  • Anna

    My husband and I were married just over a week ago, and we wanted to incorporate handfasting into the ceremony because of our Celtic heritage. However, we didn’t actually TIE our hands together. The officiant (a wonderful friend of mine who happens to be a pastor) had us hold hands after the exchanging of rings and she then placed part of her stole over our hands. She used a lot of the language above, but it was more of a ‘blessing over our held hands that represented our bound lives’ rather than actually tying us together. It was really beautiful, and our families really loved it. It was actually one of my favorite parts of our wedding! I love reading all the different ways that people tweak it to their unique situations. Thanks for posting this! – Anna

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