Parents tie the handfasting ribbons as part of this wedding ceremony

Erika & Ross chose to incorporate the ritual of handfasting into their wedding ceremony. March 2011 at Araluen Botanic Park, Armadale, Western Australia.

This couple chose to have several close family members (including all of their parents) tie ribbons around their joined hands as part of their wedding ceremony. The contemporary ritual of handfasting is a wedding ritual inspired by the old Celtic custom of ‘handfasting’ (similar to shaking hands on a deal). Handfasting was the prevalent symbolic ritual associated with getting married in Scotland for many years.

Father ties a handfasting ribbon around the marrying couple's hands as part of marriage ceremony with marriage celebrant Ishara de Garis. Araluen Botanic Park, Armadale - Perth, Western Australia.

The contemporary wedding ritual of 'handfasting' with coloured ribbons or cords symbolises the joining of two lives in marriage. The term 'handfasting' comes from Scotland where for many years before church weddings became popular the marrying couple would formally 'take hand' to seal their marriage pact.

1          Gathering

2          Processional

Ishara moves to stand by the bridge to await the ceremonial arrival of the bride & bridesmaids. 

Ishara to sweep circle with a besom broom, leading the flower girls  and bubble boy lead in making a large circle around the table before coming to stand with the bridal party.

When everyone is in place – someone will stop the music!

3          Opening words by Ishara

4          Acknowledgement of the four parents

“As a general rule, weddings are very much about families, and today’s is no exception.  It seems appropriate then, that we should begin by honouring four very special people….”

5          Ishara’s bit about being an authorised celebrant and the legal definition of marriage

6          Bride and Groom formally declare their intention to marry

7          A reading“Marriage is like the planting of two trees” – alternating lines read by the groom’s mother and the bride’s mother

8          Handfasting

“Do we have the handfasting ribbons?
Erika & Ross will you please take a big step forward for me?

Ribbons are brought forward by an attendant

Our bride and groom have chosen to incorporate the ritual of handfasting into today’s ceremony.  The ceremonial binding of their hands symbolises the union of their two lives. Handfasting is an ancient celtic marriage custom.. For today’s handfasting ceremony, we will use 7 ribbons, each of which represents specific quality or blessing.

Ishara invites the four parents and three other close family  members to step forward, then distributes the ribbons and explains the significance of the colours as chosen by the bride and groom:-

This silver ribbon represents Infinity & the Universe.

This gold ribbon represents Honour & Strength.

This green ribbon represents Life & Fertility.

This purple ribbon represents Dreams & Comfort.

This blue ribbon represents Calm & Thoughtfulness

This red ribbon represents Passion & Love

This yellow ribbon represents Light & Happiness

Together these seven ribbons will become a symbol of an enduring love and commitment which unites these two individuals into a single shared life in marriage.

E & R, up until this moment, you have been separate in thought, word and action. As your hands are bound together by these ribbons, so too, shall your lives be bound as one.   Now please join your hands, left to left, symbolizing your heart to heart union.

Each of the ribbon bearers in turn wraps a ribbon lightly around the couple’s joined hands and, with a silent or spoken blessing, ties it with a single knot so that it will not fall or blow off.

When all are done, Ishara makes sure that the ribbons are all securely tied then speaks:-

“E & R, as you stand here before all those who are dear to you, your hands bound with love & blessings, I invite you to take a deep breath, to look into one another’s eyes and hearts as you make your sacred vow together.  (pause) When you are ready…  please repeat after me…

Bride & Groom:     We swear by peace and love to stand,  Heart to heart and hand in hand,                                       In Nature’s beauty, hear us now, Confirming this, our Sacred Vow.  
[Variation on a contemporary Druid vow]

“Ross and Erika, as your hands are bound together now,
so your lives and spirits are joined in a union of love and trust.
Above you are the stars and below you is the earth.
Like the stars let your love be a constant source of light,
and like the earth, a firm foundation from which to grow.”

Ishara assists the couple to remove their hands from the ribbons without untying them.

9          Exchange of Rings

Ishara:    Do we have the rings?

Rings are brought forward by best man.

Ishara:    From deep in human history, the exchange of rings has been a symbol of love given and received, the outward sign and seal of a marriage pact.  Today we ask that these rings may be blessed by Love, that great universal force which connects each to all.  Holds a hand in blessing over the two rings

 The circle is a perfect figure, without beginning, without end, with no area of weakness. It is a symbol of the cycle of life, birth, death and rebirth, and a reminder that all things begin and end and begin again, as the universe decrees. These rings shall serve to remind you that life goes on, that these moments pass.  When you are engulfed in anger or sadness, look to your hand, and remember that the wheel turns forever onward.  [from Raven Kaldera’s book ‘Handfasting and Wedding rituals: Welcoming Hera’s Blessing]

Exchange of rings follows

10      Ishara pronounces you married & the traditional kiss to seal the marriage

11      Blessing of the Elements

Ishara:    [Names] will you please come forward with your gifts for the elemental blessings.

Do we have the basket?

(to the guests)  The world was once thought to be composed of the four basic elements of water, fire, earth and air. Although modern science has differentiated many more elements, the original model of four elements still maintains a powerful symbolism in the human imagination evoking both internal states and emotions and our ancient connection to the forces of nature.

              Today we will be symbolically invoking the blessings of the four elements to sustain and support our newly weds as they move forward into their new life together.

Air – Groom’s sister

Ishara:    We begin by invoking the blessings of air. Without air we cannot breath, and without breath we lose consciousness.  Air carries the waves of sound to our ears and without it both words and music would lose their power.  Therefore the ancients associated the element of air with both the mind and communication.

Grooms Sister reads from card: “Through the subtle power of air may your marriage be blessed with the gift of clear and honest communication and the harmonious resolution of problems and differences.”    She presents a small herb wreath, which she has crushed in her hands, for the bride and groom to inhale the scent.

Fire – Bride’s sister

 Ishara:    Fire banishes the darkness.  Fire cleanses and purifies, transforming solid matter into light and heat.  The light and warmth of the sun sustains all life on Earth.  The red blood cells in our bodies carry oxygen to all our cells, literally feeding the vital fires of our metabolism. Therefore the ancients associated fire with energy, assertiveness, and passion.

Bride’s sister reads from card: May the flame of passion burn long and steady in your marriage, passion tempered always with love.  And may the divine spark of creative fire within you burn away the dross of old ideas and experiences, until only love remains.

 She presents the bride and groom with a cut of wood, tied with a red ribbon, to be burned later.

Water – Bride’s brother

Ishara:    Water takes on the form in which it is held and moves in the path of least resistance.  Flowing water can wear away stone.   Symbolically, water is associated with everything within us that is pure, fluid and flowing, especially the free flow of emotions.

Bride’s brother reads from card: Water is life, and water shared is life shared. As you share this cup of champagne, may you know the blessing of emotional sensitivity and resilience, flexibility and perseverance to carry you through any difficulties you may encounter.

He pours water into a goblet and presents it to Erika & Ross who then take turns to hold it to each other’s lips.

Earth – Best man

Ishara:    Earth is the solid ground beneath our feet which supports and holds us up, the  soil which grows the food to sustain our bodies.  The blessings of earth are sustenance, fertility, and a love which endures through time.    Bread symbolically stands for all that nourishes and sustains us, both physically and spiritually.  A companion is literally ‘someone you share bread with’.  In the ancient world, breaking bread was a powerful symbol of unity for those together at a table. It represents ideas of hospitality, mutual responsibility

Best Man reads from card: May you never hunger or be in need. May your life together be sweet and satisfying, just as this bread and honey is both sweet and nourishing. May you be blessed with a life of good health and good cheer, and share the company of many good friends.

Best Man presents the bride and groom with bread and honey, which they then feed each other with.

12     Concluding words of blessing by Ishara

13      Signing of the certificates

14      Presentation of newly weds to the assembled guests, congrats & champagne.

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