Unifying Wedding Rituals-"Handfasting"
There are many rituals that demonstrate the couple's commitment to each other and their new bond as a married couple. In many cultures, the hands of the bride and groom are literally tied together (giving us the popular phrase "tying the knot").
In some African tribes, the bride and groom have their wrists tied together with cloth or braided grass. To symbolize your own unity, have your officiant or a close friend tie your wrists together with a piece of kente cloth or a strand of cowrie shells (symbols of fertility and prosperity) while affirming your oneness.
Handfasting was practiced by the Celts, among other people, during the Middle Ages. A year after the couple was handfasted they were officially considered a married couple. Many practicing pagans and Wiccans use the ritual as their wedding ceremony. It involves much reverence of nature and also the tying together of the bride's and groom's wrists or hands.
Welcome, friends, as we gather to celebrate the marriage of _____ and ________.
Divine One, I ask thee to bless this couple, their love, and their marriage
as long as they shall live in love together.
May they each enjoy a healthy life filled with joy, love, stability, and fertility. (turns to the east)
Blessed be by the element of air.
May you be blessed with communication, intellectual growth, and wisdom. (turns to the south)
Blessed be by the element of fire.
May you be blessed with harmony, vitality, creativity, and passion. (turns to the west)
Blessed be by the element of water.
May you be blessed with friendship, intuition, caring, understanding, and love. (turns to the north)
Blessed be by the element of earth.
May you be blessed with tenderness, happiness, compassion, and sensuality. . . .
Love has its seasons, the same as does the Earth. In the spring of love is the discovery of each other, the pulse of the senses, the getting to know the mind and heart of the other; a blooming like the buds and flowers of springtime.
In the summer of love comes the strength, the commitment to each other, the most active part of life, perhaps including the giving of life back to itself through children; the sharing of joys and sorrows, the learning to be humans who are each complete and whole but who can merge each with the other, as the trees grow green and tall in the heat of the sun.
In the fall of love is the contentment of love that knows the other completely. Passion remains, and ease of companionship. The heart smoothes love into a steady light, glorious as the autumn leaves.
In the winter of love, there is parting, and sorrow. But love remains, as do the stark and bare tree trunks in the snow, ready for the renewal of love i!1 the spring as life and love begin anew.
Now is the time of summer.
_________ And ___________have gathered before their friends to make a statement of their commitment to each other, to their love.
(Couple faces each other)
Do you now commit to each other to love, honor, respect each other,
to communicate with each other, to look to your own emotional health so that you can relate in a healthy way,
and provide a healthy home for children if you choose to have them;
to be a support and comfort for your partner in times of sickness and health,
as long as love shall last?
TOGETHER: We do.
[After the vows and ring exchange, the couple's hands are bound together in a "love knot." The priestess says something along the lines of: "With this cord, I bind you to the vows that you each have made."]
Marriages among the fellahin of Northern Egypt take place at night. The bride and groom, along with family and friends, walk through the streets to the church. As they walk, the men carry lanterns and the women sound the joyful zagharit, a shrill, vibrating call. When they arrive, the priest takes a silk cord and passes it over the groom's right shoulder and under his left arm, tying the thread into a looped knot. The priest says prayers and then unties the groom. He then ties the two wedding rings together with the cord. He questions the bride and groom on their intentions, then unties the rings and places them on the couple's fingers.
The couple's hands are tied togther with string in a Hindu ritual called Hasthagranthi. Shakhohar, the family roots union, in which the parents place their hands on top of the couple's to express their union as a family, follows this. A long scarf is then wrapped around the couple in a ritual called Gath Bandhan.
Circling the Table (Eastern Orthodox)
The priest (and sometimes the koumbaros, too) leads the couple three times around the altar on which a Bible and cross rest. This ritual predates Christianity-it originated in Judaism-and represents the dance around the Ark of the Covenant. The choir sings three hymns as the couple circles. In this act, they take their first steps as a married couple,with the Church (through the priest) leading them.
When the couple first step underneath the huppah, their wedding canopy, the bride circles the groom seven times, representing the seven wedding blessings and seven days of Creation, and demonstrating that the groom is the center of her world. To make the ancient ritual reciprocal, many
couples opt to circle each other.
In Guatemala, the couple bind themselves together during the ceremony with a silver rope. Mexican couples perform a similar ritual, where a rosary or white rope is wound around their shoulders in a figure eight to symbolize their union. While the couple is bound together, the priest may recite the following:
"Let the union of binding together this rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary be an inspiration to you both.
Remember the holiness necessary to preserve your new family can only be obtained by mutual sacrifice and love."