Handfasting and Pagan Wedding Ceremonies | An Alternative-Religious Wedding!

For those who feel closer to nature, a Pagan wedding may be the thing for you.

Here at TWS, we understand that not everyone opts for the traditional church wedding, and so we like to explore all the other opportunities that are available to brides and grooms.

For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been looking at Pagan weddings, finding out about this age-old religion and how it’s growing ever more popular.

Handfasting With Coloured Cords

We’ve also been chatting to Jacqui and Emma over at Pagan Wedding Planners in the beautiful town of Glastonbury. Between them they have 60 years of experience working both magically and ceremonially, priding themselves on giving their clients confidence in their company, and in their ability as Priestesses – look out for Jacqui’s comments along the way!

So, I hear you ask, what is a Pagan wedding ceremony? Why would I want one? And how do I go about throwing a Pagan, hand-fasting wedding ceremony?

What is Paganism?

Modern Paganism is derived from the ancient and worldwide polytheistic belief of Paganism, where a number of deities were worshipped through sacrifice, meditations and spiritual offerings. Paganism pre-dates many of our modern day religions, and throughout history, those practicing it have been accused of performing black magic – but this is incorrect of course.

Neo-paganism – modern day paganism – takes a much gentler view, although beliefs and practices vary wildly amongst different groups, there is a common belief that stems throughout each, mainly that a polytheistic approach to religion is beneficial, allowing for wider diversity, freedom and tolerance of worship.


A Pagan wedding ceremony is called a ‘handfasting’, and is a vow to love, honour and respect your partner. Unlike other religious ceremonies, there are many ways of holding a handfasting, as emphasis is on meeting the considered needs of each couple rather than repeating a standard process. Many couples choose to handfast for the traditional ‘year-and-a-day’, renewing their vows every year, others vow to handfast until their love ends, and others for eternity.

TWS (The Wedding Secret): Are you seeing a rise in pagan weddings? And if so, why do you think this is?

PWP (Pagan Wedding Planners): “There is most definitely a rise in Pagan weddings. This could be because people who aren’t Christians, don’t think a church wedding could, or would, reflect who they truly are, and would feel it hypocritical to have a white wedding simply because it is ‘traditional’.

Another reason could be, that to have a full church wedding, or a civil ceremony, would end up bring VERY expensive, whereas a handfasting can be a fraction of the price.

Our couples will often have a civil ceremony to make it legal, but just as many forgo that too, seeing the spiritual joining as far more important. Handfastings can be deeply moving, extremely romantic and far more ‘real’ to our couples than the more usual forms of marriage.

Many of our clients’ friends and families are blown away by how beautiful the ceremonies are.”

The Ceremony

Traditionally couples hold two handfasting ceremonies, the first lasting for a year and a day, and the second lasting for life if the couple are still dedicated and devoted to each other.

A handfasting is the binding of hands, to create a sacred bond. The cords used are traditionally coloured to the wedding couple’s choice, each colour symbolizing something different; for instance red – for will, strength, courage and fertility, orange – for encouragement, attraction and kindness, and blue – for patience, understanding, health and loyalty.

The second notable event within a Pagan wedding ceremony is the jumping of the besom broom. This action represents the sexual union between the now married couple, and also the threshold they are about to cross, being husband and wife. This tradition dates back to Africa, before slavery was abolished. At this point, legal and religious marriages were not viewed appropriate for slaves, and so this small ritual was created to distinguish between a casual relationship, and those settling down in to marriage. This action of jumping together over a broom was, and still is used in African American marriages today.

Jumping the Besom Broom

TWS: Is it possible to incorporate elements of a pagan wedding – handfasting, for instance – in to a non-religious wedding, eg humanist wedding? This is for couples who find an affinity in paganism, but don’t belong to the religion.

PWP: “Absolutely! Not all our couples are Pagan, but they still want a handfasting, and we will tailor the ceremony to fit their needs. We offer a commitment ceremony for those who do not want too much Pagan imagery involved – this still has the tying of hands and the jumping over the besom broom, for instance.

At all times we remember that we are facilitating what the couple wants, not pushing our own beliefs forward. All we want to see from our couples is a love for each other, and a willingness to commit on a spiritual level with a love of the natural world around them.”

It’s About You!

A High Priest or Priestess conducts the ceremony, with a chance for the couple to make their own vows in the middle. As Jacqui said, you are able to make the ceremony fit around you and your partner’s beliefs. So whether you’re from a Pagan background, and want the whole works, or whether you just feel akin to nature, and want to celebrate spirituality with your partner, then this might be the ceremony for you.

The handfasting is then followed by a wedding reception, full of evening entertainment, food, family, friends and celebration.

TWS: Is there anything else you think would be important for me to mention about Pagan weddings?

PWP: “Yes, they’re not legally binding. (So make sure you get a spot in a registry office to get the legal bit out of the way!) Also, we have no issue with gender, sexuality etc – if two people love each other, then so be it!”

Happy Couple

Some ideas for those personal touches:

  • For the handfasting ceremony, it could be meaningful to have a member of the family come up to knot each cord and present a ‘gift’ eg Mother of Bride ties a silver cord – representing the gift of wisdom. That way everyone gets involved and you’ll remember his or her support and kind gifts in years to come.
  • Similar to the colour coding of hand-fasting cords, you could be surrounded by flowers that compliment the gifts of your coloured cords.
  • If you choose to ‘jump the broom’ in your ceremony, have it engraved, or get your guests to write a meaningful message on it for you to keep.

All photos are courtesy of the lovely Pagan Wedding Planners, and a big thank-you to them for helping with this article!

If this article has sparked your interest and you’d like to find out more, there are plenty of resources on the internet, try the Pagan Federation website for example.

Alternatively, help spread the word and share this article on your blog, or social media!

What is The Wedding Secret?

The Wedding Secret is an online resource for brides and grooms researching their wedding day – which is completely free to use! At the time of writing we are set up in specific areas across the South of England, including those in the South West such as Bath, Somerset and Gloucestershire, and have wedding venues in Bournemouth and Poole and wedding venues in Hampshire. In the South East we have recently added lots of wedding venues in Kent, wedding venues in Essex and more!

14 thoughts on “Handfasting and Pagan Wedding Ceremonies | An Alternative-Religious Wedding!

  1. This is my first time getting married this year , my partner is pagan and I’m loving the whole idea of it , its so me as I have never done this before I’m a little nervous .

  2. I live in West Sussex, and would love to a Pagan wedding in the Blue bell woods by the blue bell railway. Is this possible?

  3. Can you arrange a handfest commitment ceremony in Cornwall or Yorkshire? We are a couple who live in Australia, I am from the UK originally and my partner is from New Zealand, we are looking for a wooded/forest venue preferably with river/stream running close by …

  4. My daughter would like to celebrate her 10th year wedding anniversary on Jan the 2nd 2020 and I have suggested she holds a handfasting ceremony. We would like it on the little beach at Portland Castle and I was wondering is there a local pagan who can hold the ceremony? She has always been a free spirit but has tried so hard to fit in which hasn;t been the best way for her and now she is coming out of her fog/anxieties etc I feel this is a freer but more meaningful way for her to do it. Can I have your ideas and thoughts of possibilities please – Many thanks Julie Fairbank

    1. Hi Mark! It very much depends on where you live and what else you plan to do at your ceremony. For example, a handfasting ceremony is not legally binding in England, therefore you would not need a marriage licence. However, you would not be legally married so you would have to attend a licensed venue and perform a marriage ceremony there after giving notice and doing all of the necessary paperwork.

  5. Is there any local pagans who can can do handwriting wedding rvow renewals in the Scottish Borders or Edinburgh area please?

  6. My fiancé and I are getting married this October and our close friend became ordained so he can marry us. We are looking for a unity ritual and handfasting is one ritual we both love. The first wedding we ever went to, together, was a hand tasting ceremony. What I’m wondering is if it is…ok or not if our officiant used some of the handfasting ritual and implemented into our wedding ceremony. Or since it isn’t being performed by a high priest/priestess it’s not a unity ritual we can take part in?

    Thank you in advance for your help!

  7. Maybe it’s just me, but a traditional pagan handfasting ceremony is not an “alternative religious wedding.” It is a religious wedding, as paganism is a religion. As a pagan, I would not find it appropriate for non-pagans to mimic the traditions because they had an “affinity” for paganism without actually following its beliefs. This makes the religious ceremony seem like costume play. Incorporating a pagan ceremony, while removing pagan imagery so it’s not “too pagan” but then still jumping over a besom seems… weird. But, maybe that’s just me.

  8. We had a handfasting ceremony 25 years ago by a high priestess named Annie Wildwood she came from Bristol. We would love to get in contact with her to let her know we are still going strong !!! But we cant seem to track her down, although we have tried many avenues. Can you help in anyway ?

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