“Lithic” means “relating to stone” and “Neo” means new, therefore the Neolithic era was also called the “New Stone Age”. This refers to the period between 10,000 BCE and 1,700 BCE, although the timeline is greatly disputed. A Neolithic wedding will most likely take place at a Neolithic site. This includes places like Stonehenge or Avebury Stone Circle, which often have great historical and spiritual significance.
If you find the idea of this interesting, read on!
There are more options than just having a traditional white wedding. Paganism is a real religion that is, unlike many religions, very recent. There was no such thing as the religion, and people would not identify as Pagan, until the 20th century. Before then, it was seen as an insult (it meant “religion of the peasants”). Like several terms in use today, a group reclaimed the word and the meaning and now it is a growing body of people. More accurately, those who practise a Pagan religion today would be called Neo-Pagans. However, it is important to know that there is no text they follow and as such every group will be different. Mostly, they are strongly connected to nature.
Let’s start with a little background on these historic religions and paganism. Paganism stems into three main branches:
Wicca. Also termed Pagan witchcraft. This faith focuses on the cycle of seasons and nature. Wicca focuses on ritual practices and was developed in the latter half of the 20th century.
Druidry. This involves the recreation of ancient Celtic practices, focusing on storytelling and poetry. Druidry promotes harmony, connection and a deep respect for nature.
Asatru. More commonly called Heathenry. Ásatrú translates as “Faith in the German Gods”. Modern day practitioners use historical, archaeological and folkloric evidence as the basis of the faith.
Of course, you can always hire a wedding venue with a lovely outside area so that you can utilise the gardens for your ceremony and then step indoors to finish your celebration. The Wedding Secret has plenty of manor houses with amazing, large grounds to choose from.
However, if you truly want to have a Pagan wedding then there is nothing better than a Neolithic setting.
England is lucky in that it has plenty of these sites across the country. The most famous is, of course, Stonehenge, but there are plenty more besides. We’ve gathered a few guaranteed to fit your Neolithic wedding.
Located in Wiltshire this Neolithic and Bronze age ceremonial site boasts the largest stone circles in Britain. Avebury and its surroundings are UNESCO heritage sites. Free to enter, choose this spell-binding venue.
Near Chipping Norton in the Cotswolds, this ancient site gives you mysterious beauty and subtle energies. The intimate location provides ultimate seclusion and endless rolling hills.
This atmospheric and dramatic site offers a stone circle and panoramic views of the mountains and Helvellyn and High Seat for the most idyllic of backdrops. The site was raised in 3000BC!
Also dating back to the Neolithic period, this area features 55 stones up to three metres high. A legend notes that the people of the area tried to build a church but the devil kept pulling it down.
Scotland also showcases majestic stone sites. The Ring of Brodgar, the Callanish Stones, the Easter Aquhorthies stone circle and the Standing Stones of Stennes.
What to expect at a Pagan ceremony
Like many wedding ceremonies nowadays, couples can personalise their ceremony to get exactly what they want out of it. However, there are various rituals that you are likely to see at any Pagan wedding.
Firstly, the ceremony starts with the blessing of the space. This might include burning incense, ringing bells, banging drums, sprinkling sacred water or tossing flowers and herbs. This is done to purify the space and drive out any negative energy.
Oftentimes the person leading the ceremony will mention the elements: earth, air, water and fire. Each of these symbolic building blocks of life is then attributed a trait – physicality, intellect, emotions and passion, in order.
One of the most recognised practices at a Pagan wedding is handfasting. This ritual originated from early Christian times. When a couple planned to marry, they had to wait for a clergyman to come from a larger town. Therefore, they took part in their own rituals to swear their love to each other in front of the village. Later, when a member of the clergy became available, they would swear their love in front of god. Because of this, handfasting rituals are sometimes also seen as engagement ceremonies.
For Northern Europe and Celtic lands, couples would clasp their hands together and make oaths of loyalty to one another. In addition, the person conducting the ceremony would tie their hands together by ribbon, tartan or cords. This handfasting type of ritual symbolically binds the couple together in a declaration of unity (hence to “tie the knot”). It was up to the individual couple how long the bonds remained; some would remove the rope immediately after the ceremony while others kept it tied for days or even weeks.
Modern Paganism started to grow in the mid-20th century. Those who followed the religion sought marriage rituals that had historic significance. Ceremonies can be led by an officiant, Pagan clergy member or even a friend. Therefore, there is plenty of freedom in this type of ceremony.
Jumping the Broom
Jumping over a broom can also be common practice. A broom in this instance symbolises a threshold – the line between the old single life and the new married life. Brooms can also symbolise the sweeping away old dirt of your past to start a fresh.
Some sources claim that the broom in question is not the household cleaning implement but in fact the plant. This yellow flowered shrub is known as “common broom”, “Cytisus scoparius”, or simply “broom”. It is a plant tightly linked with folklore; the Welsh character Blodeuwedd was supposedly made from broom, meadowsweet and oak. What’s more, it is supposed to tame wild dogs and horses and a heavily flowered branch brings plenitudes to couples.
As well as being tied to Pagan rituals, jumping the broom is a custom in Romani and African American cultures. However, it was also a medieval phrase that meant, literally, a “sham marriage”. Although, this is probably just from the religious class looking down on countryside marriage traditions!
Celebrations may also feature a maypole dance. There are many theories for the origin of the maypole but nobody can really decide which one is true. A lot of scholars believe that a maypole acts as an “axis mundi”, the “centre of the world”. Furthermore, Pagans had strong connections to trees and as such to wood and poles.
The tall maypole comes attached with strings or ribbons and you dance around it, winding the ribbon around. Despite the name, its use is not restricted to one month, and in fact some groups utilise it at midsummer. For many Pagans the pole is a pillar that connects heaven and earth, a symbol of unity and binding together.
The Legal Factors
Unfortunately, it is not currently legal to marry outdoors in England and Wales. However, if you get the legal part out of the way first, you can complete your meaningful ceremony outdoors. In this way, you are not restricted by laws of wording, religion or celebrant. That is to say, you can use your own wording, rituals and personnel.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you can pick any spot of green land. Make sure you are allowed to be there and to hold an event. We don’t think a farmer would be too impressed to suddenly see a large group of people around his cows! Of course, there are also several outdoor venues that you can pay to hire.
Meanwhile in Scotland, you can have a perfectly legal outdoor wedding performed by a Humanist celebrant. If you live elsewhere, check your local laws before you get stuck too far into wedding preparations!
Getting married on an ancient stone circle, henge or standing row can be a wonderful and symbolic way to get married.