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Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Handfasting Ceremony

Note:  I am - we are - deliriously, deliciously, dramatically happy. And, thoroughly exhausted. I think we got about four hours sleep last night. I am posting the Handfasting Ceremony we used as I know many of you have expressed an interest in how it all was done. I'll write more on it later and post more pictures - hopefully those done by the professional - later. For now, thank you all for your wonderful kind words of love and support. Mia and Bob make a wonderful couple. We are thrilled that our family is growing in such unexpectedly blessed and wonder-full ways.

A few words about the history of Handfasting

Handfasting is an ancient custom - before the Council of Trent required the presence of a priest - especially common in Ireland and Scotland but also in Poland and Czechoslovakia with roots in the Nordic Cultures, in which a man and woman came together at the start of their marriage relationship. Their hands, or more accurately, their wrists, were literally tied together. This practice gave way to the expression "tying the knot" which has come to mean getting married.

During this particular ceremony, six cords are tied around the couple's wrists, each representing a vow made between them. These particular cords were fashioned by the couple, with "family artifacts" of jewelry from various family members woven in among the ribbon.

Handfasting tradition holds that these cords remain tied together for a year and a day, at which point, the couple gathers the witnesses to their vows and has a celebration of their first year of married life.

The rings exchanged are the lasting and constant reminder of those vows made on this day.

The Handfasting Ceremony

To the assembled:   Greetings and welcome to you all! We are gathered here today to witness and to celebrate one of life's greatest moments, to give recognition to the worth and beauty of love, and to add our best wishes and blessings to the union of Maria Conroy Kaeton and Robert Gordon Leong. We have come here this day to share in their joy as they come now to be united in the state of holy matrimony.

To Bob and Mia:  Know now that since your lives have crossed, you have formed ties between each other. The promises you make today and the ties that are bound here will cross the years and will greatly strengthen your union. With full awareness, know that you declare your intent to be handfasted before your friends and family.

Do you still seek to enter this ceremony?

Mia and Bob: Yes, we seek to enter.

Does anyone here have any objections to this couple being handfasted in marriage? If so, speak now or forever hold it to your heart (wait for the space of three heartbeats).

I bid you look into each others eyes. Bob and Mia, these cords are a symbol of the lives you have chosen to lead together. Up until this moment, you have been separate in thought, word and action. As your hands are bound together by these cords, so too, shall your lives be bound as one.

The First Cord

Mia, will you honor him?
I will.
Bob, will you honor her?
I will.
[To Both] Will you seek never to give cause to break that honor?
And so the binding is made. Join your hands. (First chord is draped across the bride and groom's hands.)

The Second Cord

Bob, might you ever cause her anger?
I might...
Is that your intent?
Mia, might you ever cause him anger?
I might...
Is that your intent?
[To Both] Will you together take the heat of anger and use it to temper the strength of this union?
And so the binding is made. (Drape second chord across the couple's hands.)

The Third Cord

Mia, might you ever burden him?
I might...
Is that your intent?
Bob, might you ever burden her?
I might...
Is that your intent?
[To Both] Will you share the burdens of each so that your spirits may grow in this union?
And so the binding is made. (Third chord is draped across the couple's hands.)

The Fourth Cord

Mia, will you share his dreams?
I will .
Bob, will you share her dreams?
I will .
[To Both] Will you dream together to create new realities and hopes?
And so the binding is made. (Drape fourth chord across the couple's hands.)

The Fifth Cord

Bob, might you ever cause her pain?
I might...
Is that your intent?
Mia, might you ever cause him pain?
I might...
Is that your intent?
[To Both] Will you share each other's pain and seek to ease it?
And so the binding is made. (Drape fifth chord across the couple's hands.)

The Sixth Cord

Bob, will you share her laughter?
I will .
Mia, will you share his laughter?
I will .
[To Both] Will both of you look for the brightness in life and the positive in each other?
And so the binding is made. (Drape sixth chord across the couple's hands.)

(The cords are tied together and the couple’s hands are bound in the priest’s stole.)

Just as your hands are now bound together, so too, are your lives. May you be forever one, sharing in all things, in love and loyalty for all time to come.

As it is, you cannot always be physically joined.

(The Handfasting Cords are removed, without untying them, and replaced on the altar.)

And so, we use the wedding ring to symbolize that connection. It is a constant reminder of the sacred bond shared between a husband and a wife.

Who holds the rings?

(The rings are given to the Bride and Groom)

Bob and Mia, you hold here in your hands the wedding rings that you will exchange with one another. When you give a ring to someone in marriage, you are giving them a symbol of your eternal love, a love that, like the circle formed by each of these rings, has no beginning and no end.

As you understand this, and wish to affirm the love that the giving and receiving of these rings represents, please, exchange your rings with one another, and state for each, “With this ring, I thee wed”.

Beginning with you, Bob

(Bob places the ring on Mia’s finger and states,)
“With this ring, I thee wed.”

And now you, Mia

(Mia places the ring on Bob’s finger and states,)
“With this ring, I thee wed.”

Bob and Mia, now that you have joined yourselves in matrimony, may you strive always to meet this commitment with the same spirit you now are now exhibiting. Inasmuch as you have consented together to enter into the holy bonds of marriage; and having pledged, and sealed your vows by the giving and receiving of rings, it gives me great pleasure to pronounce that you are now husband and wife.

Congratulations! You may share the first kiss of your marriage!


Jane R said...


Now go have that good Sunday priestly nap. :-)

Unknown said...

I have been to quite a few handfasting ceremonies - not all of them were in the Christian faith. I have participated in a Wiccan ceremony, a Native American ceremony and an inter-religious ceremony. All very similar. I have found them to be quite interesting, although I have never conducted one myself. My inlaws had a handfasting some years ago performed by an Orthodox Catholic priest. Thanks for sharing.

Mama C said...

What a very special and meaningful service. I have never heard of it before - but I am sure others will use this ancient ceremony once more folks are made aware of it. So happy for Mia and Bob and all your family. Susan Cowperthwaite

Raven~ said...

Well then ... and so mote it be!
That is the most succinct, and "gettin' real" version I have read!

I'm sure you're aware of the role of "binding" in the Eastern Orthodox marriage ceremonial -- and that the crowns are really martyr's crowns. I think these handfasting vows truly do get to the heart of the matter.

So, did you tie a "lovers knot" with the cords?

Josh Thomas said...

My goodness, this is so gorgeous! "Might you ever cause him anger?" "I might." "Is it your intention?" "No."

When people get a chance to acknowledge their frailties on the most important day of their lives, in public, with their best friends gathered, they might actually learn to forgive when the anger does come.

You've added immeasurably to my understanding of the romantic relationship.

Thanks. That's some powerful Kaetonium.

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

A day of Joy!

Diane M. Roth said...

thanks for this! I had a couple request something like this a couple of years ago, and couldn't find very much from a Christian perspective. So, I may need to copy this and put it with my resources. Thank you!

Richard Brewer said...

In response to Diane, I still don't find a religious context at all except for Elizabeth's presence. I think I'm missing it. Please understand, I'm not opposed to the ceremony; I just can't place it in a Christian context.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Richard - The Bride and Groom are, like so many of their generation, "barely Christian". This was a "barely Christian" ceremony. Anything else would have been completely devoid of integrity. However, I believe the vows were simple and honest and had more power in that simplicity and truth. And, I think this entire service can be made "more Christian", depending on the bride and groom.

Fran said...

Reading that made me cry- how beautiful!!! Talk about ritual that makes sense, that means something, that is truly sacramental and speaks of a very real presence.

Blessings for and to you all!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Yup. The church doesn't "own" the sacramental life.

Kay & Sarah said...

Simple, truthful and beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

JCF said...

Mazel Tov!!! :-D

susankay said...

Blessings be. And much Joy.

Geeklet said...

That was absolutely beautiful. The cords are lovely, and oh man, the bride and groom! So gorgeous a couple!!

I think I'm going to use those beautifully colored cords as inspiration for the crowns I'll have to one day have made for my wedding. (The bf's Orthodox).

Also, I think I'll have to show my friend. She's Roman Catholic and engaged to a Wiccan. :)

REH said...

What a beautiful and meaningful service. Congratulations to you and your fabulous family.

Muthah+ said...

One more of your liturgies I am going to steal!! Thanks so much.

It is so beautiful and as you said, filled with integrity. That is what is necessary.

Clergy do not Marry people--the couple perform the sacrament themselves by giving themselves to one another. Thank you for this sharing of God's love with them.

MarkBrunson said...

Elizabeth, with deep love and compassion I say to you:




Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Mark. If that's the only typo I made that day, I done good. But, thanks. I appreciate the edit.

DeanB said...

I was thinking of you & that wedding every time I saw that waning gibbous moon. Also because I'm putting a fair bit of effort into building a chuppah & writing out a ketubah for our son's wedding in October, which also will include a handfasting part.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

All good liturgy is stolen from somewhere and adapted. I love this more each time I read it.

Edgewalker said...

Thank you very much for sharing this ceremony. I found it to be insightful, thought provoking and well 'played'.
I hope that you don't mind if I use some the concepts in our Hand-Fasting.
Many Blessings,
JD Day

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Enjoy, JD