December 2008


This fall, I’ve begun to work with many couples who are getting married in the summer and fall of 2009.  And I’ve found many of them have been requested handfastings!


Photo from Flickr

If you’re not familiar with handfasting – it’s, quite literally, “tying the knot.”  Though “handfasting” is often used in Pagan circles as the the term for the entire wedding ceremony, the handfasting I’m referring to is a unity ritual, often going after the ring vows and before the closing of the ceremony.  The couple takes hands (like they’re shaking hands – right into right and left into left).  Their hands are then wrapped with a cord, symbolizing the joining of their lives and hearts.  Each wrap represents a step towards complete commitment to each other.  At the end, the couple remains there, for a moment, and then the cord is removed before the end of the ceremony.


Lindsey & Ben had me wrap their hands, then repeated a simple vow.

Some couples choose to take vows as their hands are wrapped – this is an option as well.

Something fun many of my couples have done is to choose a handfasting cord that really means something to them – if you’re a fiber artist, you can knit, spin, weave, or crochet your cord – or use something that is relevant to your life – a couple I met with recently mentioned using boating twine as they are getting married at the beach!  There are also traditional meanings to the colors of a handfasting cord – so if you want to do multiple colored cords, your officiant can mention what each one means as it is wrapped around your hands.


Photo from Flickr

You can also have a friend, family member, or bridal party member wrap the cord around your hands.  If you have a smaller bridal party, you could have them all come up and do one wrap, as the officiant speaks.  Or your parents could wrap your hands, signifying their support as you enter this next stage in your life.

The roots of the handfasting are in the Celtic countries of Europe – I’ve had couples with Irish backgrounds use handfasting, as it has been the tradition in their families.  Many couples who want to incorporate a Pagan touch to their wedding have chosen a handfasting as well – not only because it is a lovely ritual, but because it’s a nice way to slip a non-traditional element in to the ceremony without scaring the more conservative relatives.

PS: Not that crafty and don’t have a beautiful vintage handfasting cord in your family?  Hit up a fabric store, and buy some beautiful trim or cording and some tassels (in the home decor section).  Attach the tassels to the cord, and you’ll have a beautiful handfasting cord!  Just make sure you get one that is long enough – I’d reccomend at least1 yard and a half long.

I think it’s a beautiful ritual, one that has a fabulous background, and something to think about when putting your ceremony together!

So maybe you do want to write your own vows after all. There are many books and websites and random people who will give you advice, rules, outlines, and other information about putting your vows together.

But you don’t have to listen to anyone.

Your vows, like your ceremony, should reflect who you are, as well as your relationship with your soon to be spouse. Personalizing your vows, or customizing existing vows is a great way to do this.

Here are my top five hints and tricks for writing your own vows.

Something Old: Do you really want to use the traditional “Till Death Do Us Part” vows, or have a specific vow that you heard somewhere that you just love – but you also want to exchange personalized vows during the ceremony? It’s possible. Talk to your officiant about incorporating the traditional vows elsewhere in the ceremony – in the ring vows or in “The Asking” (that’s the “I do!” part of a wedding). You can even incorporate them into your personalized vows.

Something New:
If you get stuck on your vows, or are having trouble figuring out how to finish them, give them to some new eyes to look at. Your bridal party, parents, or officiant are just waiting to offer suggestions and questions to help you create the perfect vows for you. And, if you’re choosing to not keep them a secret from each other, sharing them with your partner before hand can often open up new ideas and stories that you may want to include.

Something Borrowed
: The internet is a great resource for putting your wedding ceremony together. There is tons of information on vows people have used, as well as personalized vows couples have written. Don’t be afraid to borrow liberally from these places – your guests will never know you didn’t write it!

Tom & Jeannie's Wedding.
Tom & Jeannie wrote their own vow, but had me read it to them – and then they agreed with Yes! and I do!
Something Blue: This is the wildcard – What do you love about your partner? What do they do for you that makes you smile, every single time? Don’t be afraid to get specific with your vows! I’ve had couples promise to always make cookies and coffee after dinner or tolerate a favorite television show. Don’t be afraid to personalize it!


Melanie admired Brian’s resourcefulness at tough moments – like when the cat gets locked in the closet, and they can’t find the key – Brian promised to love and support Melanie even on Mondays after a tough day of work.

Writing your own vows is a great and easy way to personalize your own ceremony. As I mentioned in my previous post, even personalizing pre-existing vows can help to create a wedding that really reflects who you are!

When I meet with couples, one of the first things I ask when we’re going over ceremony structure is whether they plan to write their own vows. Sometimes, I get a lukewarm response – “Well.. maybe…” After some questions, and a few suggestions, I usually get it out of them: they would like to have original and different vows, but don’t want them to specifically be vows that they’ve written.

Over my time as a Celebrant, I’ve culled a huge file of wedding vows – some original that I’ve borrowed from couples, some I’ve found in books or on the Internet, some I’ve written myself. I present these to my couples as a jumping off point – a source of inspiration to begin to think about possibly creating their own vows. I find that often people will find vows they just love, and edit them slightly to work for their situation.


Mickey and David each chose different vows to read at their wedding

Another idea that may work if you’re looking for slightly different vows – find out what vows your parents used in their wedding ceremony. Some brides and grooms like the idea of using traditional vows because they are the same words that people have used for generations when they married – the whole tradition of the ceremony itself. If you’re planning an interfaith or multi-faith wedding, you may be able to find wedding vows that are traditional to the specific religion you’d like to honor.


Retta & Jack chose the same vows but chose not to say them
I read them aloud, and they agreed to them with “I do”

The best part? No one will know that you didn’t write these vows yourself! If you choose slightly different vows than the traditional “to love and to cherish, as long as you both shall live…” – most people will assume that you have written them yourself. And, as it is your big day, you can take all the credit for it.

Here’s a very popular vow that I’ve had many couples choose – and I just love it too!

I take you, Dyana, to be my spouse,
my friend, my love, and my lifelong companion.
To share my life with yours,
To build our dreams together,
to support you through times of trouble,
and to rejoice with you in times of happiness.
I promise to treat you with respect, love and loyalty
through all the trials and triumphs of our lives together.
This commitment is made in love, kept in faith,
lived in hope, and eternally made new.