Weddings and Handfastings

Shanddaramon is legally recognized in the state of Massachusetts to perform weddings and can also lead handfastings.

A pagan or nontraditional handfasting/wedding is a special occasion and because you have consciously chosen not to be married in a traditional or standard format, you have decided to take a more active role in creating a ceremony that is special and unique for you. This also means that there will be more work and more involvement for such a personal event can mean even more stress than a traditional wedding. Keep in mind why you have chosen to take on this task and what you hope to have your ceremony signify to yourselves and others as you plan the days ahead together. It will be well worth the extra effort in the long run if you can maintain this focus.

A handfasting is a special pagan ceremony of commitment between two people. The couple literally takes hands as a symbol of unity. The difference between a wedding and a handfasting is that a handfasting is not meant to be a legal and continuously binding agreement. With a handfasting ceremony, the couple promise to make a specific commitment to the relationship for a set amount of time (at least a year and a day). After that time, the couple may renew their commitment for a longer period of time, make a permanent commitment through marriage or Service of Union, or separate with a handparting ceremony.

What To Consider

Before deciding to take on this major step in life, the couple should carefully think through their reasons and motivations. Consider answering the following questions and discuss the answers with your spiritual counselor and/or officiating priest/ess.

  • Why do you wish to make this commitment?
  • Why have you chosen to have a nontraditional wedding/ handfasting?
  • What do you hope the ceremony will symbolize to yourself? To others?
  • What brought you together?
  • What keeps you together?
  • What do you see as your greatest strengths? challenges?
  • When did you know that this relationship was special?
  • What would symbolize this relationship?
  • What strengths do each of you bring to the relationship?
  • What challenges do you think you may face in the future?
  • What are your life goals and how does this union play a part in those goals?
  • Is this a first wedding for each of you?
  • Do either of you have children already?
  • Do you wish to recognize them in the ceremony?
  • Do you have any people you wish to remember in the ceremony?
  • What do you wish others to know about you as you begin this stage in your life?
  • How do you wish to involve parents? friends?

The Marriage License

A legal marriage requires the following
  • A license obtained from your local or county office.
  • Consent of parents or guardians (if under 18). If you are planning on being legally married, both partners must apply for a marriage license in the county which you planned to be married.
  • A marriage must be performed within 60 days of the date of issue of a license and you cannot be legally married without obtaining one.
  • At least two adult witnesses who will agree to sign the license.

The Tyler

A Handfasting, Wedding, or Service of Union can be a very and demanding event and it is certainly no time for the participants to be worrying about details. A Wedding Director or Tyler is someone who makes sure everything runs smoothly so that the couple can focus on their own participation. A Tyler is someone who remains outside a pagan circle and makes sure that no one enters the circle or disturbs the ceremony while in progress. So, a Tyler might be a perfect choice as a Wedding Director. Some of the duties of a Tyler may include:
  • acting as a liaison between you, your attendants, and the musicians.
  • cues the musicians and any other additional part of the ceremony.
  • monitors the arrival and seating of guests
  • helps attendants line up and cues their entrances
  • being able to solve any unforeseen problems

The First Meeting With Your Officiant

The first meeting is for getting together and making sure that the fit seems “right.” At this time, you should also do the following:
  • Choose an officiant 
  • Set and reserve your date and location 
  • Read through the materials given to you 
  • Look over and consider the above questions
  • Set a date for the next meeting. 

The Second Meeting

For the second meeting, you should have the following ready:
  • Review your answers to the above questions
  • Determine the selection and order of ceremony events 
  • Make music and performer selections 
  • Decide if you need sound 
  • Set a date for the next meeting 
  • Make reservations for the rehearsal 

The Third Meeting

For the third meeting, you should have the following ready:
Provide your vows
Provide your ring statement
Provide the names of people you wish to honor (parents, children, etc.)
Provide readings
Provide names of readers
Provide names of attendants
Provide name of Tyler
Make final plans for rehearsal

The Rehearsal

For the rehearsal, you should provide the following:
  • First half of the Officiant’s fee 
  • The Wedding License (if doing a legal ceremony) 
  • All props 
  • Any recorded music 
  • All people involved (attendants, director or Tyler, readers, musicians, parents)


There are many fees involved with a typical wedding and much has to do with the type and size of the ceremony. Anything that involves having someone do something for you usually involves a fee. Things like having commercial flowers, performing musicians, and special dresses or costumes involve paying someone to do something. To keep costs down, keep your ceremony simple and ask friends to volunteer their help. Some fees, like having an officiant to run the service, will be unavoidable.

The following are the fees that I charge to be an officiant:
  • Base Charge:
  • $25 for leading a service under 2 hours.
  • $25 each additional hour.
Base Charge includes:
2 planning meetings, if desired. (compensation for travel must be given if traveling).
leading or assisting in a wedding or handfasting service.
signing of the wedding license.

$1 per mile for traveling from Maynard MA.
A meal should be included if a meal is involved or should be compensated.

Parts of a Handfasting

  1. Set Up - the altar and circle space are set up.
  2. Introduction of ritual and participants - the Officiant introduces what will happen during the ritual.
  3. Statement of Intention - the Couple state clearly the intent of the ritual.
  4. Banish and Purify - the space is made sacred and pure.
  5. Casting The Circle - participants are asked to join in the inner circle.
  6. Ground and Center - participants are asked to prepare themselves for ritual by grounding and centering themselves in preparation for the raising of magickal energy.
  7. Setting the quadrants - participants recognize the four cardinal directions and their guardians or deities (depending on practice).
  8. Calling on the deities - The couple call upon their chosen deities or upon the general forces of the God, the Goddess, and the Child.
  9. Close the circle - the Officiant announces that the magickal circle is now complete.
  10. Candle ceremony - the couple lights their individual candles and a unity candle
  11. Vows - the couple share their vows to each other
  12. Toast - the couple toasts to each other with wine or other drink
  13. Handfasting knot - the hands of the couple are ritually tied together
  14. Blessing of the family, old and new - the families share their support with the couple. A candle to honor those who have passed may also be lit at this time.
  15. Blessing of the circle - other participants also offer their blessing and support
  16. Releasing of deities - deities invoked before are thanked and released
  17. Releasing of the four quarters - guardians invoked before are thanked and released
  18. Individual blessings - the couple go around the circle and receive hugs and blessings
  19. Circle is opened - the officiant announces the magickal circle is open
  20. Closing words - the Officiant ends the ceremony and gives a final blessing
  21. The Kiss - the couple kiss
  22. Jumping the broom - on their way out of the circle, the couple jumps over a broom. Confetti (bird seed) can be thrown at this time.
  23. Cakes and Ale - Cake or cookies and a drink is served to the circle. The Parts of a Wedding or Service of Union

Parts of a Wedding or Civil Union

The Bare Minimum
  • Opening Words - the Officiant begins the ceremony with a brief introduction and explanation of the ceremony.
  • The Taking of Hands
  • Exchange of Vows - the couple share their vows to each other.
  • Pronouncement - the Officiant announces that the couple is now joined or married. The Parts of a Wedding or Service of Union

The Full Ceremony
  • Prelude - a musical introduction
  • Processional - the entrance march of attendants, parents, and couple.
  • Opening Words - the Officiant begins the ceremony with a brief introduction and explanation of the ceremony.
  • Lighting of Personal Candles - candles representing the individuals are lit.
  • Statement of Purpose - A statement is made announcing the coupleÕs intentions.
  • Blessings by families and guests - Family members and others can offer blessings. This can also be a time to honor those you want remembered. This can also be a time to recognize children and the formation of a new family.
  • Music
  • Readings - members of the wedding party can read selected short literary works.
  • Taking of Hands
  • Exchange of Vows - the couple share their vows to each other.
  • Lighting of the Unity Candle - the couple jointly light a third candle.
  • Preface to the Ring Ceremony - introduction to the presentation of rings.
  • The Ring Ceremony - the couple presents rings or other gifts to each other.
  • The Toast - the couple toast each other.
  • Pronouncement - the Officiant announces that the couple is married or united.
  • Closing Words - the Officiant ends the ceremony and gives a final blessing
  • The Kiss - the couple kisses.
  • Recession - the party is led out with music.