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How to plan for a Handfasting at Ostara or

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Bright Blessings.

As the promise of Ostara and Springs kiss approach us, now that Imbolc has passed, now is a great time for lovers to consider being Handfasted. New love approaches as the light returns to the world, and Spring commitment ceremony is a wonderful way to celebrate the second of the Fertility festivals. For those who are in love and considering proposing around Lupercalia, here is a quick overview of what to consider if you want to have your bonding in the Springtime.

  1. Decide what kind of manner ceremony you are having. Is this a strictly spiritual rite, or will it also be a civil ceremony? If this is a legal marriage, it is imperative to contact the local civil authorities to find out the requirements for the license.
  2. Decide on the officiant. This is of the utmost importance. If one of you has a specific person in mind, then it is important to discuss the matter. No one should feel pressured to use someone they do not wish as their officiant. This is a very big deal. Love and Trust are key in a union, and when being Handfasted, it is important that both parties have that feeling about all aspects of the ceremony.
  3. Verify the officiant's credentials meet your needs. If this is a strictly religious ceremony, then your trusted Priest or Priestess, Reverend, and etc. may perform the ritual in the manner of your chosen Tradition or style. A person who is a civil authority, like a judge or justice of the peace, is vested with the authority of the state as part of their office. However, not all clergy are legally able to perform a legal marriage. Also, laws can vary from county to county in a given state.
  4. Be practical. Keep in mind what is, and is not, doable and reasonable. If you are doing the ceremony this year, then it is highly improbable that your guests can attend on a weekday, nor take a three day weekend without notice. Try to be understanding when you schedule your event. Send out your invitations and announcements as soon as possible. If there are guests who cannot make it physically, it is always an option to allow them to attend the ceremony via internet through services like Skype if you are open to it. After all, sometimes a flight from Portland is just not in the budget for cousin Sally.
  5. Agree on the format. If you are Feri, and your partner is Asatru, this may take some tweaking to the vows and to the invocations. Or not. But again, it is important that both partners are comfortable with the wording and symbolism of this special day.
  6. Decide on the budget. Keeping it simple means different things to different people. For some, a small gathering consisting of the partners, witnesses, and clergy/civil authority is enough. For others, keeping it under a hundred folks is reasonable. Usually keeping it to close friends and family would fit the requirement for many. Remember, this day is about your pledges and vows to each other, not a spectacle.
  7. Pick your venue/location and time. This could be a rental hall; the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory on Belle Isle; the shell covered beach at Luna Pier; a local church or temple; a library quiet room; the city hall; a public park; a friends backyard; or a state park; or even a flash mob wedding at the location of your choice. Ostara is March 20th this year, and in Michigan that translates to wet and snowy being probable, so keep this in mind if planning an outside ceremony. Candles look spectacular in the evening outside, but an intimate affair with tapers on tables is beautiful in the afternoon as well. Try to pick a time that works best for your theme.
  8. Pick your garb/attire. Is this going to be a contemporary dress code of formal or more laid back? Perhaps you may wish to dress in the ceremonial robes or your faith, or even decide to do a theme. (stormtroopers anyone?). Whatever you decide, remember to allow for at least a five pound difference either way when checking for fit. It is also a just fine and dandy to go with the colors of Ostara itself for the colors of the decorations. And of course, flowers, flowers, flowers.
  9. Decide if there will be food. If so, will it be light fare or an actual meal. Potlucks are a homespun and endearing way to bring everyone together to celebrate the day, as well as guaranteeing that everyone will be able to eat at least one thing they know they will love. Caterers are always an option, but keep in mind that this is a busy time of year for them as many are accommodating religious gatherings for large groups, so plan accordingly. Decide if there will be alcohol served. If so, then be sure to make sure that everyone who partakes is of legal age. Be thoughtful and remember to provide nonalcoholic beverages as well.
  10. Remember to take photographs. You do not have to hire a photographer, but it is always an option. A great trend that has taken off in the past decade is that of having the guests all armed with cameras for the ceremony. The couple then collects the cameras and puts together an album from the developed photographs. You could also designate a gifted friend to film the event as well.
  11. Cords. When there is a Handfasting, the cords used should be something you will keep forever. Make sure they have a bag or container to rest in until they go home with you.
  12. Remember to be Give Thanks. This is emphasized because often people forget that the officiant, the witnesses, and the fact that the Creator gave them the lives they are joining and celebrating on this day. Be humble and joyous in the gifts that you have been given, and that you have been given each other.

Here is a special bit of information to those who have been dreaming about having a Handfasting a ship in Detroit. Because we live in the Magical Midwest, Ostara is a bit too cold for a river cruise, however if you can wait until Beltane, then Diamond Jack's River Tours has been operating their charters around here for over 30 years, and they do a ship wedding option.

Of course, the most favored time of year by many Pagans is Midsummer, or the Summer Solstice. This is the Longest Day of the Year, and is absolutely one of the best times of year for this sort of thing. The Sun is shining, the land is abloom, and the Earth is resplendent with beauty and flowers.

Whatever date you choose, whether on a holiday or not, it is your special day. Whatever date on the calendar will become yours. That is the reason for the "or" at the end of this article's title. It is all up to you.

The couple get married aboard in full view of the guests on shore, who then welcome them aboard so that they can get underway. You will have to bring your own clergy, these are not international waters. The staff have been doing this a long time, so you will be in good hands.

It is a little piece of history to share with your guests would be that

"The Diamond Jack was formerly named the "Emerald Isle". The mini ship was built in 1955 for the Beaver Island Ferry Company on Lake Michigan. Then, in 1962, became a Mackinac Island Ferry for the Arnold Line Ferry Company until 1982 when she went to Milwaukee as a charter boat. Diamond Jack’s River Tours bought the ship in 1991 and renamed her "Diamond Jack"

Their season starts up again in May. For more information, give them a call at 313 - 843 - 9376, or email them at Info@DiamondJack.com .

For those who are seeking local Pagan ministers, visiting the Pagan Michigan Directory under clergy may be helpful, as well as a search of Witchvox.

For a resource on Handfasting, this writer recommends you take a look at "Passages Handfasting: A Pagan Guide to Commitment Rituals" by Rev.Dr. Kendra Vaughan Hovey.

Live in Joy.

Jumping the Broom
Jumping the Broom By credited only as "Hipstamatic shots from lisa & lorna" ( lisa y. henderson) (Flickr: Jumping the Broom [1] (roshin.wyatt)) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Jumping the Broom

Decide what kind of manner ceremony you are having.  Is this a strictly spiritual rite, or will it also be a civil ceremony?  If this is a legal marriage, it is imperative to contact the local civil authorities to find out the requirements for the license.

Engagement rings for Ostara
Engagement rings for Ostara By Ernst Vikne (Engagement rings) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Engagement rings for Ostara

Decide on the officiant.  This is of the utmost importance.  If one of you has a specific person in mind, then it is important to discuss the matter.  No one should feel pressured to use someone they do not wish as their officiant.  This is a very big deal.  Love and Trust are key in a union, and when being Handfasted, it is important that both parties have that feeling about all aspects of the ceremony.

Marriage Cert
Marriage Cert By Anonymous (http://www.montbarc.com/lpc_fam.html) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Marriage Cert

Verify the officiant's credentials meet your needs.   If this is a strictly religious ceremony, then your trusted Priest or Priestess, Reverend, and etc. may perform the ritual in the manner of your chosen Tradition or style.  A person who is a civil authority, like a judge or justice of the peace, is vested with the authority of the state as part of their office.  However, not all clergy are legally able to perform a legal marriage.  Also, laws can vary from county to county in a given state.

Egyptian Senen
Egyptian Senen By NebMaatRa (selbst) [GPL (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Egyptian Senen

Be practical.  Keep in mind what is, and is not, doable and reasonable.  If you are doing the ceremony in Spring of this year, then it is highly improbable that your guests can attend on a weekday, nor take a three day weekend without notice.  Try to be understanding when you schedule your event.

wiccan spouses
wiccan spouses Wiccan Spouses - Originally uploaded as a public domain image on Italian Wikipedia by Elisabiasiol

wiccan spouses

Agree on the format.  If you are Feri, and your partner is Asatru, this may take some tweaking to the vows and to the invocations.  Or not.  But again, it is important that both partners are comfortable with the wording and symbolism of this special day.

Simple Candle decor
Simple Candle decor By Irenuchi (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Simple Candle decor

Decide on the budget.  Keeping it simple means different things to different people.  For some, a small gathering consisting of the partners, witnesses, and clergy/civil authority is enough.  For others, keeping it under a hundred folks is reasonable.  Usually keeping it to close friends and family would fit the requirement for many.  Remember, this day is about your pledges and vows to each other, not a spectacle.

Feast of the gods painting
Feast of the gods painting Abraham Bloemaert [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Feast of the gods painting

Decide if there will be food.  If so, will it be light fare or an actual meal.  Potlucks are a homespun and endearing way to bring everyone together to celebrate the day, as well as guaranteeing that everyone will be able to eat at least one thing they know they will love.  Caterers are always an option, but keep in mind that this is a busy time of year for them as many are accommodating religious gatherings for large groups, so plan accordingly.  Decide if there will be alcohol served.  If so, then be sure to make sure that everyone who partakes is of legal age.  Be thoughtful and remember to provide nonalcoholic beverages as well.

Scripps Belle Isle Conservatory
Scripps Belle Isle Conservatory By Robert Thompson user:ab5602 (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

Scripps Belle Isle Conservatory

Pick your venue/location and time.  This could be a rental hall; the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory  on Belle Isle; the shell covered beach at Luna Pier; a local church or temple; a library quiet room; the city hall; a public park; a friends backyard; or a state park; or even a flash mob wedding at the location of your choice.  Ostara is March 20th this year, and in Michigan that translates to wet and snowy being probable, so keep this in mind if planning an outside ceremony.  Candles look spectacular in the evening outside, but an intimate affair with tapers on tables is beautiful in the afternoon as well.  Try to pick a time that works best for your theme.

African Bride at fountain
African Bride at fountain Andrew Butko [GFDL 1.3 (www.gnu.org/licenses/fdl-1.3.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

African Bride at fountain

Pick your garb/attire.  Is this going to be a contemporary dress code of formal or more laid back?  Perhaps you may wish to dress in the ceremonial robes or your faith, or even decide to do a theme. (stormtroopers anyone?).  Whatever you decide, remember to allow for at least a five pound difference either way when checking for fit.  It is also a just fine and dandy to go with the colors of Ostara itself for the colors of the decorations.  And of course, flowers, flowers, flowers.

Luna Pier
Luna Pier By Dwight Burdette (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0) or CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Luna Pier

Remember to take photographs.  You do not have to hire a photographer, but it is always an option.  A great trend that has taken off in the past decade is that of having the guests all armed with cameras for the ceremony.  The couple then collects the cameras and puts together an album from the developed photographs.  You could also designate a gifted friend to film the event as well.

Handfasting Braid
Handfasting Braid By Jeremy Duncan05 (Handfasting cord) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Handfasting Braid

Cords.  When there is a Handfasting, the cords used should be something you will keep forever.  Make sure they have a bag or container to rest in until they go home with you.

Hochzeitstorte
Hochzeitstorte I, Claus Ableiter [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Hochzeitstorte

Remember to be Give Thanks.  This is emphasized because often people forget that the officiant, the witnesses, and the fact that the Creator gave them the lives they are joining and celebrating on this day.  Be humble and joyous in the gifts that you have been given, and that you have been given each other.

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