In Scotland, you can get married HOW you want and still have a fully legal Pagan wedding! Scottish marriage law permits weddings rituals performed by an approved Scottish Pagan Federation Celebrant (like us!) to be treated as fully legal under the Marriage (Scotland) Act 1977 and to be recognised as fully legal throughout Britain and the rest of the world.
Just two simple sentences that must be included:
National Records of Scotland (previously the General Register Office for Scotland) states that 'As Paganism is a very individualistic religion, no restrictions will be placed on the manner of ceremony which may be used by Celebrants for legal Religious Marriage, as long as these comply with Scottish law'. In other words, Pagan weddings do not have to have any set format, however you do still have to go through a few legal formalities by including these declarations:
1) A separate declaration by each person being married, in the presence of the person they are marrying and in the presence of two witnesses and a Celebrant, that they take the other as husband / wife OR in marriage OR both.
2) After these declarations, a declaration by the Celebrant (who must be registered with National Records Scotland) that both parties to the marriage are now husband and wife OR are married.
How marriage law in Scotland differs to England and Wales
Possibly the most important point is that couples do NOT need to also have a civil ceremony at a registrar's office in order to fully legalise the marriage. In Scotland the religious ceremony IS the legal ceremony (exactly as if, for example, you were getting married in a church).
So, what can be included?
Apart from these formalities, your ritual really can take the form of your choice: from the very simple, to the highly ceremonial. YOU can provide as much input as YOU want ... here are some ideas ...
Traditionally, Pagan weddings were, and still are, often called "handfastings", and both Celtic and northern strands of Paganism claim roots for these types of marriage ceremony. The word 'handfasting' possibly derives from 'hand-festa' which means 'to strike a bargain by joining hands', and therefore may not have originally applied exclusively to marriage 'agreements'. In the past, couples had a choice about how long their handfasting would last: 'a year and a day', 'as long as love shall last', 'this lifetime', or 'all lives to come'. The first of these options led to handfastings being known as 'trial marriages'.
A handfasting ritual often included the practice of the couple grasping each other's hands, sometimes through a stone with a natural hole (such as at the Odin Stone near the Standing Stones of Stenness - sadly no longer standing), and then having their held hands lightly bound. Some traditions state that this should be with a red cord but nowadays the couple can choose the colour(s) of the cords or ribbons they use, perhaps to represent themselves or the 'blessings' they wish to bring to the marriage. We make handmade handfasting cords to order on request.
Often 'handfastings' take place within a cast circle, where sacred space 'between worlds' is created for the duration of the ritual. For this purpose we can provide ritual swords, staffs, shamanic drums and rattles, wands and athames, to your preference - and we have established good relationships with our local constabulary to avoid any embarrassing legal repercussions from waving sharp objects around!
Jumping the broomstick
Another traditional that is often included is the practice of jumping the broomstick together. The broomstick may represent the couple's home and, more specifically, their hearth fire at the heart of their home. This custom may have African-American and Romani origins, although the Welsh had 'priodas wes ysgub' - 'broomstick weddings'. This may symbolise the 'leap of faith' which the couple are taking as they start their new life together. We can loan a traditional besom for this purpose, if you require one, which we decorate with seasonal flowers and herbs from our own garden. We also supply mini-besoms as keepsakes on request.
Unless requested otherwise, we provide couples with a mead toast from a quaich for them to take their first drink together as husband and wife. This is a traditional Scottish practice from the highlands.
Altars and elementals
We provide a candle (in a hurricane lamp), appropriate incense, and a small altar posy for the altar (the incense and posy are usually homemade using seasonal flowers and herbs from our garden), unless requested otherwise, and we bring a homemade honey cake as a gift for the spirits of the place. A choice of altar cloths are available.
Clothing and costume
You and your guests can wear whatever you want during your ritual, whether that is traditional formal wedding attire, ceremonial robes, or themed costumes. Likewise, as your Celebrants, we can wear formal 'business suits', ceremonial robes, or tartan, according to your preferences.
Although modern Pagans might still refer to their wedding as a handfasting, these days Pagan weddings have no set format; rituals can be conducted within the carefully cast circle of the magical worker, or without grandeur around a shamanic hearth, or simply in a beautiful place which reflects the love couples have for one another.
In addition to a handfasting, couples can exchange traditional wedding rings or other jewellery such as necklaces, bracelets or watches. As such, a modern Pagan wedding can provide the ideal choice for couples who want a wedding that is designed to their own specific tastes and spiritual beliefs.
All types of Paganism
Your ritual can be from any path of modern Paganism and can include themes of your choice. It is equally acceptable for couples to amalgamate themes from a number of paths, your own individual paths, or even none. It is up to the couple to decide how much reference they wish to make to deity, if any.
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