Handfasting ceremony after a traditional Catholic ceremony? Church will not allow a handfasting, but we really want to incorporate

Hi all!

So, here’s my dilemma. I’m Traditional Roman Catholic, and the Nuptial Ceremony and Mass are set in stone. We just went to my fiance’s friend’s wedding and they had a handfasting, and we both determined that we’d really like to have something like that, but after a little research on the subject, I found that it’s considered a pagan tradition, which my church will absolutely not allow during the wedding. However, after some reading up on it from my Moral Theology book, I determined that as long as we don’t view it as the wedding, and simply use the handfasting as a public declaration of the vows we took at the wedding, then the Church shouldn’t have a problem with it.

Beyond the Church not letting us incorporate the handfasting into the Nuptial Ceremony, many of our friends and much of his family will become seriously disgruntled at having to sit through an hour-long Nuptial Mass. What I’m trying to determine is if it’s alright to:
1) have a semi-private Catholic wedding early morning, with just our immediate family and his two best friends (who would actually not have a problem with kneeling through the whole mass), and then have a public, late-morning handfasting followed by the reception.
2) only invite our extended family and other friends to the handfasting and reception.

We both understand that we can’t treat the handfasting as a second wedding, and we wouldn’t lead our guests to think that the handfasting is the wedding either. We plan on wording the handfasting so everyone present can understand that we would already be in a blessed marriage, but simply announcing our vows in a way that has more meaning to us and our closest friends than a bunch of latin prayers that no one other than my immediate family even has a chance of understanding.

Well, now that I’ve written down what we’re planning, I’ve confused myself a little. But, whether or not we have a handfasting, we’re still marrying in the Church.

Rebecca Black, Etiquette By Rebecca

Dear Sarah,

I understand what you want to do, but it is still creating two wedding ceremonies. It might not seem so since you are focused on your Catholic wedding being the “real” wedding. But, many consider their hand-fasting in the same way. So, it really is two weddings. Even if your guests are told that they are not witnessing the real wedding, they are sitting through one that appears to be one, as it would be with others who choose that ceremony. So, knowing this, what would you want for your guests? What would you want them to share? I can’t really tell you what to do, but this might not be exactly what you would want your for your guests. Perhaps, if it was folded into the events of the reception, it might not be viewed negatively…not sure. Those who view these ceremonies seriously just might not view this as respectful behavior and those who view them as fluff might wonder why they are sitting through it if you are already married.

Lots to consider. Please keep all of this in mind when planning.

Best to you,

Father Ken Zelten OFM, Senior Pastor Ministers in a Minute

As you know the Roman Catholic Church is quite rigid in how a ceremony is performed, and what is allowed. The hand fasting ceremony can be beautiful, and is becoming more a part of modern wedding trends, however as you mentioned, has Celtic pagan origins. At best, you run the risk of ostracizing friends or family. Perhaps you can consider the “Lasso Ceremony” that has been tradition in many Latino weddings. It may give you the symbolism you’re looking for… without the good Father recommending you as a candidate for exorcism. 🙂

Whatever you decide, its your wedding…and its going to be BEAUTIFUL!