My dream wedding involves having celtic traditions intermixed with a Christian wedding. However, my fiance doesn’t like this because he says it’s mixing two themes. He’d rather know more about it and then he says that he’d think about comibing the two. It’s mostly the handfasting that I want mixed with my wedding, but I would like to include perhaps a couple more traditions of the Celts. What would you recommend would be the best traditions to include without “mixing” themes or offending anyone?
Reverend Susanna Stefanachi Macomb
Author of Wedding Celebrations, A Practical Guide for Couples
I have done many Christian ceremonies that include Celtic traditions—beautifully and successfully. It is not mixing themes, in my opinion, but rather adding culture to religion. “Never instead of, always in addition to.”
You may include a traditional Irish wedding blessing within your ceremony. The Irish are famous for their blessings! You may include Celtic music or bagpipes. (The Celtic cup would be a difficult ritual one to include, as it would be confused with communion—and may offend religious Christians.) Respect and sensitivity are key.
Here from my book, Joining Hands and Hearts, the Celtic handfasting–which includes a more ecumenical way for a Christian ceremony.
“I have done many variations on the handfasting, which can be simple or elaborate, ecumenical, humanist or cultural in tone. Typically, the hand binding fits most comfortably after the couple’s declaration of intent and before they take their vows. Here are some suggestions:
The basic Handfasting. If the celebrant is using her prayer stole, she may first take the stole in her hands.
Celebrant: “This prayer stole indicates that something within yourselves yet infinitely greater than yourselves has joined you together. [Or: “This prayer stole indicates that God has joined you together.”] As your hands are bound, so are your hearts, minds, bodies and souls.”
The celebrant wraps their hands, closes her eyes in a few moments of silent prayer, and then unwraps their hands. The ritual may end there, or the celebrant may say the following words, adapted from a Celtic handfasting. Supporting the couple’s joined hands with her right hand from below:
Celebrant: “As you hold the hands of your beloved, listen to what I am about to say. Above you are the stars, below you is the earth, as time does pass, remember: Like the earth should your love be firm. Like a star should your love be constant, imbued with the light of God [or: imbued with light]. Let the powers of the mind and of the intellect guide you in your marriage. Let the strength of your wills bind you together. Let the power of love and desire make you happy, and the strength of your dedication make you inseparable.”
Anointing and wrapping of the hands. The anointing of the hands with oil is a ritual I have developed. Anointing marks a rite of passage into the new and sacred life of marriage, considered by many an ordained life. Usually, I combine the anointing with the wrapping or binding of the hands.
Celebrant: “Since it is your intention to join in marriage, kindly extend your hands, palms facing upward.”
The celebrant places her hands, palm to palm and one at a time, upon the hands of the bride and groom.
Celebrant: “Your hands represent giving and receiving. I now anoint them into your new life. May your giving and receiving never end.”
She blesses the oil and then may anoint the hands with a single touch or with the sign of infinity (a sideways figure eight). (In a Christian marriage, she may use the sign of the cross.) She then asks the couple to please join hands, and wraps their hands loosely together in her prayer stole or the designated piece of cloth.
Including family members. If the mothers are being honored at another ritual during the service, such as in the lighting of the unity candle, you may wish to involve the fathers at this point by asking for their blessing on the union. Alternatively, all parents—perhaps stepparents as well—may come forward. In one large Latino family, all eleven of the couple’s brothers and sisters came up one by one to bless the marriage. I encouraged each to say a few personal words to the couple; there were moments of tears, of laughter, and of reverence. It was deeply meaningful for this bride and groom.
Celebrant: “Will the fathers of the bride and groom please come forward?
“Your children ask your blessing upon their marriage. Do you bless this union? [They respond: Yes.] Then will you each place your right hand upon the hands of your children and join me in a silent prayer.”
The celebrant places one hand on top of the fathers’ hands and one hand below the couple’s hands, in a cradling or cupping gesture. There follows a silent prayer (thirty seconds or so), or the celebrant may say a brief prayer. She then thanks the fathers and asks them to be seated.
Holding hands in a moment of silence. If you do not like the idea of your hands being bound, your celebrant may simply hold your hands in a reverent moment. After the declaration of intent, the celebrant asks: “Since it is your intention to join in marriage, will you now join hands and with your hands your hearts.” These words are from Shakespeare. Then she holds your enjoined hands with both of hers—gently, reverently, with closed eyes, for a moment of silent prayer and blessing. This is a wonderful and reverent prelude to the vows. It focuses and prepares the couple to say the powerful words to follow.”
I hope this helps!
With loving blessings,
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