by Michael Dolan,

Your handfasting is one of the most important events of your life, and you have every right to have the kind of ceremony that you want to remember twenty years from now.The sometimes-hard reality is, however, that while we would all like to practice our faith publicly, many of us still feel uncomfortable doing so. Very few of us come from an all-Pagan family. Some are still in the broom closet, and some have a policy of simply not bringing up the subject of religion with loved ones who just wouldn’t understand. While you may not agree with your fiancé’s parents on the subject of the Rapture, marriage is a package deal: They are about to become part of your family, and that sometimes means compromises in the name of civility.

This does not mean that you must have the church wedding your families want. It does mean that if there is a way to have your Pagan ritual without being disowned, you may want to consider it. Luckily, this is a situation where others’ ignorance can actually work to your advantage, as in: What they don’t know can’t hurt them. With a little forethought, it is entirely possible to put together a ceremony that will have your Wiccan guests nodding in agreement, and leave your Baptist in-laws none the wiser. Here are a few tips for planning the handfasting of your dreams without depriving your parents of the wedding they always wanted. Um, wanted for you, that is…

Something Old, Something New:

First, decide on what elements of the ritual are non-negotiable. This gives you a good starting point. Then decide what outside influences you consider acceptable: Many elements of a church wedding, such as the white dress, the walk down the aisle, the best man and bridesmaid, have become like Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, in that they are so embedded in our cultural heritage that they have lost all their original connotations. You may feel differently about different elements. Start by making a list of all the things you want in your ceremony, and sort it in order of importance. Then, make a list of all the things your relatives will expect to see, and sort it according to how drastically each item relates to your own priorities.

Remember that just because you include an element of ritual in the process does not mean you need to explain or even show that part of the ceremony to the guests. How often does anyone further than the third row ever hear the vows without a PA system? Simply speak softly – the only people who truly need to hear your vows are the two of you, the officiant, and your own gods. What the rest of your guests can’t hear won’t offend them. Weddings are often all day events. There is no reason you can’t cast your circle or call the quarters at dawn – long before anyone else arrives. This is also a good time to make offerings or perform a divination.

Many Pagan elements have found their way into other religions’ rituals. The lighting of candles and the burning of incense are so widely used in weddings that they will hardly be noticed. Drinking together from a vessel of some sort is also widely practiced, and without your explaining the true intent, the guests will see all of these practices as comparable to their own beliefs.

House of God (s) :

No, not a church – we know better than that, and believe it or not, so do they. An outdoor wedding is the first thing a Pagan couple generally thinks of, and happily, it is universally appropriate for any religion. If private land is not an option, most state parks have facilities available. They are often reasonably priced, and many are likely to have restroom facilities and some sort of handicap access. Make sure there is a covered area, or that you can put up a canopy in case of rain.

Many ski areas make their money from private functions during the warmer weather. If it is within your budget, I strongly recommend this for any handfastings between Beltaine and Samhain. If functions are a regular part of their business, the typical ski resort will likely have not only a beautiful outdoor setting, but also banquet facilities, liquor license, catering services and a wedding coordinator. (My wife and I did this, and it worked wonderfully. They took care of the whole reception and worked with us on everything else. We had a perfect wedding, and all things considered, they were reasonably priced.)

Having an outdoor wedding also allows for creativity with the layoutof

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