The couple desired a dramatic Pagan ceremony that celebrated their deep connection to the land. The ceremony took place by the shore of a lake in early fall with about 100 guests.
Attendants enter and make circle (this is quick, coming one after another without pause in between).
Fire couple (Maid of Honor and Best Man) walks up aisle, split around altar and arch, and meet beyond arch.
Water couple walks up aisle, turn left at altar, stop just beyond guest seats.
Earth couple walks up aisle, turn right at altar, stop just beyond guest seats.
Spirit couple walks up aisle, splits at altar, Bridesmaid goes to the left and stops 3-4 guest seats away from center, Groomsman goes to the right and stops 3-4 guest seats away from center.
Air couple stands back from end of aisle leaving space for Groom and Bride to walk in.
Welcome! Please stand if you are able.
Groom walks through yard, and up aisle, then moves to right around altar to stand to the right side in front of wedding arch.
Bride walks through yard, and up aisle, then moves to left around altar to stand to the left side in front of wedding arch.
Air couple walks part way up aisle until about the same distance from altar as Fire couple.
Create Sacred Space
Please be seated.
Spirit couple comes back to center and a few steps into the aisle so not blocking view of altar and couple.
Friends and family, it is wonderful to be here with you today. I am Reverend Debbie Philp and I am so happy to be officiating today. Please put your cellphones and other technology away so you can be fully present and allow the photographer to capture all of the magical moments.
Bride and Groom are inspired and guided by something Aldo Leopold wrote in “A Sand County Almanac”: “In wildness is the salvation of the world.” So of course, they chose to celebrate with you here, in the wildness of the land they call home, not only their love for each other but their shared love of the Adirondacks. Please take a moment to look around and become present to the beauty of this place and to the fondness you feel for Bride and Groom. Take a breath now and settle into this sacred space. I invite the wedding party to acknowledge the directions and elements and call them in to this ceremony.
Holds up symbol of earth.
[Earth bridesmaid] I call upon the living spirit of the North and the beings of earth to bless this union with bedrock on which to stand and soil in which to root.
Holds up symbol of air.
[Air bridesmaid] I call upon the living spirit of the East and the beings of air to bless this union with winds that bring clarity, inspiration, and wisdom.
Holds up symbol of water.
[Water bridesmaid] I call upon the living spirit of the South and the beings of water to bless this union with the cleansing of flowing streams and the peaceful joy of still lakes.
Holds up symbol of fire.
[Fire bridesmaid] I call upon the living spirit of the West and the beings of fire to bless this union with the eternal flame of warmth and desire.
Holds up symbol of spirit.
[Spirit bridesmaid] I call upon sacred Mother Earth and Grandfather Solar and the endless cycles of rebirth bring us to this day. Bless the binding of these two lovers before you and all creation. May they serve you, and each other, well.
As I am speaking the next part, attendants move, quickly and quietly, to traditional positions alongside bride and groom.
Welcome and Remembering of Loved Ones
On behalf of Bride and Groom, again, welcome, and thank you for being here on this beautiful, sacred land to witness and support them as they unite in marriage. Bride and Groom wanted nothing more than to celebrate this joyful day with you. Some of you have traveled far to be here and we are delighted you could.
Not everyone invited could be with us today, but we feel the presence of those who are absent. Our thoughts are also with loved ones who have passed on, including names. May their spirits be present in our hearts today.
I can think of no setting more perfect for this ceremony, created with your intention of honoring not only each other but the natural world. We only have to look up at the bright sun on this beautiful fall day to know that the sacred wild world loves you back and blesses you as you come together in marriage.
And we only have to look around to know that the Adirondacks are special to you both. Ever since you met in college you’ve been on a shared path of working with and serving the land. Your love for the wild creatures was evident when you shared your favorite songs – the drumming of a grouse, the call of a loon. The rightness of this marriage was affirmed by the bear who appeared to create the perfect moment for you, Groom, to give Bride her engagement ring.
This is both the beginning of a deeper commitment to each other, and also a celebration of your already long relationship. Over nine years you became best friends, partners, and lovers supporting each other to grow into all you are meant to be, individually and as a couple.
Bride and Groom, may the sun continue to shine on you, may the Earth nourish and nurture you, and may you walk hand in hand on this land all your days, in love.
Declaration of Intent
And so, Bride and Groom, if it is your intent to be joined together in marriage, take each other’s hands.
Bride hands bouquet to Maid of Honor. Couple faces each other and joins right hands together and left hands together, forming an infinity sign.
Will you, Groom, welcome Bride as your wife, offering respect, trust, friendship, and love, in good times and in difficult times, as you create your future together?
[Groom] I will.
Will you, Bride, take Groom as your husband, offering respect, trust, friendship, and love, in good times and in difficult times, as you create your future together?
[Bride] I will.
Bride and Groom continue to hold hands for the handfasting.
In a wedding, symbols are important and helpful, because they serve as a powerful reminder of this time and place, the feelings shared, and the promises made, when the memories of those start to fade over time. Handfasting is a symbol like this. It is one of the world’s oldest wedding traditions. In fastening their hands together, Bride and Groom symbolize their commitment to journey through life hand-in-hand.
Our couple has asked some special people in their lives to present the cords.
Person 1 comes forward with the cord and lays it over their joined hands with the ends hanging.
[Person 1] These are the hands of your best friend, full of love for you. These are the hands that will work alongside yours, as together you build your future.
Person 1 sits.
Person 2 comes forward with the cord and lays it over their joined hands with the ends hanging.
[Person 2] These are the hands that will love you and cherish you through the years, and comfort you like no other. These are the hands that will wipe tears from your eyes, tears of sorrow and tears of joy.
Person 2 sits.
Person 3 comes forward with the cord and lays it over their joined hands with the ends hanging.
[Person 3] These are the hands that will tend the land with you. And these are the hands that, even when wrinkled and aged, will still be reaching for yours.
Person 3 sits.
I tie the cords so they will tighten into an infinity knot when hands released.
Bride and Groom, as I fasten your hands together and tie the knot, I invite you to reflect on the joy and responsibility that awaits you. From today, you are bound together as lifelong partners in this ongoing journey of love.
Bride and Groom, do you bind yourself to each other?
[Bride] Groom, I bind myself to you.
[Groom] Bride, I bind myself to you.
I will hold the ends of the cords and tighten the knot as you remove your hands.
May you keep these knotted cords as a visible reminder of your promises to one another.
I will hold the cords until the end.
Exchange of Rings
May we have the rings, please.
Best Man hands rings to me.
Another wedding symbol is the ring, representing commitment and love that, like a circle, has no beginning and no end. Bride and Groom, let these rings that you exchange be an outward sign of your love and remind you always of what you have promised today.
Groom, please place this ring on Bride’s finger and repeat after me: “Bride, I give this ring to you as a sign of my devotion and love.”
Bride, please place this ring on Groom’ finger and repeat after me: “Groom, I give this ring to you as a sign of my devotion and love.”
Bride and Groom, today your relationship is also symbolized through the pouring of these two containers of sand. Sand represents the land, the soil, and all of nature. Separated, the sand represents you, Groom and Bride, individually – all that you were, all that you are, and all that you will ever be.
Bride and Groom turn and walk to altar.
As these two are poured into the third container, the individual containers of sand will no longer exist but will become one.
Bride and Groom together pour their containers of sand into the larger one.
Just as these grains of sand can never be separated, our hope for you today is that your lives together will be blended, and you will be one with each other and with the land, forever.
From Robin Wall Kimmerer’s “Braiding Sweetgrass”:
“Being naturalized to place means to live as if this is the land that feeds you, as if these are the streams from which you drink, that build your body and fill your spirit. To become naturalized is to know that your ancestors lie in this ground. Here you will give your gifts and meet your responsibilities. To become naturalized is to live as if the future matters, to take care of the land as if our lives and the lives of all our relatives depend on it. Because they do.”
Pronouncement, Goblet, and Kiss
Bride and Groom, you have publicly committed yourselves to each other in marriage. And so, by the power vested in me by the State of the New York, it is my joy and privilege to pronounce you husband and wife.
Bride and Groom step apart, I step to altar, pour mead into the goblet, lift the goblet, step back. Bride and Groom step together and take goblet.
Now drink to the love you’ve shared in the past, to your love in the present, and to your love in the future and forever more!
Bride and Groom sip together from the goblet, then pour some onto the land as a gratitude offering. They put the goblet back on the altar and kiss.
Maid of Honor and Best Man move forward. Maid of Honor hands Bride her bouquet. Groom takes Bride’s hand. They move to the left around the altar, then down the aisle toward the bonfire.
Maid of Honor and Best Man go around the altar on their respective sides, then meet and walk down the aisle together, following Bride and Groom. The rest of the wedding party does the same behind them. Parents and family members (whoever is up front) follow after.