Sarah & Chris' pagan handfasting food-sharing wedding

By on Apr. 26th

The offbeat bride: Sarah, Lush Handmade Cosmetics

Her offbeat partner: Chris

Location & date of wedding: Meerbrook Village Hall/Green, Leek, Staffordshire, UK — 2nd October 2010

What made our wedding offbeat: Chris and I moved in together the night we met, and I found out I was pregnant with our first son, Jacob, two weeks later. We are quite spontaneous, although everything that has happened to us has "just felt right."

Four years on, and we decided to get hitched. We don't have a lot of money and what little we have we spend on our kids Jacob and Noah. So we needed a budget wedding that was special to us.

The day we decided to get married, I booked the earliest slot at the register office, which gave us a little under three months. I planned to have a very low key "legal bit" and then something more symbolic that we could ask our friends to come to.

I booked a little village hall in the village I was born in, nestled underneath the Roaches at the southern end of the Peak District. It cost £70 and they offered us the use of the Village green also.

Most of my friends live in my computer, so they were meeting my family for the first time, and some meeting each other for the first time, too! Everyone brought their beautiful children and they all played happily together. The boys and I had set up a children's corner with some of their toys — it was a big success.

When I announced our intentions to our friends, I was suddenly inundated with offers of assistance. Soon most of our "to do" list was covered by friends and family — music provided by a friend's laptop with a personalized playlist, home-brewed beer, money towards a dress, and a whole range of food and cakes.

A close friend knitted and beaded a six foot-long handfasting scarf, which tied together our hands, and another friend provided home-brewed Mead for the ceremony. We were struggling for a photographer, and our officiant asked one of her very talented friends to step in, and she was amazing.

I'd just started learning to use polymer clay, so I made my own cakes and toppers, with the help of my mother-in-law, who provided lots of pudding for a range of tastes. I handmade all of our invites and asked the guest to bring food instead of a gift, something home made, special to them — their favorite food.

Everybody ate, and raved about each other's recipes. Afterwards everybody wanted the recipes from each other, so I decided to collect them and make a recipe booklet. The internet community, Little Lost Lushies (LLL), that most of my friends are from, have a charity market and raise money for a charity chosen by a vote during the weeks running up to Christmas. This time, we had chosen SANDS, The Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity. A lot of women on LLL have used their services, and neonatal death seems to have affected a large proportion of women, either through miscarriage or stillbirth. It is a charity very close to my heart, so I decided to sell the booklet in aid of SANDS. Soon local paper and radio picked up the Handfasting Recipe Book story, and we have raised over £200. Recipe books have gone all over Europe, Japan, the USA, and Canada.

Tell us about the ceremony: We decided to have a handfasting. We have followed a Pagan path for a while and this was the little kick we needed to confirm this to ourselves and each other. I stumbled upon a fabulous Druid Celebrant, Cat Treadwell, who we instantly knew was perfect.

The wedding day was sandwiched between two days of solid rain, but we had a fine clear day for the wedding, and we were handfasted, bare foot, in the dewy grass on the green. Four important friends held lit candles for our four directions: earth, fire, water, and air. Our son, Jacob, handed his daddy a pebble, which we used to represent the land of our ancestors.

During the handfasting, the ancestors whose paths have created us were honoured, as well as our parents, brothers and sister, and our future. Our children were all mentioned and blessed and we gave gifts to our parents and sons.

After Cat blessed our handfasting, we broke bread and poured mead. The mead and bread was first offered to the earth, then to the ancestors, and then we offered it to each other and shared our first meal together. Lastly, we shared the mead and bread with all present; each person took the loaves and cup and passed them around the circle.

Our biggest challenge: I expected it to be difficult getting some family members to understand the Pagan bit, but in the end it was ok!

The biggest challenge for us was actually getting to the decision of getting hitched! It took us four years and two kids!

My favorite moment: The giving and sharing meant so much to us. It was truly fantastic to see the talent and ingenuity of our friends come to life. It made us feel very special.

My funniest moment: Cat finished the ceremony with "and let it be so" and my youngest son, Noah, blew a huge raspberry. Hilarious!

Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? Chris' vows. He's not a public speaker and isn't a man of many words, but his vows were fantastic, and reduced most of the women to tears.

My advice for offbeat brides:

  • Be resourceful. You don't need to spend a fortune; you can look after the environment and still have a fantastic and inexpensive time.
  • Have a go at making things yourself — it's fun and the feeling is fantastic.
  • Your special day doesn't have to be just one day. Find a way of giving something back: plant a tree, make a recipe book, give a layer of your cake to an old folks' home, carry on the circle of giving.

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!