Book Review: A Romantic Guide to Handfasting

As some of you who follow me on instagram, youtube, or this blog know Brad and I got engaged at the beginning of December. Neither of us wanted to have a long, drawn out engagement. Winter is my favorite season; Winter is also a convenient season to host a wedding and reduce the cost of a giant party. So, we set a date at the end of this February. I immediately used this speedy engagement as an excuse to purchase some Pagan handfasting books. Today I want to share with you a review of Anna Franklin’s A Romantic Guide to Handfasting: Rituals, Recipes & Lore.

In the Christian world marriage is seen as a sacrament. It is a holy rite that demands certain traditions and symbols in order to be recognized by the community and God. Our culture has absorbed many of these traditions and symbols into even the most secular marriages. This can leave those of us who wish to honor our Pagan paths in a bit of a pickle. Where do we find traditions that honor the earth or scripts that do not put pressure on couples to satisfy the demands of child bearing heterosexual couples? A Romantic guide to Handfasting attempts to provide some options for Pagans and couples looking for a more offbeat wedding.

The book begins by discussing some wedding basics. All of these organizing questions are, in my opinion, obvious. Most people know that they either want lots of guests or have their handfasting be a more private event. I also think that most couples already have a general idea of what types of vows they are or aren’t comfortable with. This is really only useful to readers who really are starting with no idea what they want.

The next few questions go into more interesting topics. There is a discussion about the way and types of Deities that might be invoked for a handfasting. Details of historical customs and possible themes are also mentioned. I particularly found the pages relating to how time could be invoked for a ritual. Many couples choose to say that their vow is “for this lifetime,” “Until we are parted by death,” or, even more commonly, “while love shall last.” Brad and I have instead opted to avoid a time frame entirely. We have a bit in our vows mentioning that it is in our power to “make and remake” our vows. This is going to be more and more important in a world when divorce is common and families are mixed and varied.

Finally, the book provides examples of rituals and symbols that couples can use in their own rites. Brad and I chose to use of the examples in a part of our handfasting. However, I found that many of these examples didn’t quite hit the inspiration button I was hoping for. I enjoyed how simple and approachable the examples were, though.

For readers looking for basic ideas or looking for an introduction into Pagan wedding rituals, they will find A Romantic Guide to Handfasting to be enjoyable. It probably won’t satisfy the readers looking to officiate for many different couples and need a meaty reference book. It’s handfasting – light not handfasting – all encompassing.

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