Celtic marriage is a union between you and nature.
At one time, until the end of the Celtic era, the sacred and the everyday were blended. People had faith in nature, they knew that it was it who marked our lives and they also knew that they were part of it. Rituals were sacred. It was normal to gather around the fire to highlight a particular passage in the wheel of the year, to experience the seasons, to celebrate holidays.
The very most important moments in people’s lives were sacred and were celebrated and honored. Through Celtic marriage we seek to recover these ancient traditions, to bring nature back into our lives, into our celebrations, and to reconnect with the sacred and with ourselves.
What was marriage like in Celtic times?
Marriage in Celtic times was a social contract and there was no religious celebration. However, the priestly class (the druids) used to perform their rituals in contact with nature, often in a clearing in the woods or near water sources. In fact, the Celts had a close relationship with the earth; their life was a natural marriage of spirit and matter, and nature was both their material and spiritual home.
What is Celtic marriage like today?
It is precisely because of this close relationship with nature that today we celebrate our rites of passage immersed in the natural world, and with them we also celebrate marriage, thus referred to as the CELTIC MARRIAGE.
When we speak of Celtic marriage, therefore, we are not referring to the rites that the Celts themselves used, since we have no written record of them, but to traditions that we have recovered through our relationship with nature.
How does it take place?
In Celtic marriage we call upon the great Natural Forces: the Great Mother’s feminine Energy and the masculine Energy; and then the four directions and Elements (Air-East, Fire-South, Water-West and finally Earth-North).
We ask these great living, invisible but real “Energies” to converge at one point and bless two people who have decided to join together. The group of guests is gathered in a circle around the bride and groom to demarcate a protected and sacred space. All guests will play an active role. It will be a collective group ritual of love and connection to the whole.
Celtic marriage has its origins in unspoiled places of ancient, wild, ancestral Beauty. Possibly it was celebrated in clearings in the woods and/or in the mountains: in other words, in places of pristine, pure, light energy, where it is easier to contact the Forces of Nature and the Elements. Ancient symbols, related to the Celtic world and having special importance for those getting married, can then be included within the rite.
Here is a list of Celtic rites that you can use within your wedding.
Handfasting. This is a ceremony of ancient tradition that originated during Celtic Christianity in Ireland and Scotland and involves tying the hands of the bride and groom with a piece of cloth or rope. I wrote about handfasting here to explain its history and here to tell you more about it.
Oathstone. A Scottish tradition, the ritual with the oath stone is linked to the ancestors and the natural place in which it takes place. The stone represents the bones of the earth, the past and the structure on which the future will rest. The bride and groom represent the present and ask the elements and the earth to bless them.
Prayer of protection. This rite is very old, stemming from the tradition of drawing a circle of protection around the bride and groom to create a sacred dimension. The circle is an important symbol of community and is drawn as protection (with stones, flowers or simply with a small wood in the sand or earth).
The unity candle. An ancient Irish tradition of the bride and groom lighting three candles together. A ritual more related to fire instead of earth, like the previous ones. The two outer candles represent the families of the bride and groom and the third one that is lit, the new family being formed.
Who officiates a Celtic wedding?
A Celtic wedding is officiated by a person who has a special awareness, sensitivity and connection to himself or herself and to nature. This person is also called a druid or druidess in Celtic culture.