Cat Treadwell is a Druid Priest, author, professional Chaplain and volunteer for The Pagan Federation and The Druid Network. She and her partner perform handfasting ceremonies throughout the UK, providing couples with a beautiful and meaningful alternative to a standard wedding.
What is a handfasting ceremony? A handfasting is a traditional wedding ceremony in which a couple declare their vows of union to each other. This can be personal, between couple and priest, or in the sight of family, friends and loved ones.
Why are so many contemporary couples choosing to have a handfasting instead of a standard wedding? Such rites are increasingly undertaken by couples looking for a wedding that is ‘more meaningful’. Rather than a church or registry office ceremony that has little relevance and may seem to be simply reciting ‘I do’, couples are looking to tailor their own day to suit their personal beliefs.
What do we have to do? Every handfasting ceremony is unique. Secular or spiritual, the day is entirely personal to the couple themselves, from location and setting to the rite itself. The only definite requirement is that the couple must declare their vows to each other! They will then be joined together, an act usually symbolised by a literal ‘hand-fasting’, as their hands are connected by a cord in the traditional manner of our ancestors.
Where can we have the ceremony, if there’s no church? Anywhere! We have performed handfastings in hotels, on clifftops, in parks and public gardens, as well as at Stonehenge and in an Iron Age roundhouse. Each location has held particular importance to the couple themselves, and that is the most important factor in making it special.
Is this legal marriage? Sadly, handfasting ceremonies do not yet have legal standing. However, this allows couples to undertake the option of personal vows that matter only to themselves, to be renewed every ‘year and a day’ or as they see fit; or to have a small, private registry office meeting to sign the necessary documents, with the ‘proper wedding’ being more of a celebration!
So what does a Druid Priest do? My partner and I provide full ‘support’ services as any priest would – from initial agreement to the day itself (and beyond!).
As Druids, we work from a standard contemporary pagan ritual ‘template’ for the ceremony, but this is always adapted to the specific needs of the couple. It can incorporate personal beliefs, practices or deities, or remain entirely neutral.
This is not just a service for the wedding day – I’m available via email, telephone or in person (where possible) to discuss requirements beforehand. I do usually prefer to meet couples in person, to determine that they are happy with me and vice versa; then I’m on hand as needed for any issues that may arise, from a dress not fitting to pre-wedding nerves.
I promise a 100% commitment to every couple, and am proud to have remained friends with many after the honour of assisting with one of the most important days of their lives together.
If you would like me to officiate your special day, please email me (including preferred date and location): email@example.com.
Cat has featured on Radio 2’s ‘Drive Time’ with Simon Mayo discussing Handfastings, and is also featured on the ‘Brides Up North‘ website. She is a regular guest on Radio Nottingham and was filmed for BBC News as both Pagan Hospital Chaplain and member of East Midlands Ambulance Service. She commented on the Summer Solstice for ‘The Independent.’
Photographs and video by Peacock Pix.
‘Hugest possible thanks for your beautiful ceremony yesterday and for being so very patient and kind to us, it was utterly perfect and we were really touched by it. It was beautiful and very moving, and said everything we really hoped it could express. Thank you so very much.’ – Anna
‘This is the amazing lady that performed my Handfasting this year. As well as our Celebrant, she and her partner have become wonderful friends and I am so blessed to have them in my life.’ – Tony