This ritual completes a process by which two people, with the help of the Sacred Grove and other trusted friends and family, bind themselves in life partnership through commitments to each other and with the community. If all requirements are duly met for legal marriage according to the laws of the State in which this rite occurs, the statutory forms can be signed as well.
Altars are placed at the periphery of the space to be used, at the cardinal points of the compass. Seating is arranged in concentric circles to within three feet of the altars, with at least a nine-foot diameter clear space in the center and radial openings allowing access to the altars.
If the South altar can be placed at near the base of a large tree and the North altar with a view of Standing Stones, the setting is ideal. If this is not feasible, then a potted tree and other greenery should be placed behind the South altar (with respect to the center of the circle) and a large stone on or behind the North altar. A sword or athame is placed on the East altar; a chalice is placed on the West altar.
In addition to the committing partners, active participants include: Bard, Priest, Priestess, a young Maiden, a young Hero, and four committed couples designated to the Quarters. It can be particularly meaningful if the Quarter couples include the parents of the committing partners and other family members and others who have helped the partners prepare for this rite of passage.
The Quarters, Priest, Priestess, and Bard may serve as ushers to help guests to their seats as they arrive, or that office may be assigned to others. Seats are reserved for the participants and closest family in attendance. Music may be provided to set the mood.
All but the committing Partners, Maiden, and Hero are seated in circle; Grove candle stands unlit on North altar. Quarter candles (unlit), matches, and water or sand to suppress flames are on the Quarter altars.
Partners will have prepared for this rite of passage by composing their vows and ring consecrations during a period of discernment in the care of the Grove.
Required special tools include:
- a Scroll of Binding that documents time, place, and preparation for the rite, the vows, and room for signatures of all present;
- a pen;
- a Peace Candle;
- a small table (a wooden TV table works well).
Parents, Grove, and guests have been alerted to the opportunities to offer gifts (material or otherwise) to Partners.
Bard rises and speaks from center:
We gather tonight to open the Veil between the worlds, to seek the Lord and Lady, and to experience the Mystery of Joining.
(names Partners), after all due consideration, have freely requested and prepared for this rite of passage to commit themselves to each other in partnership for life.
Hear this warning. To be touched by the Lord and Lady is to be changed, and that change ripples outward from this center through all the worlds. If you open yourself to Their touch, you put at risk your comfortable view of the world. You risk experiencing a sense of awe to which worship is the natural response. You risk discovering Deity as your Lover and your Beloved.
Bard lights Grove candle.
Let none remain who is unwilling to be changed by Their touch.
Marking the Circle
Committing Partners enter between North and East altars, preceded by Maiden scattering flower petals in their path and followed by Hero carrying Scroll of Binding and pen. One Partner carries Peace Candle. Each Partner carries the other’s ring.
Procession circles deosil outside the Quarter altars. Peace Candle is left on West altar when passing. On return to East, Hero leaves Scroll and pen on the East altar while Maiden leads Partners to center and scatters any remaining petals around their feet.
All rise and remain facing the center.
Claiming the Space
One member of each couple at the Quarters delivers the standard Claimings.
Sealing the Circle
Once all other Preparations are completed, all present within, the Circle is sealed:
We have stepped beyond time, to a place not of Earth. In the presence of the Lord and Lady, we join together and are one.
Beginning with the Bard, each person takes the hand of the person to the left, repeating We are one. (Quarters fill the altar gaps and start the hand-taking on each of the other concentric circles.)
When the circles have been joined all around, all repeat together, We are one.
The circle remains permeable, in particular with respect to those with special needs.
Inviting the Guardians
At each Quarter, the member of the couple who did not Claim the Space invites the Guardians.
East speaks from center, facing the East altar:
To this circle of commitment and honor, I call for one to stand in the place of the Sword, to teach us courage and discernment, and to uphold the pillar of the East.
Guardian of the Sword, Hail and Welcome!
All: Hail and Welcome!
West speaks from center, facing the West altar:
To this circle of love and bounty, I call for one to stand in the place of the Cup, to teach us compassion and understanding, and to uphold the pillar of the West.
Guardian of the Cup, Hail and Welcome!
All: Hail and Welcome!
South speaks from center, facing the South altar:
To this circle of honor and connection, I call for one to stand in the place of the Tree, to teach us of life and change, and to uphold the pillar of the South.
Guardian of the Tree, Hail and Welcome!
All: Hail and Welcome!
North speaks from center, facing the North altar:
To this circle of mystery and celebration, I call for one to stand in the place of the Stones, to teach us reverence and ecstasy, and to uphold the pillar of the North.
Guardian of the Standing Stones, Hail and Welcome!
All: Hail and Welcome!
We who are gathered today are but part of the community of love and support that sustains us all and will support [names Partners] in their life together. We call to mind those who would be here. We welcome all friendly Spirits, Ancestors, Guides, and Beings to lend your presence and support, and we bid you hail and welcome.
All: Hail and welcome!
Welcoming the Lord and Lady
Priest invokes Lady.
Priestess invokes Lord.
All sit. The Partners are seated in the innermost circle.
And so we are here, in the presence of the Divine and surrounded by the love that connects us all, one with the other.
Bard leads a brief grounding and centering, perhaps with quiet music.
Here between the worlds we are together in sacred space, at the center of All, in the presence of the Lord and Lady. They are here with us, whether we perceive Them or not, for this is the Sacred Grove – Their home and ours. We are always welcome here.
Let us be open to Their presence and to our shared connections with the Divine and with each other in silence and joy.
A period of silent waiting ensues, to be broken only when the Partners are ready to formalize their commitment to each other.
When they are ready, the Partners stand and move to the center. Facing each other, first one speaks the words of commitment to the other; then the other speaks the words of commitment to the first.
Each places a ring upon the other’s finger.
Partners’ chairs are moved to the center, and they sit together.
A small table1 is brought and placed before them. The Scroll of Binding and pen are moved from the East altar and placed on the table.
Our first gift to you, [addresses Partners as they wish to be known jointly], is this thoughtfully prepared Scroll of Binding, which sets forth the particulars of this time and place and the vows you have made to each other and sealed with the exchange of rings in the presence of the Divine and this company. It awaits only your signatures to seal your binding.
Partners sign their vows, each holding the scroll steady for the other.
Priest takes up scroll and reads it aloud.
By your own free will and intent, you are thrice bound.
Each of us present will sign this during our celebration tonight, bearing witness to your spoken vows, your exchange of rings, and your signatures.
Priestess brings Peace Candle.
Our second gift to you, [addresses Partners as they wish to be known jointly], is this Candle of Peace. [describes its journey from store to present]. It has been blessed, anointed, consecrated, and decorated with all the powers and love of your friends and family to serve as a continuing reminder of the community that surrounds and supports you – and of your duty to participate in that support by asking for the help you need in honesty and trust. Thus are we all bound in the Sacred Web of Life.
Whenever one or the other of you is hurting, feels wronged, needs comfort from the other, or wishes to rekindle the joy of this day, light the Peace Candle.
If you see the Peace Candle has been lit, stop. Ground and center yourself. Sit with your partner and reach out for your memories of today, of your vows to each other, and of the good times and bad that you have shared. Call upon the Divine by whatever names you know. Bring yourself into the Sacred Grove in spirit, alone or together, for the Lord and Lady are part of this community, too, and you will always find welcome in Their home. May your love and Theirs bring you peace.
Now, while we all enjoy the peace and joy of this moment, contemplating the other gifts that might be laid at your feet, take this candle, together, around to the four altars. Light it together, taking the blessings of Spirit into your hearts, and drip a little wax from each of the candles into yours.
Partners carry the candle around (deosil) and return it to the small table.
We are here in the Sacred Grove, surrounded by friends seen and unseen. Let us make ourselves at home and enjoy the company for a while. Feel free to share your own messages or those received in spirit – or enjoy in silence.
Priest and Priestess remain responsible for bringing the group together when it is time to leave.
Thanking the Lord and Lady
Priest thanks Lady
Priestess thanks Lord.
Thanking the Guardians
Quarters thank Guardians.
Bard announces the feast to follow and asks all present to find time during the sharing of food and drink to come and sign the Scroll of Binding.
Opening the Circle
Bard comes to center.
The rite is ended, the circle is open. May the blessing of the Lord and Lady be with us all. So mote it be.
All: So mote it be.
Bard snuffs Grove candle.