Handfasting wedding ceremonies

Handfasting wedding ceremonies

Handfasting Wedding Rituals

A handfasting wedding ceremony is just one way to say I do.

Handfasting rituals

Since ancient times couples have stood together in the ceremony of marriage. There are many rituals that have lasted centuries, that symbolise a couple’s love and commitment. The handfasting ceremony dates back to the time of the ancient Celts. It was often used to acknowledge the beginning of a trial period of a year and a day during which time a couple were literally bound together – hand fasted. It was, however, a temporary agreement, which could be made permanent after the trial period if both parties agreed.  It is from this wedding tradition that we know of the expression to “tie the knot”, or to “get hitched”.

Handfasting or tie the knot

Nowadays, the handfasting ceremony is used symbolically, as part of the declaration and wedding vows. It is a way of asking your intentions.

Would you like to Tie the Knot?

Today a couple can embrace an age-old marriage tradition, making it your own in a modern day ceremony. In a handfasting wedding ritual, a cord is tied about your hands as you take your vows.

In this handfasting ritual, the couple answer a series of questions. For each question a binding, for each binding a promise.

Once you are all tied up, as your marriage celebrant I can release the cords.  For in fact, it is your promises that bind you not the cords!  But you get to keep the cord … for fun!

Thanks to the wonderful  Luke Going for the beautiful images of this touching moment. His work is unique.

Cate and Dave were married by the lake.  They wanted a relaxed wedding, something a little different, not churchy, but laid back like themselves.  They embraced a Handfasting to express their vows.

How does it work?

Here are some ways to approach a handfasting ceremony.  Of course I am here with many examples at my fingertips, a whole list of vows for you to choose from, and a wealth of creative spirit to write for you.  Let’s mix it up, modernise the sentiments and reference the traditions that you want to hold onto.

Traditional Handfasting vows

handfasting with coloured cords
handfasting ribbons and cords
ribbons for handfasting

The traditional handfasting promises are a series of questions.  They acknowledge that life is not always easy, that relationships sometimes have unintentional outcomes.  But a good intent underlies the love.The classic questions begin like so:

Celebrant to groom: Will you cause her pain?
Groom: I may

Celebrant to groom: Is that your intention?
Groom: No

Celebrant to bride: Will you cause him pain?
Bride: I may

Celebrant to bride: Is that your intention?
Bride: No

Celebrant to both: Will you share each other’s pain and seek to ease it?
Both: Yes

Celebrant to both: Please join your hands.

The first cord is draped across the bride and grooms hands.

Celebrant to bride: Will you share his laughter?
Bride: Yes

Celebrant to groom: Will you share her laughter?
Groom: Yes

Celebrant to both: Will both of you look for the brightness in life and the positive in each other?
Both: Yes

Celebrant: And so the binding is made

Modern handfasting questions

But you can devise modern handfasting promises instead.  Something along the lines of:

Do you vow in your married life together to continually break through your pre-conceived views of each other and see clearly.
Couple: We do

Do you vow to act wisely and compassionately with one another and with all beings.
Couple: We do

In my role as a writer, I can chat with you and then devise a series of questions that suit your very own values and ideals for approaching your relationship.

Romantic Handfastings

Or perhaps you’d prefer something rather romantic.

Will you promise your deepest love, your fullest devotion, your tenderest care, and your faithfulness through the pressures of the present and the uncertainties of the future?

Bruce & Emma: We pledge

Do you promise to be an equal loving partner, in a loving, honest relationship, standing by each other’s side, making a shelter of your heart, a home of your arms, encouraging your partner’s daily endeavours?

Bruce & Emma: We pledge

As you face the future together will you pledge to grow in your love for each other, to nurture the love that already is, honour and cherish each other, being there always?

Bruce & Emma: We pledge 

Handfasting ribbons 

You can get quite creative with the handfasting wedding vow format.  Imagine having a different coloured ribbon for each promise. And each wedding promise sculpted around the meanings of those colours.

Red for passion and love

For example the handfasting could become a statement instead of a question:

I promise to love passionately and unwaveringly with my heart, my body and my soul.

A pink ribbon could symbolise unity, honour, truth, romance, and happiness, with the statement:

I promise you my undying love, honesty and commitment in creating and nourishing our loving equal partnership.

A yellow ribbon would mean charm, confidence, joy, balance

Black could equal strength, wisdom, vision and or success

Green stands for prosperity, health, abundance and fertility

Blue often represents tranquillity, patience, understanding and a safe journey

Of course purple is for power, healing, sanctity and sentimentality.

Wedding Handfasting vows
coloured ribbons for handfasting

Contact me now to chat about your handfasting ceremony.

DIY wedding at the family property

DIY wedding at the family property

with Sunshine Coast marriage celebrant – Kari

So much love, so much love, so much love.  Wow what a wedding ceremony to remember!

Here on the Sunshine Coast, there are many perfect places for a wedding.  But none seems quite more perfect for a family wedding than the property where one grew up, played by the creek, planted trees, and created memories.  This wedding day created new loving memories for Renee and Brendan on the family farm.

The marriage ceremony was held down by the creek, in an idyllic grassy glade surrounded by forest and the sounds of whip birds and tusked frogs.  A group of friends and family had created a magical haven.  Let’s wander in and have a peek before the guests arrive…..

A stump by the entry was garlanded with festoons of newly blossomed jasmine and the welcome sign.


Daisies were tucked into the bark of trees, at the foot of saplings or behind ears.



A circle of hay surrounded by white roses and daisies tucked into the ground formed a magic fairy circle for a sacred ceremony.


Hay bales were arranged in arcs for seating.  More hay was sprinkled underfoot for an aisle.


Local musician, Lee Hardisty played pied piper and led the guests to the ceremony, along by the creek.  His pure sax sound drifted over the forest, gently encouraging a meander to the forest glade.

Enter the Bride and Groom.  Groom softly greeted the guests.  Kari –  the celebrant sent hime for a wander with his mates while she briefed the guests on a surprise ending for the ceremony.

And, the bridal entourage arrived on the trailer of the tractor.  Daughter, Peaches and her cousin walked down the aisle, to Daddy.

Renee walked down the aisle on her father’s arm to the exquisite sounds of thumb piano sweetly played by Lee.

Renee and Brendan could not have been more in love.


As a marriage celebrant on the Sunshine Coast hinterland, I witness many marriage vows; all heartfelt and meaningful. But on this wedding day, Renee’s vows to her beloved Sav nearly brought me to tears.

Amongst other things she promised to “love you beyond fear, judgement, expectations and anger….. I promise to love you so hard it changes the world…. I promise to hold you when your heart weeps, to plant trees with you and watch them grow, to help you know your own power.”

After the ceremony, guests followed the music back to the farm shed, replete with hanging floral garland, tables of colour, and taste.DIY_wedding_ceremony_venue12



DIY wedding decor


And they partied on in the moonlight, starlight and radiance of their family, friends and love.



Thanks to Maggie Buckle for some of the professional images.  Instagram #@maggijeann

The early ones are my own, irresistibly taken while waiting for the guests.

This is what they said about Kari’s celebrant service:

Kari is a beautiful, warm, kind and connected woman with a sophisticated confidence that makes one feel safe in her presence. Although we had only met her in person once before our wedding day, we knew that she would understand our love and sincerely appreciate the magic that abides in such a ceremony. Her creative heart and generous demeanour left a mark on our hearts at such a special moment in our journey. Thank you Kari.”   Renee & Brendan

A Russian Wedding tradition

A Russian Wedding tradition

We do not live by bread alone, and we cannot survive without salt. In Russia there is a wedding tradition….

But first a story.


I remember from childhood a story about three sisters, the daughters of a king.  He asked of them, “How much do you love me?”

One replied, “Father I love you like all the diamonds in your crown.”

Another said, “Daddy, I love you as much as all the gold in your vault.”

The third thoughtfully and simply said, “Dad, I love you like salt”.

Unfortunately the king did not appreciate this sentiment, and banished his daughter from his kingdom.

Many years later, during his travels as an ageing man, he stumbled across another far away kingdom, and was welcomed by the royal family.  Not recognising his long lost daughter at the head of the family, she served up a banquet with no salt.  The food was tasteless and terrible, and he spat out the food saying it was inedible.

So she brought to the table a bowl of salt and asked if he wished to add this to the food. “Father, I still love you like salt. I meant that life is not only tasteless without you, I can not live without you.”

There is a Russian wedding tradition of bread and salt.  And it is Alex and Scott who introduced me to this tradition.


So in love

So congratulations to Alex and Scott married with such joy at Maleny Manor.

Alex and Scott were a delight from day one.  They are so in love, and out to have fun, yet are very comfortable with their respective heritage.IMG_2704

In recognition of Alex’s Russian background she chose to honour a tradition passed down the line of women in her family. And what women!  Her Mother and Auntie came out from Germany and Russia to make it happen!

       Bread and Salt

There is a Russian wedding tradition of Bread and Salt.

“Bread is the head of everything”. This Russian proverb explains the importance of bread in Russia for many centuries.

Bread is life and bread is hospitality.

Salt is a symbol of wealth and prosperity.

The night before the wedding day, Alex’s Mum, Marina and Aunt Ira baked a special bread with salt in the centre.  At the completion of their wedding ceremony, Alex and Scott broke the bread, dipped it in salt and shared this gift of food with each other.  It was a touching moment, a nod to family and a sweet (or should I say tasty) completion to a ceremony.

This tradition symbolises that they’ll never be without the necessities of life and they will always take care of each other.  And I trust that in this case they always will.

This is what they said:

From the very first meeting we were sure that our ceremony was in good hands with Kari.

We felt an instant connection and understanding by her of who we are and what our relationship is all about. The writing of the ceremony was painless, easy and just wonderful, including many personal touches and a great flow. Communication was effortless and we had the most wonderful ceremony reflecting who we truly are. We received many compliments from our family and friends on our ceremony and it will be a treasured part of our magical wedding day.

Thank you Kari! You are all that we ever wished for and more!

Alexandra & Scott

Thank you to Talitha and James from Artography for the wonderful images.

making poetry of legal wedding vow

When I begin planning a unique ceremony with couples, they often ask what they must do, and what they can do.

Well the answer is that the Australian marriage law is very flexible.  There is no compulsion to be in a registered marriage office, as in Europe, nor to mention God in a civil ceremony. There is so much leeway to have the wedding ceremony of your own style and tone.  

There are however a set of words that must be said.  Some by the celebrant and a sentence by the couple.  The marriage vows must include a set of words that could be considered a little dry.  Of course you can add any other words of your choice.  Have a peek at David and Amber’s Day at Maleny Manor then read on to see how he managed with those words.

Thanks to LM Images for the amazing photos.

Amber and David’s is a love that grew over time, having begun when they first met on the hospital touch football team. As they got to know each other, through social outings with mutual friends and through their work at the hospital, Amber and Dave discovered that touch was just one of the many passions that they had in common.  Both being doctors, they have a wealth of education to draw inspiration from.  

David is an especially creative soul with words.  He managed to take the legal sentence from the marriage vows and turn it into poetry. David promised ……

I call upon the people here today,

To witness these words I’m about to say: 

I, David Liu

Take Amber Peckston – you

To be my lawful wedded wife 

Starting today for the rest of my life

I will be your partner in all things

No matter what challenges life will bring

I promise to help you cook and clean,

And try my best to stay reasonably lean

I promise I’ll try to stay alive 

When I’m hanging out with these 2 guys 

(at this point he gestured towards the groomsmen, his partners on adventures of the extreme kind!)

I promise to amend and shake my fist

When people call you a psychologist 

You’ll never fight your fights alone 

I’ll share your dreams like they are my own 

I promise in 50 years I will still say

I love you, as strongly as I did today.

It was a delight to work with Amber and David, in creating their wedding ceremony

What they said of Kari:

David and I would like to sincerely thank you for all of the hard work you put into creating a beautiful ceremony for us. You were always there when we had questions and so prompt with your replies. Your interactions with our guests and your delivery of our ceremony was flawless.

Amber & Dave

A Slow Pilgrimage

A Slow Pilgrimage

Tuesday Pilgrims

My husband and I are Tuesday Pilgrims.  Each Tuesday, our day off, we walk the beach.  The first Tuesday we began at Cotton Tree, on the Sunshine Coast, and headed south along the coastline. Returning after a long walk, we sought a cafe, for a caffeine and cake fix.

The following Tuesday we began where we left off the previous week.  And so it goes each Tuesday. We walk as far as feels good on the day, then retrace our steps along the beach back to the start of the day. So actually we have done the whole length twice!  No matter the weather, no matter the tide, we walk.

Long Beach Walk

So far we have made it as far as the Caloundra beaches, beginning at Cotton Tree.

Our destination is the path.  The path is the coastline.  It’s not an arduous journey.  We seek sustenance and caffeine at a local nook after each walk. It’s our Tuesday thing.

We are Tuesday pilgrims

So why pilgrimage?

I call it a slow pilgrimage; spaced out over time, it is timeless.  There is no time constraint as each Tuesday presents a new opportunity to continue the journey.

I call it a pilgrimage.

My husband challenges that description!

So I asked him, what would constitute a pilgrimage? What qualities does it take?

He answered that a true pilgrimage would:

1. Follow a ritual or tradition within a culture, religion or practice, or fulfil a cultural or spiritual requirement

2. Aim for a destination

3. Involve challenges, or be a testing journey

4. Involve hope or faith in a spiritual reward as a result of achieving the destination/goals of the pilgrimage.

“Well”, I say, “It has been rather challenging finding a decent cafe some Tuesdays!!!”  He laughs!

But it made me think.  Why would I call it pilgrimage?  For me it’s about finding a tradition; a new way.  The commitment is to the time taken away from the hum of usual life to follow one of nature’s paths, the coastline. The destination is the beach, the sand, the sea, the elements in all their rawness. Neither storms or heat keeps us from going.  We go regardless, and enjoy the weather of that day, or the surf, or the rain on our hair, or the wind whipping up the sand onto our legs.

And the reward?  It is our smiles as we trek back along that day’s length of beach, realising we have once again taken time to relish the incredible place that is a privilege to make our home.

I achieve a kind of spiritual peace and happiness on a Tuesday.  I have reached my destination.

A new definition of pilgrimage

So my new definition of pilgrimage?

It is TIME plus a way to decide the journey’s PATH.

It does not need a specific destination, just a path to travel on. Of course historically the destination is important.  Pilgrims have sought Mecca, or Jerusalem, Uluru, head waters or healing waters. But I would argue that  pilgrimage can be about the path alone, and what that particular path has to teach us.

Maya Ward expounds on this rather eloquently in her book, The Comfort of Water : a river pilgrimage.  She walked the path of the river from the sea to the source., learning from the river as she went.  Her journey is certainly modern and ancient pilgrimage, all at the same time.  I relish her descriptions of pilgrimage and place.

My Tuesday Pilgrimage is not in the same league.

But it is only a Tuesday pilgrimage after all.

It gives me an opportunity to learn from whatever Tuesday experiences are tossed our way.



One day we were devastated by the amount of dead mutton birds (actually Short Tailed Shearwaters)along the beach. Challenged by weather along their migration from Russia to the southern coasts, many don’t make it.  Their very real annual pilgrimage is a true testing journey, and part of their survival.  We found one, tired but very alive.  This one may eventually make it after a spell with Seabird Rescue volunteers.

My pilgrimage by no means has anything to do with survival.  Yet my well being has improved with Tuesday Pilgrimage in my life.  I have more to give because of it. I am very grateful.

Walking River Pilgrimage

Walking River Pilgrimage

Walking River – a pilgrimage

This year was the tenth anniversary of an extraordinary pilgrimage; the Long Yarra Walk, as told in Maya Ward’s book The Comfort of Water.

She says of her book,

The Comfort of Water: A River Pilgrimage is the story of my three-week journey along the Yarra River. I walked from the sea to the source, through city, forest, farmland, following an ancient songline.  In the book I tell of those 21 days and 20 nights, but since it was a journey through my home city, a place I’d lived all my life, I also include anecdotes from before and after the pilgrimage…

Cover photo of the book, of Comfort of Water by Maya Ward

The Comfort Of Water

The book begins:

Walk the path …………………….. And journey to the source

These are not metaphors …………………. They are instructions.

Maya Ward, the author,  is an extraordinary woman, walker and writer.  She invites us to listen deeply to the path and to the voices of nature.

This modern reinvention or re-exploration of pilgrimage explored the lessons of River.  River can teach the importance of the path of water, and all who live along it’s way.  River teaches history and story; connection to place, the importance of flow. Walking a river pilgrimage is essential to understanding all of this.

The ritual of walking a path evokes extraordinary learning, deep understanding and great forgiveness.  This is pilgrimage.

Maya’s book is both a true tale and a guidebook for path.  I loved following her journey as I imagined my own.

Recently a kindergarten teacher was inspired to use Maya’s text as a guide for a program of education for very young children.  A film was made about their learning.  Songlines of the Yarra, is an 8 minute short film which explores the children’s intimate relationship with the Yarra River and their sense of belonging to time and place.  It has been selected to screen at the Little Big Shots International Film Festival for Kids, Australia’s major annual and travelling children’s film festival.

Return of the Sacred Kingfisher Festival fire lighting ceremony

Ritual and friendships

Maya is my friend.  She has also been a mentor for me in the field of ritual.  We met at a wonderful community ritual celebration some dozen or so years ago.  The community event was the annual Return of the Sacred Kingfisher Festival held at CERES in Victoria.  We were both a part of the artistic team who created the event.  Maya inspires me always to do better, and to think more.  She is one of the most connected people I have ever met when it comes to understanding place, and environment; deep ecology and connection.  Maya helps me to understand the importance of ritual, and the many layers of ritual.

Let me diverge

…to tell the story of a creek.

Another River Ritual

The Merri Creek runs into the Yarra River not far from the centre of Melbourne.  A twenty minute tram ride will get you there.  Maya took much longer walking the river  trail, for the Yarra winds around many bends through the city before you come to Merri Creek.

Return of the Sacred Kingfisher Festival children's dance

Merri Creek

Decades ago the poor Merri had been reduced to a trickle such was the degradation of the environment.  Industry poured raw effluent from pipes directly into the creek.  The steep banks had been denuded of vegetation.  It was used as a tip.  The creek could not flow any more.

Sacred Kingfisher

Sacred Kingfisher’s cry had not been heard along the creek for many years.  He had simply flown away.  Wouldn’t you?

A community turned their love to the creek and put a stop to the decline of the Merri.  The clean up began with bulldozers to remove the rusted car-bodies, rubber tyres and discarded washing machines from the creek bed.  Work continues to this day with countless hours by community volunteers, revegetating, weeding, caring.

The Return of the Kingfisher

One day the Kingfisher was heard along the Merri again.  Ki Ki Ki Ki They had returned!

The Return of the Sacred Kingfisher Festival is an annual community celebration welcoming the Sacred Kingfisher back to its original habitat, along the banks of the Merri Creek in Brunswick. For the CERES community, the Sacred Kingfisher bird has become a symbol of “hope” connecting people and place.

Community River Ritual

It is a community ritual and a working relationship or collaboration with the Wurundjeri people, various cultural communities and performers of all ages and abilities. As long as the Kingfisher returns each year in Spring, it is a sign that we are taking care of our local environment and the home of the Sacred Kingfisher.

The Sacred Kingfisher on it’s annual migration also stops at the Sunshine Coast, my home of twenty years.  Each year I measure the first day of Spring, from the first urgent call of the Kingfisher in my tiny forested garden.  It was the Kingfisher festival, and this team of artists who taught me most about ritual and celebration.  I bring this experience to all of my work as a celebrant.

River Ritual – Creek Celebration

Kingfisher follows River.  Waterways are the arteries of our land.  River and Creek are characters in our lives.  Ritual can connect us to these pathways. Kingfisher invites us in.

Return of the Sacred Kingfisher festival - fire dance