If you and your SO are planning a pagan, Wiccan or witchy handfasting and you’re not sure how your non-pagan family will react, you’re not alone.
You found someone you really care about. You want to show the world and your community that you love and respect this person—and you want to do it your way. That’s great.
Going your own way spiritually requires courage, conviction and a willingness to stand up for your beliefs.
Handle your non-pagan family with grace during this wonderful time in your life.
Make non-pagans feel special and included.
Even if your non-pagan family or friends opt not to participate in the witchy stuff, find ways to make them feel included.
Particularly for close family members (like your uber Baptist sister) who might not be comfortable woo-wooing it up, think of creative ways to let them in on the fun.
Maybe your future mother-in-law doesn’t want to say the incantation during your rite. But she might like to arrange wildflowers on the reception tables or show off her harp-playing skills during the march.
Ultimately, it’s your handfasting, and you should do what you want. But even the tiniest gestures often mean a great deal to people, so extend courtesy where you can.
Rally Your Allies
Make sure the key players in your handfasting (bridesmaids, event planner, clergy, ect) are understanding of your spiritual beliefs.
Particularly if you’re worried that your extended family might be less than encouraging.
Or just confused by the whole idea.
Let a few of your closest friends know that you’re concerned about certain family members making a fuss about your choice to hold a pagan ceremony.
When the people who love you and support you know you’re feeling nervous about something, they’ll likely go out of their ways to help you avoid disaster.
If it’s possible, try to do a head count and make sure the “pagan friendly” guests outnumber the “not-pagan-friendly” guests. Being surrounded by people who support you helps to bolster your courage.
Make sure everyone knows if they are expected to participate in the ritual.
This is especially true for small ceremonies that require the audience to play a role in the ceremony.
Never assume even the smallest ceremonial gesture is okay for someone with different spiritual views.
Even standing in a cast circle may be contrary to some people’s religious beliefs.
And that’s okay.
Be a positive example of religious and spiritual acceptance by respecting the boundaries of others.
Make clear that participating in witchcraft or religious rites is not a requirement of attendance.
Then, make opting out of that part not awkward.
For example, simply ask your clergy to say, “Will everyone who wishes to stand in the ceremonial circle please step forward.” This makes opting in or out simple and painless.
Consider inviting hostile relatives anyway.
Of course, you must use your best judgement here. You know your relatives and friends better than anyone.
If you think someone is going to make a scene or go out of their way to sabotage your day, obviously, you are under no obligation to invite that person.
But as a general rule of thumb, ask yourself:
Would I invite them if I were holding a typical Christian or secular wedding?
If the answer is yes, I encourage you to consider inviting even family members who may be less than understanding about your religious and spiritual choices.
They may choose not to come, of course. But that makes it their choice, not yours.
And in the end, they look like the a$$, not you.
The good news? You’ll be amazed how often they surprise you. Most of what people dislike about paganism comes down to fear and ignorance. Just knowing someone who chose that path makes them more likely to accept it.
Come out of the broom closet before your handfasting.
It may be tempting to blindside your conservative monotheistic family by simply not telling them you plan to hold a non-Christian, pagan-based wedding and just let them figure it out when they arrive.
Don’t do it!!
If you tell them ahead of time, you know more or less their reaction to the idea.
But if you let it surprise them the day of, you’re asking for drama.
Coming out of the broom closet before your handfasting gives them the option to participate or not.
And really, you should give people who may have religious or moral objections the option to bow out gracefully.
For your sake and theirs.
Yes, it’s unfortunate that they don’t have more open minds, but it is still their prerogative to decide what they’re comfortable with.
You can either come out individually with those closest to you, or come out en masse by making your leanings obvious in the invitations, on your wedding event page, ect.
. . . . Or, don’t come out at all.
If, after carefully weighing your desire to hold a pagan ceremony against your desire to include family who may object to it, you decide it’s more important to include them, then you still have options.
Perhaps an interfaith ceremony satisfies your need to acknowledge your different-striped spirituality without making you feel like you need to exclude people who might object to a more overt display of ceremonial witchcraft.
Or, rather than doing a full on, totally obvious pagan handfasting, you may always opt to simply add subtle touches to a more traditional event.
For example, give everyone a smudge wand to light for your send off instead of throwing birdseed.
Or, let all of your bridesmaids wear flower crowns in their hair instead of carrying bouquets.
For more ideas like this, check out 40 Elegant Ideas for Your Handfasting.
PS: I am happy to officiate any pagan wedding in the world where it is legal for me to do so in exchange for travel expenses. If you’re interested, please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org