First off, Malhala! **Glomp** It's been forever! Where have you been?
As for your question... Pagan Handfastings are not legal in my province either.
Thus, when me and my husband decided to marry before the eyes of Gods and Men we had two ceremonies. The first one was in April and amounted to us and three friends as our witnessness and the government official who married us in a non-religious ceremony. No family, very few friends, just us. While my husband prefers that one, it was not enough for me to know that the government knew we were married. I planned a handfasting, got a pagan that I respect to come in from another province (Hi Crazy!
Forever Thanks) and we wrote our own vows.
It was held on August 16, the midpoint between Lugnassadh and Mabon. My husband and I scouted out city parks until we found a place, both beautiful, alive, not covered in pesticides and that welcomed us and our ritual when we asked it if we share its space for the ritual. That day, our close families and friends came out (about 20 people in all, most of them non-pagan) and we had them stand in a large circle. Each was given a rune throw to the ground during the ceremony. My handmaiden and his best man stood just inside of the circle. Me and my husband walked opposite each other around the circle and when we met each other, we held hands and walked in towards the center, showing our path past all our friends and family, us meeting & coming together and then choosing to unite as one. Then Crazy read a blessing, calling in the circle and we passed around a handfasting cord that I had woven from blue and silver ribbons (the colours of our handfasting). Everyone was asked to bless it and it's purpose, even the cowens, in whatever religious manner or faith they had. Then the cord was brought to us and Crazy tied it about our wrists. Me and my husband had written a set of vows that required one of us to speak counterpoint to each other. I got permission from my husband to include them so you could see what we said.
Grimwell - Long, Long ago, I asked for one Precious Gift.
Kitsune - Long, Long ago, I prayed for one Ultimate Blessing.
Grimwell - Something that would be as Strong as the Earth beneath our Feet,
Kitsune - Something that would be as Gentle as a Warm Feather Comforter on a Snowy Night.
Grimwell - Something that would fit me so well that I would wear it every day,
Kitsune - Something that would grow with me as I grew,
Grimwell - Something that would make me a better person,
Kitsune - Something that would challenge me and stretch my mind's horizons,
Grimwell - Something I could always be proud of,
Kitsune - Something that would always believe in me,
Grimwell - Something that would make me feel, for the first time, what it was to be truly loved.
Kitsune - Something that would accept me the way I am.
Grimwell - Walk with me every Winter,
Kitsune - Fly with me every Spring,
Grimwell - Seduce me every Summer,
Kitsune - Comfort me every Autumn,
Grimwell - Lie with me every night.
Kitsune - Awaken with me every morning.
Grimwell - Share my hopes and disappointments,
Kitsune - Share my Dreams and Sorrows,
Grimwell - Share my Youth and Strength,
Kitsune - Share my Old Age and Wisdom,
Grimwell - Hold my hand,
Kitsune - And love me forever,
Grimwell - And I found you.
Kitsune - And I found you.
Grimwell - You are the Companion of my Heart and Mind.
Kitsune - You are the Companion of my Body and Soul.
Grimwell - Your presence is a Blessing,
Kitsune - And is still my Greatest Gift.
Grimwell - All that I am, I became with your aid.
Kitsune - And all that I have is yours.
Grimwell - All that I promised you before, I swear again, with all my Heart.
Kitsune - All that I promised you before, I swear again with all my Heart.
Then Crazy pronounced us married and we walked out of the circle. Then we had the usual pictures. Me, my handmaiden and Crazy walked into the river, though my dress was silk so I couldn't really get wet. We'd forgotten my shoes at home, so on our way to dinner, we stopped off at the mall, I wore my husbands shoes in and bought a pair of white heels and we arrived just a few minutes after most of guests. Dinner was a low key affair, and was incredible. I have pictures somewhere on this site...
Anyways, I bought two really useful books when I was planning for it. They both had really great information, one for the actual ritual and the other for the information provided.
The first was Handfasting and Wedding Rituals by Raven Kaldera & Tannin Schwartzstein. Its' a great book, and our ritual was actually taken a lot from one of theirs. They have all sorts of vow examples, ranging from Pagan Lite to a full theatre performance with all of the trappings. Pick it up for some great ideas.
The second was Handfasting, A Pagan Guide to Commitment Rituals, by Rev. Dr. Kendra Vaughan Hovey. It was a much drier read, but it explains everything from the origins of handfasting, to combining modern traditions, to legal information, to dealing with non-pagan families, friends and even divorce information and rituals. It was a very intelligent read and I would suggest it to any pagan hoping to handfast.
Any questions that I didn't answer, don't hesitate to ask!