First of all I would like to say a bit about myself as a Celebrant, an introduction as it were 🙂

If you have any other questions or queries that are not covered here or for any other reason, please don’t hesitate to contact Anna on 085-9371879, anna.coote@gmail.com

About Rev. Anna Coote, Celebrant

IMG_20150912_122118Anna was born in Wexford but is currently living in the wild Midlands (the HEART of Ireland) with her daughter, Partner and various other 4-legged family members! Anna is a fully ordained Priest of the Fellowship of Isis since 2014, Clergy member of Pagan Life Rites, member of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD) and Kilkenny Druid Grove, Celtic Shamanic Therapist, Celebrant, Holistic Counsellor, Reiki Master/Teacher, Hedge-witch, Crystal Therapist/Teacher, Master Pendulist, Poet, Linguist & Mother!

She has an extensive background in contemporary Psychology and holds a B.A. in Counselling and Psychotherapy, Diploma in CBT and a level 2 certificate in EFT as well as a 6 year apprenticeship in traditional, indigenous healing practices. She currently co-owns and runs a Holistic Therapy Centre in Athlone, Co-Westmeath called Oak Tree Holistic Therapies, where she works as a Counsellor, Holistic Therapist and Trainer. She also makes and sells holistic items such as her own range of Crystal Healing jewellery. Anna has been co-running a small outdoor festival/gathering for all those with an interest in Irish/Celtic Spirituality since 2010 called Eigse Spiorad Cheilteach.

Anna is passionate about her family, trees, women’s issues and all those seeking equality, the earth below her feet, reading, promoting mental health and empowering all people to find their own wisdom & healing within themselves.

She draws her influences from; nature, the moon, indigenous spiritual & Druidic practice, the amazing people and teachers she has been fortunate to encounter throughout her life and personal experience- which partly comes from living an alternative lifestyle as a child with a large extended family, travelling with horses and living in wagons, immersed in green wildlife, freedom and dirt!

Anna can provide intimate and personally written ceremonies for your special day, working with you to make it a day you and your family/friends will always remember!

She offers a range of services to the Pagan and Spiritual community of Ireland regardless of race, sexual orientation, religious practice or gender.

Most ceremonies are held outside in beautiful natural setting of your choosing.


What is a Handfasting ceremony?

Handfastings are beautiful and magical rites of passage, family and love, they have become the most commonly used commitment ceremony in Nature-based religions such as Paganism, but are open to anyone with a spiritual outlook.

A modern handfasting is a new take on an old tradition or custom, dating back to 7,000 BC the time of the Celts & before. A handfasting was originally more like an engagement period, where two people would declare a binding union between themselves for a year and a day.

As Celtic culture spread from Ireland and Scotland through Britain and into Western Europe, so did their customs of marriage. Handfasting became a staple of culture where all Celtic people resided, right up to and beyond the introduction of Christianity. As Christian marriage ritual began to take over, some elements of the paganism of the Celts remained, including handfasting. More often than not, the handfasting was incorporated into the Christian marriage ceremony itself, and remained as such for many years. Especially in settlements and villages outside of larger city-centers where monasteries and cathedrals were fewer and farther between and Christian weddings were very expensive and manly reserved for the very wealthy and aristocracy. Irish people exclusively used the handfast as de-facto marriage ceremony

It was a trial marriage. It gave the couple the chance to see if they could survive marriage to each other. After a year went by, the couple could either split as if they had never been married (if there were no children) or could decide to enter permanently into marriage.

Today, many people have embraced handfasting as a part of their traditional or alternative wedding ceremony. A handfasting is a binding commitment for “as long as love shall last”. It is an intimate ceremony can be tailor-made to suit the couple & usually takes place outdoors in a beautiful, natural setting.

The Handfasting ceremony is steeped in our ancient historical traditions and was the most common form of betrothal and marriage under Brehon Laws. Often these marriages would take place at large festivals such as The Tailteann games in Meath or on spots like the Hill of Tara, at sacred wells or the many sacred sites around the land.

The Handfasting Ceremony

Today, Ireland’s marriage ceremonies have a required civil element (legal), which all couples must abide by, and then a spiritual element if the couple so chooses to incorporate.

There are many variations of the traditional handfasting & many possible components to it. After the couple both declare their freedom from bonds to another & intent to enter into this union freely, the hands of the couple are clasped and fastened together with a cord or cords just before, just after, or during their vows are made to one another.

The wrapping of the cord forms an infinity symbol. The handfasting knot that is tied is a symbolic representation of oneness between the couple. In a show of unity, they become bound to each other.

The ceremony has a few variations, you can use one cord and have the hands wrapped by your celebrant or you can choose a variety of colours and have a selection of your guests lay them over the hands. Each colour represents a gift or blessing bestowed upon the marriage. This is a really lovely way to include family and friends in the ceremony.

The couple can also perform the traditional act of ‘jumping the broomstick’ together symbolising sweeping clean or the past and entering into the future together!

Is it a legal marriage?

The handfasting ritual can be incorporated into any legal wedding ceremony, just as can the ring exchange, vows etc. Whether or not a couple chooses to have a handfasting does not make or break the legality of the marriage.  Rather, the couple must take the proper steps to ensure that their marriage is recognised by the state if they do so choose. Some couples don’t bother with making it legal, preferring just the ceremonial and spiritual aspect and some prefer to have a legal Solemniser conduct the ceremony to ensure it in legal and recognised by the state ! Anyone can become handfasted if that is their intent to do so.


Do I have to be Pagan to have a handfasting ceremony?

You do not, most people who have this type of ceremony have more of a Spiritual outlook on life, I have also conducted ceremonies for Catholics and other Christians, Atheists, and Celtic Christians who do not wish to have a wedding in a Church but are looking for something a bit more meaningful than a Registry Office. We treat everyone the same regardless of their Religious practice or lack of!

Who writes the ceremony and what does it entail?

I have a few templates of ceremonies that can be expanded on or subtracted from; the ceremony is written by the Celebrant (me) with 100% input from you to ensure that your day is as intimate and memorable as possible! Once it includes freedom of intent and lack of impediment then anything else is up to you!

How much does it cost?

The basic cost will be discussed with you prior to booking and it includes all expenses, travel expenses, meetings, ceremony writing changes, print-outs, certificate of handfasting and cups of tea/coffee as necessary to make it 100% as you wish it to be! However, we are aware that budget can be tight for some people and offer a sliding scale of payment to anyone who is unemployed or under financial pressure; all conversations with regards to finances etc are treated with the upmost privacy and sensitivity. A non-refundable deposit is required on booking with the balance to be paid a week before the ceremony as we are aware that money is the last thing that should be on your mind on ‘your big day’!

What do we need to supply for the ceremony?

The answer to that very much depends on YOUR requirements for the ceremony! Generally the cord or ribbon of your choice is the only real necessity for a handfasting. Other items which might be needed are- a broom (decorated as you wish) if you plan to incorporate that into the ceremony, a fancy candle (symbolising the Candle of Unity)…. And various other bits and pieces to be discussed with you and agreed on previously. I can supply a lot of the necessary sundry items myself.

What should the cord look like?

Traditionally it was made of rope or dyed cloth, embroidered if the skill and money afforded it. Today it can be anything from silky ribbons, thick or thin chords, fabric taken from heirloom dresses, or basically anything that could be theoretically tied around two hands. The resulting product is usually around a metre in length, allowing for it to be wrapped about the hands a couple of times to mimic the Celtic knot type pattern (celtic knots in artwork symbolize unity and everlasting). But as a couple you can choose virtually anything to work.

Here are some ideas:

  • If your wedding has a specific colour theme, you can incorporate it into your hand-fasting chord. Plain silk ribbons from a fabric store work perfectly for this.
  • If you have children it is a nice idea to get them involved and let them help out!
  • Add a charm to make it special! There are little charms used for jewellery; if there is a special symbol that is meaningful for you as a couple, think about adding that charm to the ends of the chord or ribbons. Not only will it give it a personal meaning, but it will have visual appeal and texture. If you can’t think of anything, add a lucky horseshoe (a traditional Irish symbol of luck for a wedding day)!
  • Something old, something blue. If you’re looking for your “something blue” then think about adding a blue ribbon here! If there is a family heirloom — dress, veil, article of clothing — where a piece can be taken out, consider using that as part of your chord.
  • Use natural elements. Some couples will collect items from vacations special occasions during the relationship. Seashells, beads, paper or tissue cranes….virtually anything can be crafted into your hand-fasting chord that can tell a story about your relationship.
  • Have your guests help. For a smaller, intimate wedding, consider handing out ribbons to each of your guests. When the time comes, invite them to each walk up and hand your celebrant their piece of ribbon, each contributing a piece of your hand-fasting chord.
  • Florals and nature! Doesn’t have to be ribbons and chords! For a stunning look that is organic and also deeply symbolic, think about having natural garland, vines, flowers woven together to serve as your hand-fasting chord.

There is no set rule as to how many ribbons or chords can be used in this. For logistical purposes, you might not want to use something terribly heavy or some kind of scratchy material that will irritate the skin. But any amount will work. Some couples prefer for the ribbons to be symbolic; they will have one ribbon represent each of their children for example. Other couples will conceptualize their wishes for each other in their marriage; each ribbon is symbolic for that particular wish. Many, though, settle on the number 3 as it was a number that was very symbolic for the Celtic Peoples.

Where can a handfasting take place?

The venue for a religious marriage is a matter for the authorities of the church or religious body under whose auspices the marriage is being performed.’ We encourage handfastings to take place in outdoor settings of your own choice wherever possible. ‘All marriages, civil or religious, must take place at venues which are open to the public.’ Many couples choose a site which is known for its beauty or privacy, or it may be a Sacred Site (with permission from the land-owner or local authority if necessary) or somewhere attached to where they will have their ‘after-celebration’ or maybe even somewhere that is important to themselves.

Is it legally binding?

Many couples do not wish to have a legal aspect to their joining and many do! If you choose a Celebrant who has legal Solemniser status within the state of Ireland then yes you can also have the legal aspect to your ceremony (as long as all the legal conditions are met-  https://www.welfare.ie/en/Pages/Getting_Married.

You may already be married privately and wish to have the handfasting as your celebration ceremony or you might just wish to go the the Registry Office on your own time at a later or earlier date to ‘make it official’.


Can handfasting ceremonies be conducted for same-sex couples / families?

Yes, absolutely! Some of the Pagan Life Rites clergy identify as LGBT, and all of us are supportive of same-sex relationships and advocates for equality.

What other services or ceremonies are available?

Anna also conducts Blessing Ceremonies for couples that have already ‘tied the knot’, Vow Renewals, Baby Naming and Welcoming Ceremonies (an alternative to Baptism), Greening Ceremonies (an alternative to Communion), Coming of Age or Puberty Rites (an alternative to Confirmation), Funeral Services, Separation or Divorce Ceremonies and Hospital Chaplaincy Services.

If you have any other questions or queries that are not covered here or for any other reason, please don’t hesitate to contact Anna on 085-9371879, anna.coote@gmail.com



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