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Chapter 10

Betrothal, Wedding, Parting


When children grow up, they leave home. Some leave to set up households as individuals. Some move in with friends. And some get married. Yes, they do, as hard as it may be to believe when your children are small.

A parent has a delicate position in such matters. Some try to take over their child's wedding completely. The unfortunate ones succeed. But just as each member of a married couple is a blend of family traditions and unique qualities, about to be joined with another such blend, so too should be their wedding. It is their wedding, mothers and fathers, and although you will get your say, they get the last word. You trust them enough to be married; surely you can trust them with the getting married part.

My advice up to this point of the book has been directed at telling adults what can be done with children. Adults, this is my advice: turn the wedding over to the children. I am turning this chapter over to them.

OK, kids (and you better not be kids if you are getting married), forget what I just said. You are not in this alone. Weddings are family affairs, make no mistake about that. Family members of all generations come together not only to watch but to participate. Their very presence is an affirmation of the couple and of marriage in general. The gathering of generations almost guarantees the presence of non-Pagans at the wedding. It is a good time for introducing non-Pagan relatives to your ways. A beautiful wedding can draw in the most stubborn of objectors.

Remember this as you plan the ritual, and remember that little things may make all the difference in the world. Talk to people who will be guests and whose opinion you value. Listen for key phrases such as "It just isn't a wedding without" or "I love it at weddings when." It may turn out that all it takes to placate Great-Aunt Olive is the right kind of cake. A good marriage is a compromise. A wedding is a good place to start.

I am not saying that you should compromise your religious values, of course. You have every right to be married in a Pagan way. But please keep in mind that a wedding belongs in part to the community and that they should have their say as well. If you want these people there, surely you want their approval.

Betrothal


It is customary in many cultures for a wedding to have two parts, the betrothal and the wedding itself, with a period between them that may last for days or for years. The traditional length for a Wiccan (or Celtic) betrothal is a year and a day, although the time may vary according to a couple's needs. In our culture the place of betrothal is taken by engagement, a serious step with certain privileges and responsibilities that can be broken but only with some difficulty.

"Handfasting" was originally a form of betrothal, a trial marriage, for a year and a day, at the end of which it was dissolved or made permanent. The name of this Gaelic tradition has become the Neo-Pagan term for a wedding, and a very pretty word it is too. However, it should still be remembered that the original tradition was one of betrothal, and while "handfasting" may now mean "wedding" there should still be a betrothal.

The customs used by popular culture to mark the betrothed status, such as engagement rings, are in keeping with Pagan tradition, although it would be better for such gifts to be mutual. The exchange of such tokens is a part of betrothal everywhere. Indeed, in the Indo-European tradition, it is by the exchange of gifts that all relationships are established. In many places, the traditional token is a broken coin, of which each party keeps half. Other popular tokens include belts and bracelets. The symbolism of binding, enclosing, and the infinity of the circle is common to many of these.

The decision to marry is, of course, a private one, made at a private moment. After the decision is made, though, the couple should gather both families together to announce it. The tokens may be exchanged at this time, with a kiss. Toasts are made to the couple. Before the toasts, the parents tie the couple's hands together with a natural fiber cord, saying:

Now you are bound, one to the other,
with a tie not easy to break.
Take this time of binding before the final vows are made
to learn what you need to know
to grow in wisdom and love
that your marriage might be strong
that your love might last.

The cord is left on for the toasts and then removed by the parents and given to the couple to be kept safe.

Offerings are made to the family guardians. The images can be brought to the announcement ritual or the couple can present themselves next time they visit their parents' homes. They take this time to introduce the new family members to the guardians. If it is impossible to gather the families, the announcement should still be made in front of witnesses.

Wedding


A wedding is not just an agreement between two people. It is effective on three planes, the individual, the social, and the cosmic.

That marriage affects the individual plane is obvious. That it affects the social plane will be made painfully clear by the family of the bride and the groom. Have patience with them; a wedding is an important step in the continuation of the community. But it is on the cosmic plane that Pagan weddings come into their own.

A bride and a groom stand at the moment of creation. Through them the world is renewed. They are Queen and King, Priestess and Priest, Goddess and God. In ancient Greece, weddings imitated the wedding of Zeus and Hera. The Hindu wedding ceremony has the groom say to his bride, "I am heaven, you are earth." And in the ritual which will be given here, the bride and groom are consecrated as divinities and given homage.

Since a wedding is a new beginning, elements of wedding rituals frequently are shared with New Years' rituals and vice versa. In ancient Sumer, for instance, the ritual for New Year's climaxed in a reenactment of the creation story which included a marriage between the king and the Goddess, between earth and heaven. This is the sort of thing which a bride and groom are getting themselves into.

The ceremony requires a Priest and a Priestess. In many areas of the country it is possible to find Pagan priests and priestesses legally qualified to perform wedding ceremonies. If this is not true where you live, or if you wish to have someone not legally qualified officiate, a civil wedding can be performed either before or after the religious one, with only the minimum number of people attending. That will prevent the civil wedding from being seen as the "real" wedding.

The bride and groom should approach the wedding with a combination of joy and fear. It is only right that this should be so; a wedding is a cusp, an initiation, a moment when a couple's lives will be changed for ever. This proper state should not be too hard to achieve; it is, after all, the natural state of brides and grooms.

The bride and groom should spend the night before the wedding separately. They are going to come together from their aloneness. They should spend at least part of it in meditation, alone or with a few friends, to prepare themselves spiritually. When they get up on the day of the wedding, the bride and groom should perform whatever purification ritual their tradition uses.

If they do not have one that they usually use, they can start with a bath, with cleansing herbs if they like. (Yarrow and hawthorn are traditional wedding herbs.) Then they can meditate for a while, which will also help them calm themselves. They should call upon their Gods and Goddesses to bless the wedding and the marriage. If they still live at home or are leaving for the wedding from home, they must pray to the family guardians, asking peace between the guardians and them as they move out and found their own family. The guardians should be given a last offering of incense and hair before leaving.

Since from that morning they start a new life, they should fast, consuming only milk, the food of babies. This Roman custom also introduces one of the themes of this ritual. Dionysus is usually thought of as the God of Wine, and indeed he is. But he is also the God of Faithful Marriage. After Theseus had abandoned Ariadne, Dionysus found her. They were married and he was faithful to her, not a common state of things among the Graeco-Roman deities. He is also God of Liquids, especially those that flow through and from living things. He is therefore called upon in this wedding ritual through the three liquids that will be drunk.

Wedding dates are often a matter of convenience. If possible, though, the date should be significant. Lammas (August 1) is the traditional date in Scotland. In Ireland it was the date of the year and a day trial marriage at Tailteann. A fair was held there on Lammas where marriages were arranged which could be dissolved at the next fair. (It is my own anniversary, of a marriage that fortunately has not been dissolved. One advantage in my own case is that it makes the date impossible to forget; I have a bad memory.) May Day and Midsummers are also good; in some Neo-Pagan traditions one of or the other of these days is celebrated as the wedding day of the Goddess and the God. The Romans considered May to be an unlucky month for weddings, giving rise to the June wedding tradition, but in Paganism as it is practiced today May Day is perfectly suitable. It should be noted, however, that in Celtic tradition May Day is a day for very impermanent matings, for one-night stands, in fact, so if you practice in a Celtic tradition this is not a good day. If none of these is practical, make an effort to schedule the wedding for the waxing of the moon, especially the day the new moon is first visible, that as the moon grows, so might the marriage.

Dress for weddings is a personal choice. Some Pagans wear ritual garb, while others will choose the traditional American clothes. The white dress is not inappropriate for a Pagan wedding. Contrary to popular opinion, the wearing of white has nothing to do with virginity, but is only limited to first weddings. White is a traditional color for initiations and new beginnings. Unless all your friends and relatives are Pagans or nudists it is unlikely that nudity will be an option.

There is no Pagan reason to refrain from most of the customs that surround weddings in our culture. It is true, of course, that some of these traditions may have meanings a Pagan will find offensive. If something offends you, don't do it. But if you really want to do something but wonder what the other Pagans would think, you are missing the point of tradition. Many traditions are done because they're what's done in a particular situation. "This is what my parents did" is a perfectly Pagan sentiment. Does anybody really think of the meaning of being carried over threshold while it's being done? If you find meaning in something (and simply being fun is meaning enough), then do it. Reinterpret it if necessary, but do it.

Many wedding traditions of the various ethnic groups in our country are also appropriate at a Pagan wedding (and may go far towards making peace with a family upset at a Pagan ceremony). Throwing grain, a wedding cake, traditional dances -- there is nothing inherently un-Pagan about these. Some of them are in fact of Pagan origin.

Weather permitting, Pagan weddings should be outside, touching the ground and under the gaze of the sky. If this is not possible, the couple should go outside at some point after the ceremony to call on earth and sky as witnesses.

Ritual:

Few Pagans have the luxury of a temple or other sacred space large enough to hold a wedding of any size. It will therefore usually be necessary to consecrate the area where the ceremony will take place. If you are Wiccan, this means that a circle will need to be cast. If you belong to some other tradition, form sacred space according to your usual practice. The instructions here will be for a Wiccan circle specifically appropriate for a wedding.

This circle is not one to keep power in or spirits out. If the bulk of the guests are outside the circle, it is especially important that the circle not keep things out. It is instead an area of space that has been blessed and declared sacred. The spirits of the four directions are called and reverenced, but no wall is established between the sacred and profane worlds.

In the place where the ritual will be, form a circle from flowers to mark the sacred area. Guests can stand outside or inside the flower circle, depending on how many guests and flowers you have. Chairs should be provided for those who need them. If the day is hot, there should definitely be seats, and an awning for shade may be necessary as well. Chairs will also be necessary if guests are dressed in the usual American wedding clothes, which aren't well-suited for either standing or sitting on the ground. The bulk of the guests should be sitting or standing in the south to allow room in the north for the ritual to take place.

A table is put in the center of the circle. It can be any table of a convenient height that is large enough. On it are a wand, incense (with charcoal if necessary), two white candles, a third candle (white, yellow, or red), a bowl of water, a symbol of earth (salt, sand, a rock or crystal, or a pentacle), matches, a crown of ivy or grain for the groom and a crown of flowers for the bride. The rings may also be there, traditionally on a wand, or the best man and maid of honor may carry them. Leaning against the table is a broom, the old-fashioned round kind.

A white candle is put at each of the four directions (on tall stands or small tables) and two on the altar. If the wedding is outside and it is at all windy the candles will need to be protected by being put inside jars or glasses, unless outdoor candles or torches are used. These last two have long poles that can be decorated with ribbons and flowers. Putting matches at each candle will make lighting them go more smoothly. Alternatively, those who will need to use them can carry them.

When everything is ready the officiants enter and stand behind the altar. A priest and priestess are required to ensure the blessing of both God and Goddess. After they enter, the officiants welcome everyone. This is also the time to explain to the guests what will happen. There will usually be non-Pagans there who will need to be put at ease. A printed program giving the text or at least an outline of the ritual will help. If the program gives enough detail it may be possible to eliminate the spoken explanation entirely, improving the flow of the ritual, but a welcome is still polite.

If the couple has a ritual for creating sacred space that they prefer they should use that, provided it does not establish the wall between the sacred and profane worlds (unless all the guests can fit into the space). If they do not have one they wish to use, and are Wiccans, they can use the following one.

The people who are to serve as the representatives of the guardians of the elements go to their appropriate directions, where they stand on the outside of the tables with the candles. Since water and earth are generally thought of as female and air and fire as male, the representatives are usually of the corresponding sex, although this is best left up to the couple. In the calling of the elements generally the Priest calls the male elements and the Priestess calls the female elements, but this is flexible also.

The elemental representatives may be part of the procession, in which case they will be with the bride and groom at this point. If so, they will be responsible for the invoking of the elements into themselves before the procession. After explaining the ritual, the Priestess lights the two white candles on the table to signify that sacred time has begun. (She may first sound a bell, gong, or drum.) She then goes about the circle with the wand, saying:

Blessed be this circle,
a meeting place for the Gods and their people,
a meeting place of love.

If she does not generally use a wand, her hand will serve.

The Priest then lights the incense and brings it once around the circle, starting and stopping in the east. He holds it up and says:

Power of the East
Power of Air
Be with us here in this sacred place
to bless the two who will come before you.

He waves the incense over the representative of Air and hands it to him or puts it on the table. (If the representatives of the elements are going to come in with the bride and groom, the Priest and Priestess will need to light the candles.) The representative lights the candle on the table. The Priest then goes to the altar and lights the white, yellow, or red candle. He brings it once around the circle, starting and stopping in the south. He holds it up and says:

Power of the South
Power of Fire
Be with us here in this sacred place
to bless the two who will come before you.

He moves the candle in a circle about the head of the representative of Fire and then hands it to him or puts it on the table. The representative then lights the candle on the table. The Priest then goes to the altar and stands on its south side.

The Priestess or Priest then picks up the bowl of water from the altar and brings it once around the circle, starting and stopping in the west. She holds it up and says:

Powers of the West
Powers of Water
Be with us here in this sacred place
to bless the two who will come before you.

She sprinkles some on the representative of Water and hands it to her or puts it on the table. The representative then lights the candle on the table. The Priestess then goes to the altar and picks up the symbol of Earth. She brings it once around the circle, starting and stopping in the north. She holds it up and says:

Powers of the North
Powers of Earth
Be with us here in this sacred place
to bless the two who will come before you.

She holds it against the forehead of the representative of Earth (if it is salt or sand, she may sprinkle some of it on her) and gives it to her or puts it on the table. The representative then lights the candle on the table. The Priestess then goes to the altar and stands on its north side.

The Priest stretches out his hands, palms up, and says:

Lady of Love,
We ask your presence here
to bless the two who will come before you.

He drops his hands and the Priestess raises hers and says:

Lord of Love,
We ask your presence here
to bless the two who will come before you.

She then drops her hands. If the couple prefer, particular Goddess and God names can used instead of "Lady and Lord of Love."

The Priest then goes to the north of the altar and stands beside the Priestess. During the casting of the circle, the bride and groom will have been elsewhere. After the casting, someone previously chosen by them leaves the circle and goes to get them, or a drum, gong, bell, or horn may be sounded to call them.

The entrance may be as elaborate a processional as they wish. They may be preceded by someone with a torch, flowers, or the cup for the ritual, or ringing bells. They may come in with bridesmaids, ushers, and parents to music. Attendants are almost universal, and it is only natural to want friends with you on a journey of this sort. Or they may come in alone. The only requirement is that they not be touching. This is because of the ritual and psychological principle that deliberate abstention from something increases its effectiveness when it is finally achieved. They are not joined together yet. If they come with their parents, they say goodbye to them at the northeast of the circle and the parents go to where they will sit or stand for the rest of the ritual, and the bride and groom turn to face the circle.

From inside the circle the Priest and Priestess challenge the couple, saying:

Who comes before us?

Each answers by name. They are challenged again:

Why do you come before us today?

Each answers:

I wish to become one with [name].

They are challenged again:

What do you offer to each other as token?

They answer:

Perfect love and perfect trust.

The challengers say:

All who bring such are doubly welcome.

(This challenge is based on the first degree initiation ritual of Gardnerian Wicca).

After the challenge, the couple is greeted with kisses from the officiants and brought into the circle. They are brought to each quarter in turn. At the East the representative of Air says:

The blessing of Air be upon this couple.
Air is the quick change, hard to catch,
The wind that blows through life.
Throw yourself onto it, and let it bear you up.

He moves the incense or waves it with a paper fan or feather so that the smoke touches the couple.

At the South, the representative of Fire says:

The blessing of Fire be upon this couple.
Fire burns away all that is impure.
It is the passion that drew you together
and the hearth flame that will keep your home happy.

He brings the candle close enough to the couple that they can feel its heat and then returns it to the table.

At the West, the representative of Water says:

The blessing of Water be upon this couple.
Water is the womb, the essence of life.
It is the slow change, gracefully dancing.
Rest in its flow, and let it hold you up.

She sprinkles them with the water.

At the North, the representative of Earth says:

The blessing of Earth be upon this couple.
Earth is stability, solidity, existence.
It is cold and dark and empty.
But out of darkness, comes light
Out of cold, comes life
Out of the empty days, comes love
And out of these three, comes happiness.

She touches the symbol of Earth to the foreheads of each of the couple.

The bride and groom are then turned to face away from each other, standing in the north with the bride facing west. The Priestess stands in front of the groom and the Priest in front of the bride. The bride and groom are each given a cup of wine while the Priest or Priestess says:

Wine is ecstasy, a path of magic,
the way to the Gods, a sign of life.

After drinking, the bride and groom both kneel. The Priest and Priestess bless them, stretching their arms over them while speaking. The Priestess says:

Gentle Goddess, attest the union of these young hearts

The Priest says:

Mighty God, attest the union of these young hearts.

The Priestess says:

Ever-Changing Moon, attest the union of these young hearts.

The Priest says:

Constant Sun, attest the union of these young hearts.

The Priestess says:

Land and Sea, attest the union of these young hearts.

The Priest says:

Air and Void, attest the union of these young hearts.

The Priestess says:

May all who are witnesses here

The Priest says:

and all who may encounter them

They both say:

attest the union of these young hearts.

Instead of the Priest and Priestess saying all of each blessing, the "attest the union of these young hearts" (which is a slightly modified quotation from the Alexandrian Book of Shadows) can be said as a response by the other people there.

The broom is used by one of the officiants to sweep away all impurities and bad luck from the bride and groom. It is then placed on the ground behind them.

The Priestess then crowns the groom and the Priest crowns the bride. If they are wearing robes that open in the front these are then opened to anoint them. This should be done as discreetly as possible if non-Pagans are present. The Priest anoints the bride and the Priestess the groom with oil on the feet, knees, genitals, breasts, and lips. The robes are closed again after the anointing. If the anointing cannot be done, the Priest and Priestess may simply hold their hands in blessing over the same spots. These are the sacred spots of the body in Wicca -- the feet which walk the path and are a symbol of power in many religions, the knees which kneel before the Gods, the genitals which give life and pleasure, the breasts which give nourishment to the next generation, and the lips which will soon speak the vows. In other traditions, other spots my be appropriate. For instance, the chakras may be used, or the head, the heart, and the hands. The anointing prepares the couple for what comes next -- their consecration as Goddess and God.

After the anointing, the Priest and Priestess kneel. The Priest then says:

You are She, the One without beginning.
You are the Mother of All, Who gives birth to the world.
You are the Essence, from Whom all things are formed:
Wherever we may look, You will be there.
You are She of many names:
when Your true face is known,
all naming ceases.
In Your presence all stop to wonder:
All life is a prayer to You.

The Priestess says:

You are He, dying and rising again and again.
You are the Father of All, born in every moment.
You are Existence, the Form shown by all things.
Wherever we may look, You will be there.
You are He of many names:
though we lift your mask, there is no end to the naming.
In Your presence all stop to wonder:
All life is a prayer to you.

The Priest and Priestess stand and the bride and groom are given the rings. They turn to face each other, take each others' hands, and say in turn:

I take you to my hand
at the rising of the moon
at the setting of the stars
to love and to honor
through all that may come,
through all our life together.

(From "I take" to "the stars" is from the Alexandrian Book of Shadows.) As they say these words they put the rings on each others' hands. If they wish to make a further commitment, they say:

In all our lives,
May we be reborn in the same time and at the same place
that we may meet, and know, and remember, and love again.

(The last two lines are from the Gardnerian Book of Shadows.) The bride then pours water into a cup and offers it to the groom. He drinks, pours more in and offers it to her. She drinks. This is the third drink. First was milk, the food of babies. Then was wine, food of Gods and drunk by adults. Now both of those have been transcended by going to their common nature, pure liquidity. This is the ultimate invocation of Dionysus.

The cup used in the wedding is to be the emblem of the couple's life together, and so it must be new. After the wedding it is kept by the couple. It may be passed around at family rituals and used to drink toasts to the ancestors from. If, Gods forbid, the marriage should end in divorce, it will needed for the ritual of parting. For this reason it should be breakable, and also to symbolize that the marriage formed in the wedding must be guarded if it is to stay whole.

After putting the water and cup back on the altar the bride and groom kiss, turn, and jump over the broom. This is a Gypsy custom that probably was picked up by them in Germany and the Netherlands and has now made its way into Neo-Paganism. Music starts, and people leave to go to the party.

Between the ritual and the party, the new couple should spend some time alone together. During this time the bride may wish to follow an old custom and put her hair up. This custom, found especially among the Celts, is based on the connection between marital status and hair style found in many peoples, among them Romans, Slavs, and Jews. By putting up her hair, the bride is marking the transition from the free state of the maiden to the state of the matron, with all its attendant responsibilities.

One of the most practiced wedding customs in modern America is the groom carrying the bride over the threshold. This is a Pagan tradition, from the Romans. Since a Roman wife moved into her husband's house, her entry was an important event. To stumble on the threshold would insult the Gods of her new household. Carrying her over it prevented this.

If this custom is objected to as patrilocal, the threshold guardians of the couples' home must still be honored. Entering into a house after marriage to set up a new household is a sacred act. It is the proper time to perform the house blessing ritual. (See Chapter 3.) Even if the couple has lived together before marriage, a new household has been established with the marriage and this must be recognized ritually.

The establishment of a new household will require acquisition of family guardians. (The ritual for this is given in chapter 3.) Articles for the shrine such as candles and offering bowls are a good choice for wedding presents from the parents of the couple. Especially appropriate would be for the parents of the bride to give a statue of a female guardian and the groom's family to give a statue of a male guardian. If the bride and groom wish to make their own guardian symbols, the materials could be given instead.

The traditional year and a day requirement can be met in two ways. First, the betrothal can last that long, with the wedding being the confirming event. Alternatively, the wedding can be the beginning of the period. In this case, the tying of the hands ceremony should take place at the wedding before the rings are exchanged. The Priest or Priestess would say the words. The part starting "Take this time of binding" would not be said, of course.

If the year and a day period starts at the wedding, the end of the period should be observed with a ritual and a party. It should be attended at least by the Priest and Priestess and the two legal witnesses of the wedding. The ritual can be a simple declaration by the couple that the marriage will continue, and then on to the party.

A word about names is in order. There are a number of choices of names a married couple might make. They can keep their previous names, take the husband's name, take the wife's name, take a name new to both, combine pieces of each name, or hyphenate their names, with either the wife's or husband's name first. The choice is up to the couple, as there is no obviously Neo-Pagan answer. I think it is important that a family have one name on which to hang their identity. Still, the people of Iceland (where all members of the family may have different names) would disagree.

The question hyphenators are most often asked is "What happens when your child marries, especially if she marries someone who also has a hyphenated name?" (I've heard the question many times myself; my legal name is hyphenated.) There is a simple solution. The wife keeps her mother's name and the husband keeps his father's, and the two are hyphenated to form a new family name unique to this couple. The result is men carrying on the male name and women carrying on the female name. By doing this the masculine is honored by the man and the feminine is honored by the woman. Alternatively, the names could cross in each generation, with women carrying on their father's name and men carrying on their mother's. Either way will honor both female and male, and that is something which is very consistent with the ideals of Neo-Paganism.

Parting


Divorce should never be easy, and, people being what they are, it never is. A ritual to mark it, however, might ease it some, while at the same time concentrating its effect. And since a marriage is begun with a ritual, is should end with one as well -- a divorce is as sacred an act as a wedding. Such rituals have been lacking in most religious communities, but Pagans have made an effort to develop them.

Just as a wedding is not solely a personal act, so too is a parting. If a couple has children this is obvious. Every effort must be made to minimize problems the breakup of the marriage may cause them. Our Mother and Father expect no less.

It is not so obvious, perhaps, that a divorce affects the community. But as a community is affected by the marriages within it, it is also affected by the divorces. If the community is called upon to witness a wedding, it should be called upon to witness a parting. This is not to suggest that a large party be gathered, with a sit down dinner and dance. But there are people who were important in the wedding who deserve a part in its dissolution.

Now, divorces are not always friendly, and this ritual may not always be possible. But if both husband and wife are Pagans they owe it to themselves and to their community to make the effort. Through it healing may come to all. At least it can begin.

Perform this ritual after the legal portion of the divorce is final. The ritual should be the last act in the divorce, marking its completion.

Gather together the Priest and Priestess who presided at the wedding, as well as the two witnesses that the law required. The witnesses stand in for the community. If the same two people cannot attend, choose a man and a woman, either both acceptable to both members of the couple or one acceptable to each.

Because the ritual involves planting seeds it should be done outdoors. Even in a city some appropriate spot may be found -- a secluded corner of a park, a vacant lot; even a roadside if necessary. Since the spot may acquire painful associations as a result of the ritual, a trip to a place which will not be encountered regularly by the couple is worth the effort. If it absolutely cannot be performed outdoors, choose a location that is neutral. Strong feelings may well be released during the ritual, so the location needs to be one where both members of the couple feel at home, or at least where they feel equally not at home.

Ritual:

On a small table put a cord of natural fibers. This should be the cord used in the betrothal or wedding if it is available. (For an inside ritual, use thread or string instead of rope.) You will also need a knife, a cup filled with water, and some seeds. If at all possible, the cup should be the one from which the couple drank at their wedding. Whatever cup is used, it must be breakable. Two rocks or hammers will be needed to break it with. Prepare a small hole in the ground, leaving the spade next to it. (If the ritual is being performed indoors, you will need a lunch size paper bag half-filled with dirt and additional dirt to fill it the rest of the way.) If you wish to call sacred space according to your tradition, you may do so.

The husband and wife say to those there:

You who stood with us at the beginning of this marriage:
We have asked you to be here at its end
that you might see that it is done rightly.

The Priest or Priestess tie the couples' wrists together with the cord. (If the couple is not friendly enough for both to be there, or if one of them is unavailable for any other reason, tie the person present to a picture of the one who is not there.) The presiding officer who does not do the tying says:

The ties that bound you were strong

One then cuts the cord with the knife while the other says:

But even the strongest ties may break

The one who cut it holds up the cord and the other says:

Leaving their echoes behind.

The couple then put the cord in the ground, saying as they do:

May the ties dissolve

They then put some dirt on top of the cord and plant the seeds (this is especially important if the couple have children), saying:

Nourishing what they have produced.

The Priest or Priestess offers them the cup of water, saying:

This cup that once bound you now dissolves the binding.

(Or, if it is not the original cup:

A cup once bound you, a cup now dissolves the binding.)

They each take a drink from the cup, pouring the remaining water on the seeds. Then they both break the cup and put the pieces in the ground, saying:

No more will it bind
No more will it unbind.

They fill in the hole and stamp the dirt down. (If a bag is used, they pack it with their hands.) The Priest and Priestess hold their hands out in blessing and say:

Go now, walk freely, from this place of unbinding.

The couple walk away in different directions without looking back, while the Priest or Priestess says:

Untie, untie
the bonds of fate
and loose the knots that held you together.
Dissolve
Dissipate
Disappear
They pass away slowly until nothing is left
but the shape of where they once were,
ready to be filled again.

If a bag has been used, the Priest or Priestess will need to bury it outside later.