Marriage and Divorce
Pagans get married and divorced, just like non-Pagans. Like other religions, Pagans have developed ceremonies to celebrate their unions, but they have also created ceremonies to recognize separations. Many Pagans choose to marry non-Pagans, or are already married to non-Pagans when they come to the faith, and both situations present special challenges and concerns.
When Pagans decide to form a permanent union, they do so with as much—or as little—fanfare as everyone else. Some get a quickie marriage or a civil union document from the courthouse, while others spend months planning a wedding and reception to be attended by friends and family. The difference is not in how they do it, but in what is said at the ceremony.
Unlike most major religions, there is no standard Neo-Pagan wedding ceremony. You can find books and Web sites that provide a framework, and each tradition within Neo-Paganism has certain wedding customs that are a part of the ceremony or reception, but Pagans usually write most of their wedding ceremonies and ask their group leaders or other friends to officiate for them. There are Pagan ministers licensed to perform ceremonies, but it's a legal designation and doesn't necessarily connote religious ordination. State laws governing who can and can't officiate a wedding vary, so check with your state's marriage license office before choosing someone to officiate your wedding.
Another difference between Pagan weddings and non-Pagan weddings is the length of the commitment. If you and your partner don't want to get legally married, you have the option of making an informal marriage lasting a year or more. You could also have a religious wedding ceremony, and then later get legally married at city hall. If you're gay, you can celebrate your commitment with a Pagan wedding ceremony and Pagans recognize the marriage as valid.
Wiccans and Druids sometimes refer to their weddings as handfastings, and being married as handfasted, because the couple's hands are ritually bound during the ceremony. It is believed to be an old Irish custom restored to modern day. You might also see it in Irish Catholic wedding ceremonies. A handparting ends a handfasting.
As with marriages between non-Pagans, sometimes Pagan marriages don't work out. Pagans have the same separation options as non-Pagans. They recognize that ending a marriage is as serious an undertaking as getting married, and some choose to hold a separation ceremony to formally end their spiritual union.
Separation ceremonies are also usually written by the couple, but they don't need to be presided over by a legally recognized officiant even if the couple is receiving a legal divorce. The ceremonies are sometimes performed before the couple's coven, kindred, or grove, or before friends and families, but can also be performed in private. The ceremonies are designed to help couples amicably end their relationship and ease the emotional pain that accompanies breakups.
Marriage Between Pagans and Non-Pagans
Interfaith marriages are becoming more common. There are many more female than male Pagans, so finding a Pagan mate can be difficult for women. If you can't find a mate who is a member of your faith, look for one who accepts it. You may not be able to fully share your spirituality, but it's important to respect each other's beliefs. You can attend each other's religious ceremonies, and even have a mixed wedding ceremony.
If you're already married, becoming Pagan together is easy, but if your partner doesn't share your devotion, it poses a challenge for you. First, make sure becoming Pagan is what you really want to do. Second, explain your new beliefs to your partner clearly. Emphasize that it doesn't change your feelings toward your partner or your marriage. Give your partner time to get used to the idea. You might invite your partner to attend a ritual with you so he or she can get a better understanding of it.
Sometimes non-Pagans simply can't accept that their partners have joined a new religion that they don't understand. If you've given your partner ample time to accept your beliefs and he or she refuses, you have to decide whether your marriage or your faith is more important to you. Give yourself time to choose with your head and avoid making an emotional outburst or giving an ultimatum. There's no right or wrong here, only what is right for you, your marriage, and your family.