Beautiful Pagan Wedding Traditions – Uniting Hearts & Tribes

Celebrate an authentic Indo-European pagan wedding! 

What does a honeymoon really mean? Would you let six of your relatives watch you & your spouse consummate the marriage? Why mustn’t you see the bride before the wedding ceremony?

This highly requested episode dives deep into genuine Indo-European pagan wedding & marriage traditions so you can avoid the new-age social media make-belief & get married honoring native pagan customs. If you instead prefer to listen to the podcast episode or watch the YouTube video you’ll find them at the end of this article.

Authentic wedding traditions among the Indo-European peoples. is very frequently talked about and requested on social media, and just as often it’s misunderstood and distorted. A lot of people don’t know anything about the genuine wedding traditions of our ancestors, or they’ve swallowed some made up and gear-focused Hollywood version.

So this is about helping our members understand what weddings really meant to the Indo-European pagan peoples, what a wedding and its steps and elements really symbolized – and it’ll give some encouragement and inspiration so you can celebrate your own wedding or a friend’s wedding in an authentic way.

But before we get into that I want to announce that the Hamingja content membership will be launching this summer. A platform where you can deepen your IE spirituality, grow as a person and even educate yourself to become a spiritual leader. 

It will be full of programs, courses, masterclasses, events, documentaries, community, articles etc – hands-on & actionable so you can so you can actually practice your paganism. It’s gonna be the go-to place for authentic IE spirituality and culture. The Hamingja platform will also offer religious trauma therapy and also help for those who have roots and ancestors in Europe and want to dig deeper in that, together with people who are actually on-site.

Sign up for our newsletter on hamingja.foundation/membership and you’ll also get early-bird deals and other advantages. So again, hamingja.foundation/membership

I also want to let you know that the 2024 Weaver Award competition has now started. The Weaver Award is the Hamingja Foundation’s own word weaving competition, where you compete with a poem, prayer, story, hymn, ancestor praise, beautiful oath etc. You can win 3 months free membership on the upcoming Hamingja content membership.
You’ll find all info on hamingja.foundation/weaver-award

Now, on to wedding traditions among IE pagan peoples. 

Fewer and fewer people get married. At least in the western world. And more and more marriages end with divorce. Why is that?

Well, there are of course many reasons, but some of the most common that the experts mention are lack of commitment, self-centered mindsets, people not willing to sacrifice individual needs, that people don’t see a purpose in marriage and misguided “romanticized” views of marriage.

It seems like marriage doesn’t matter anymore, simply because the view of it has changed and its social importance has more or less vanished. People don’t want to get married, and people don’t need to get married. In an increasingly individualistic society there’s also no point in using marriage as a bonding-mechanism for a bigger family and stronger social bonds between people. With the state as our new family and with the belief that the Empire of Nothing will give us the self-realization that family allegedly deprives us, marriage doesn’t seem to be relevant anymore.

That wasn’t the case for our ancestors though. Marriage mattered in many ways – there were both social and personal incentives. 

First of all, the early IE societies definitely weren’t as much about personal development and individual self-realization as about a strong collective and the well-being and prosperity of the group. The single most important unity in life was the family. Strong and stable families constituted a healthy village or clan, and a good-natured and strong clan constituted a stable tribe with frith and strong bonds.

Marriage was more than a union of two individuals; it played a crucial role in the social fabric, by serving as a sacred bond forging and maintaining alliances between families, tribes, and communities. It was a pact between families, clans and tribes, establishing diplomatic ties and mutual obligations, and mitigating the risk of inter-group warfare.

Being married was equal to living in accord with both cosmic and social law. The holy union between the spiritual aspect in Father Sky and the manifest aspect in Mother Earth served as the best example.

Previously I’ve also mentioned that the early IE god Xáryomen, later Aryaman, Éremon etc – was simultaneously a god of social law, marriage and healing. And how’s that possible? 

Well, simply because living a married life was considered to be healing in itself, since uniting masculine and feminine is aligned with natural order. It mirrors cosmic harmony and divine order, and therefore is to heal & put things in order, returning to the way things should be.

Also remember that holy, whole and health all share etymology. So to be whole (or one) is the same as being healthy, and that’s also to be holy.

So marriage was considered to bring health, frith and peace. Compare this to that Frigga was the protectress of marriage, and her name shares etymology with the Vedic goddess and concept Priya and the PIE goddess Prihyeh – both meaning frith and friend.

We should also remember as an unmarried person you weren’t considered a full member of society, the clan and the tribe. Marriage was a rite of passage that ended the IE Kóryos or youth war band period, a tradition where the young men were thrown out of the village to survive out in wilderness for a year or more, not being allowed to return home until they’d proven themselves capable of providing, protecting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle and culture. Marriage was the sign of that the period of you being incapable to create welfare and stability for you and yours ended, and the new phase of you having proved yourself capable, being an asset and full member of society now started.

IE peoples meant that you couldn’t fulfill your purpose in life – your dharma as the Vdics called it – if you didn’t go through all the walks of life. By embracing the duties of marriage and household life, individuals fulfilled their role in maintaining the balance between the human realm and the divine realm, and thereby contributing to the overall welfare and prosperity of society – and taking steps on their own personal spiritual journey through new experiences and duties.

These rites of passage don’t exist today. And we definitely don’t view the various walks of life as steps on an important journey towards spiritual growth.

Another big difference is that nowadays we only have one kind of wedding. Well, they can take place in many different places and they may look different, but it’s basically the same ceremony with the same meaning.

Marriage among IE peoples was a complex affair. And there wasn’t just one type of marriage – in Rome there was three or six different types of weddings, depending on how you see it, the Vedics recognized eight wedding types and the Irish Celts had nine.

These various forms of marriage were most likely based on the three IE societal functions – the religious, martial and producing strata.

Let’s start with ancient Rome. Marriage there was more of an agreement, and what marriage was used mainly depended on what society strata you belonged to

The Confarreatio marriage was the most formal and solemn type of marriage, permanent, sacred and clearly a first function one. It was reserved for patrician families and involved a sacred ceremony presided over by a pontifex maximus, during which a cake of wheat called “farreum” was shared by the bride and groom. Confarreatio established a legal union with strict religious and legal obligations.

Coemptio was a form of marriage based on a symbolic purchase, where the bride was symbolically purchased from her father by the groom. This type of marriage was more common among plebeian families and involved a simple ritual with witnesses. It seems to have belonged to the 3rd function.

Usus was a form of marriage that developed from common-law relationships. It was based on mutual consent and cohabitation and required the couple to live together continuously for one year. After this period, the woman became legally married to the man unless she was absent for three consecutive nights each year. There was a symbolic capture of the bride in usus, so it might’ve been a 2nd function martial one.

The Conventio in manum type of marriage involved a transfer of authority over the bride from her father to her husband. It was less common in later Roman society but still retained some legal significance.

The free marriage (called sine manu – without a hand) didn’t involve the transfer of authority over the bride to her husband. Instead, the wife remained under the authority of her father or guardian. Free marriage allowed women greater independence and control over their property.

In some cases, especially among the military, marriages were conducted by proxy, where a representative stood in for one of the parties. This allowed soldiers stationed far from home to marry without even being physically present.

Among the Vedics there were up to eight different types of marriages – the Brahma, Prajapatya, Arsha, Daiva, Asura, Gandharva, Rakshasa and Paishacha. I’m not gonna go through them all, but they’re actually quite similar to the Roman ones. They’re considered higher or lower based on how good character and how spiritually knowledgeable the groom is, how likely it is that the couple is gonna be able to fulfill their dharma as householders, how valuable the gifts in the gift-exchange are, how the bride leaves the home and enters the new one, if it was all about love or more of an agreement etc.  

Before we get into the ceremonial traditions I want to address a wedding related question I got from a Hamingja member. If it was common within the IE cultures for the bride to wear a white dress or clothing on the wedding day.

The very short answer to that is no. Not according to my research, studies and knowledge.

While white is commonly associated with modern weddings, there is little evidence to suggest that it was the preferred color for bridal attire. The tradition of brides wearing white on their wedding day is a relatively modern phenomenon and was not practiced among ancient Indo-European peoples. 

In ancient times, and among IE societies, wedding attire varied greatly depending on the culture, region, and social customs of the people – culturally significant and symbolically meaningful – but not necessarily specifically white.

In Vedic culture, brides wore sarees or other traditional garments that were richly colored and adorned with embellishments such as beads, embroidery, and gold thread. White may have been worn on certain occasions, but it was not specifically reserved for weddings.

Among the ancient Greeks, brides wore elaborate garments known as “peplos” or “chitons,” which were often dyed in vibrant colors and decorated with intricate patterns. Again, white was not necessarily the predominant color choice for wedding attire.

In ancient Rome, brides wore a traditional dress called a “tunica recta” or “stola,” which was often adorned with colorful embroidery and jewelry. The color of the dress could vary, and there was no specific association with white.

And if we look at costumes and formal dresses among Germanic peoples they weren’t particularly white on a general level either. We see that in later traditional costumes too, for example in Scandinavia. They aren’t very focused on white either.

It is however a very old IE tradition that the groom mustn’t see the bride – specially not in her wedding dress – before the ritual. Putting on the wedding dress was a way of showing that the bride was now in a liminal state, in between two stages of life, and that’s why it was ‘dangerous’ for the groom to see her before the ritual. IE peoples had a lot of respect for liminal states, and this was no exception. And this tradition lives on, probably without people even knowing what it’s about. 

Ok, so let’s move on! Let’s put together a well-attested and very IE wedding ceremony! By understanding these traditions you can also make your potential wedding more meaningful and closer to your ancestors.

I’m not saying that all these elements occurred on all weddings throughout the IE world. But when we study the sources, historical wedding descriptions etc we see patterns and similarities in what ritual and ceremonial parts and events were there, making it clear that it stems from the same source.

First of all, a little reminder: Marriage was about love, but it was also a sign of that you now could move on in life, on your virtuous journey, and also about creating a family and forming ties between individuals, families, kins and clans. An IE marriage ceremony should therefore mirror that. One of the most important elements was the gift exchange between the families, the marriage was made official through gift-giving, linking to the eternal cycle of reciprocity. To understand this crucial IE phenomenon, listen to episode 5 after this. It’s about the ghosti principle, of simultaneously being the guest and the host.

One can say that our word wedding has a fourfold origin, in four PIE roots. First of all, the root wadh, meaning ’pledge’ or ’promise’. Oath swearing was a very important and serious thing in the ie society, and being an oath breaker was one of the worst things one could be, so it’s important to take one’s vows seriously, to know what it is one promises the other. 

The root weik or wik means village, settlement or tribe. Meaning that it is the married couple that is the cornerstone of a society. It’s supposed to create frith. This root btw is also the origin of words like the greek ’oikos’, meaning home or household, so the wedding is the real establishment of the home and the updated bonds between families/tribes.

The root wedh has the meaning ’to lead to one’s home’ which should also be mirrored in the ceremony. 

And finally the root wey means ’to bind together’. Since the aim is to link people, families and villages together, the main part is the symbolism of tying the bride and groom together, the tying of the band etc, another important symbolical element. Handfasting was used for both sealing contracts and wedding a couple, and tying two individuals’ wrists together in a handshake was an enormously powerful symbolism. Not to take lightly.

Also remember that ’hymn’, in this case sung by the bride’s followers, is cognate with Hymen, or Hymenaios, the Greek and Roman god of marriages, whose band or knot was tied at the wedding. Tying Hymen’s knot or rope is a metaphor for a wedding.

So, before making any plans at all the most auspicious date for the wedding should be decided by someone skilled in divination, astrology or the local traditions and myths. Depending on what IE branch you’re from this is done in various ways. There might be auspicious times of the year for the wedding, like in ancient Greece where January/February was best, the month of Gamelion, which the marriage goddess Hera was associated with, or June in Rome – obviously associated with goddess Juno.

The Vedics used their very advanced Jyotisha astrology to set the best date based on the couple’s horoscopes. And IE peoples didn’t do much at all in general without checking the auspiciousness of things with various types of divination. 

The brewing of the ale, mead, wine or sacred drink specifically dedicated to the wedding feast should also be started long beforehand. When it comes to the sacred drink I recommend you listen to the Hamingja Podcast episode 12 after this. It’s very important.

I’ve mentioned gift-giving. A couple of days or a week before the main ceremony, there should be a little ceremony where the bride’s family and the groom’s family exchange gifts – the Germanics called this mundr, but it has many names. This is done before the wedding so that it doesn’t steal focus from the main ceremony. In modern society this could for example be that the two families go out for dinner together.

This day the so called dowry should also be payed by the groom’s family.

Some time after this, but before the wedding itself, there should be a ritual for a symbolic death. This is mainly for the groom.I’ve mentioned before that rites of passage was an extremely important part of IE life, and among most of the IE branches the wedding was the end of your childhood and youth, you could now so to say ’come back to the village’ as an adult and full member of society. Therefore your old self had to die. This was done in many different ways depending on when and where, but you should rid yourself of bachelorhood and destroy all vestiges of the unmarried self, and be born into your true self and into the next walk of life. In some traditions the groom-to-be should ’break into a grave and retrieve a sword from the ancestors’. In modern days one could for example visit the ancestors’ graves and there hold/get a symbolic object by for example the father. That way you enter death as a boy and emerge into life a man reborn. This ritual object – ’the sword’ – should also be brought to the ceremony. But again, this symbolical death could also be performed in many other ways. The rites of passage among IE peoples ver many and extensive, not the least the war band traditions that you’ll learn a lot more about in the Hamingja Membership.

After this symbolic death of the child the groom should take a ritual bath, to symbolically wash off his bachelor status and purify himself for the wedding ceremony. This is also part of the symbolic death. Both the groom and the bride should go through purification, since that’s part of the separation from one’s earlier self, but we’ll come to the bride soon.

On the morning of the wedding day a rich sacrificial ritual should be performed, to show the importance of the occasion. Something like an animal sacrifice or the sacred drink ritual. Remember a couple of things here: These rituals are advanced and extensive, and should therefore be well-prepared. Further on you’ll be able to find them on the membership platform. 

Already in antiquity the sacrificial animals were sometimes replaced with bread or cakes shaped as animals. And a third thing: the sacrificial fire in the ritual should be lit from the bride’s family hearth!

In many IE cultures the bride’s hair was now cut off. This is one of those symbols of separation from your life up until now. Cutting the bride’s hair off is a goodbye to the single life. I doubt that women these days really would like to do that, it can seem a bit brutal, so maybe cutting a single lock or trimming the ends might be enough.

The bride should now also take a ritual bath. This functions as another rite of separation from her life up until now.

If you’ve brewed the sacred drink for the wedding and/or performed the sacred drink ritual in the morning, then it’s also a very symbolically important act to pour a little of the sacred drink in the bath water. The so called bridal-ale, or the beer etc for the wedding also works. Another well-attested tradition here is that the bride takes her ritual bath in a dark room. This is another symbol of separation and also for entering something unknown.

Now that we’re on the wedding day it’s really important to remember that putting on the wedding dress was always considered a liminal state, the bride is now in a no man’s land, in between two stages of life. IE peoples have always had respect for, or even feared, liminal states, like dawn and dusk or the period just before taking out the cattle to pastures. This is in a way a mental and emotional wilderness, something associated as much with order as with chaos, a state ruled by the herder god and psychopomp Pauson, or Pan.

This is also the reason why the tradition of that the groom mustn’t see the bride in her dress until the ceremony lived on. It was considered a dangerous state. So that’s a good tradition.

Before the bride leaves her old home, she should circumambulates the old family hearth fire three times counterclockwise –. Normally things are always done clockwise in IE spirituality, but since this is another separation rite it should be done so to say against order.

Before the wedding starts, the elders – that’s to say someone from the couple’s parents and extended family – should set up sacred space, a space in which the ceremony can take place in an auspicious way. On this platform there’s a specific lesson for how to perform the ritual for setting up sacred space.

Remember though that if the ceremony takes place in your home, this already counts as sacred space, so then you don’t have to care about this step.

Preparations for the sacred fire should also be done, at the very center of the space, so it can be lit when the bride arrives.

Outside this sacred space, or wherever the ceremony takes place, a bowl of holy water should be placed, so the everyone can purify before entering. On the Hamingja platform you’ll also find a lesson about how to make holy water or lustral water.

Originally the main gods and goddesses that were invoked during a wedding were Dyéus Pter – Father Sky who stands for cosmic order and justice, Xaryomen who stands for social order and marriage, and Gwouwinda – the motherly cow goddess who also stands for controlled sexuality. 

Other important wedding related deities throughout the IE world were Hera, Juno and Pauson or Pan, since he was a shepherd leading people right in life. 

Now, when the ceremony begins, the groom should already be standing with the spiritual leaders and officiants. The tradition was that it was the bride who should move towards the groom, as even more symbolism for separation and establishing something new.

As the bride walks down the aisle towards her husband-to-be she does so carrying the fire from her old family’s hearth – like a candle or glowing coals. That the bride brings her domestic fire and lights the sacrificial fire is very important. It was also common that torches were used for this purpose, the bride carrying a torch down the aisle. It was a public display of her going from the old to the new. It was also common that the bride walked from her old house to the new house, and that the ceremony took place there.

If we study IE ritual in general the most common was that the ritual and sacrificial fire was lit from the domestic fire of those who sponsored the ritual.

When the sacrificial fire is lit the gods and ancestors are called upon. Seek their guidance & protection.

One huge threshold for new pagans is that they lack words. The right words at the right time was extremely important to our ancestors, so I recommend you check out the Hamingja membership Platform, where you’ll find prayers and other ceremonial hymns.

Clarified butter – or ghee – is offered in the fire three times. For those who want to learn how to make clarified butter – which is one of the most common IE sacrificial gifts, there’s a lesson on that too on the membership platform.

One of the priests or officiants now asks: With what gifts is this marriage made? 

And the couple should refer to the gifts that have been exchanged between the families earlier. 

They now also exchange rings as another gift exchange. Here we should remember two important things: First of all a reminder of the so called ghosti principle, the eternal and reciprocal gift-giving cycle within IE spirituality. Listen to episode 5 of the Hamingja Podcast and you’ll understand that perfectly. And then the importance and symbolism of rings in general. For example, both Baggins (as in Frodo Baggins) and his home Bag End stem from the original IE word for ring. You could be a so called ring-giver to your people, or you could be ring-friends, so called bag-wini, which meant that you were of the same kin.

After this it was common that the groom mentioned a horse, or the IE horse goddess, among our oldest ancestors called Ekwóna. He said something like I am hekwos (stallion), you are hekwa (mare). The horse is a symbol of sexuality and sovereignty. Later in the ceremony it was common that the bride said the opposite – that’s to say that I am the mare, you are the stallion. 

It’s clear that the next step of the ceremony had to do with fire. The presence of fire is, as we know by now, perhaps the most important in IE spirituality. The sacred fire assures that everything takes place in an auspicious atmosphere of purity and spirituality, and it is fire that ultimately acknowledges the marriage. So to finish the public ceremony in front of the sacred fire was a must.

It was common that the couple held hands in front of the fire, offered to the fire, took vows with the fire as witness, circumambulated the fire seven times together and did a hand-fasting in front of the fire – sometimes even tied a knot around their wrists and then circumambulated the fire.

In our Discord server we’ve talked quite a bit about that racing and competitions in general is very common in IE culture. The wedding was no exception. In the Scandinavian languages a wedding is called bröllop, stemming from Old Norse bruð-hlaup. That means something like bride race or bride run. Etymologically you can compare it to bride leap. In all the IE branches it was common that the guests from the two families raced and competed from the space where the wedding took place to the new home and the feast.

Maybe that’d feel a bit weird today, but maybe we can instead have a really fun and special time between the ceremony and the feast. Maybe with some competing elements on the way

When the ceremony is over, and the couple comes to the new home, it is extremely important that the bride now uses the domestic fire from the previous home to light the couple’s new hearth fire.

Their first act as a married couple should be to make an offering to the new hearth fire! The hearth goddess is the one who guarantees the health and happiness of their future together. 

The couple should then circumambulate the new fire three times clockwise . Remember what I said earlier; when we do something counterclockwise it is to disconnect something or dissolve something. But when we do something clockwise it is according to natural order, and it consolidates the bonds.

The bride’s cut off hair – or perhaps a lock of it, like I said earlier, should be part of the offering to the hearth fire. This offering goes from the home altar into the fire, to Artemis or other family and children gods according to your own tradition. 

The couple now makes an offering together to the house spirits and the spirits of the place, to establish a connection with the new home and those who have lived there long before them.

We’ve now come to the bridal-ale, or the drink specifically brewed for this occasion. The couple has to make the first toast and drink it together. Their union is only binding once they’ve done so. 

The bride serves her man and reads a prayer of the cup or glass, and they then drink together. Remember that the word and concept of honeymoon actually has its roots in this ritual beverage. Honey is another word for the sacred mead, medhu, more about that in Hamingja Podcast episode 12, the sacred drink. The bridal-ale or sacred drink should last at least for a month, during which the couple drank of it each night to show their love and union. So according to authentic IE tradition you don’t have to go to another place in the Empire of nothing and spend money you don’t have to show your love.

Another important tradition is that all the participants and guests at the wedding give to charity or do selfless service, in the name of this wedding. But when you do, make sure you don’t help corrupt organizations, but instead know who you’re helping and preferably within your own community.

Lastly, if you’re an exhibitionist then follow the Germanic tradition of having at least six witnesses to lead you to the bed, and consummate the marriage in front of them. 

This ritual actually existed so there would be no doubt as to the consecration and validity of the marriage, and enough witnesses to settle any legal disputes that might arise.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’d like to have six of my relatives in the bedroom.

I hope this was helpful! 

For those of you who want more authentic pagan content like this, together with courses, documentaries, events, masterclasses, community etc – go sign up for the Hamingja newsletter, where you’ll get more info about the launch of the Hamingja membership platform. You’ll find the newsletter signup below and on hamingja.foundation/membership 

And remember to participate in the Weaver Award competition! Listen to the podcast episode or watch on YouTube here:

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