The pagan ritual is related to the goddess Ostara of Germanic mythology who brought light and fertility after winter. That is why all the rituals of this day have to do with fertility and renewal. The Celtic ceremony of marriage has a deeper meaning than that given in other religions today. Like almost all Celtic customs, the complete rite is somewhat unknown.
As is traditional festivities of Celtic origin, marital unions used to be associated with the Beltane festivities. The festival was closely related to spring and fertility rites. In addition to Beltane, Lughnasadh was a time for weddings. It was even customary to hold weddings during the full moon. Lughnasadh marked the beginning of the harvest season, the maturation of the first fruits. It was traditionally a time of community gathering.
Honeymoon, for example, is a custom that originated with the Celts. Legend has it that its origin is due to the fact that the bride and groom observed the moon for several days only by drinking the honey liqueur or mead during the 30 days following the wedding. This was done as a ritual of an alliance between equals. It had to begin with the best omens, purification, and possible strength.
When a girl entered an age considered suitable for marriage a great feast was organized, inviting all the unmarried boys. Through a rapprochement and agreements between the families of the future spouses, the dowry was fixed, regardless of the social class to which they belong. Marriages were generally held for girls at the age of 12 and for boys at 14.
Girls through a ritualistic act chose the one that she had previously identified. Through reciprocal acts, she offered water to the young boy to wash his hands. This protocol was the open public commitment that they both loved each other and wanted to bond their lives forever. When the betrothal was celebrated, all the relatives of the couple would be present. The act of leaving one family to another was of paramount importance for all.
If the man entered into another relationship after marriage, he had to pay a symbolic price for his future wife. If it was the second marriage of the woman, her father only received 2/3 of the dowry and the remaining third appropriated for the intended one. For the third wedding, the father only received half and the bride the rest and so on. If the father had already died, this right fell on the older brother of the betrothed.
The veil, it seems to be, is a very old tradition that also goes back to late Celtic ceremonies. Before the bride put on her veil she was a maid. When placed, she became a goddess in her own right. She represented the mystery of everything that represents femininity. When the bridegroom removed the veil, she returned to this changed world, giving way to a new beginning.
Marriages at the time were a contract that lasted only for few months and could be renewed if things went well. This was called Handfasting because, while looking each other in the eye, the couple took their right and left hands together to form the symbol of infinity. A thread was tied around the hands in a knot. This action of joining hands comes from ancient Indo-European traditions on the fusion and harmonization between man and woman.
These handfastings or test marriages, generally lasted a year and one day. There was an option of finalizing the contract before the new year or the next Lughnasadh as a more permanent marriage. There are many variants of how the Handfastings have been made, which seem to change the course of times and regions. Some used only one string or ribbon, while the others used up to six.
In some versions, the rite of Handfasting was made only for the duration of the ceremony. In other cases, the practice remained in force until the marriage was physically consumed. The ancient Irish were well aware of the need for requirements and rights in such unions. In fact, they had 10 different forms and degrees of marriage. Any relationship that gave rise to the birth of a child was considered a marriage in order to ensure the rights of the child.
Some Celtic wedding accessories have survived the times and are still used today. The wedding ring signifies the ultimate loyalty in the marriage. This ancient Celtic rite was performed outdoors, where nature could bless the union. Presumably, given the love that the Celts professed to nature, the principal place of marriage was in the woods. They were probably surrounded by their sacred and most representative trees.
It was customary for the bride and groom to have a crown made of twigs of ivy and other herbs on their heads to symbolize love and good wishes. Next, a circle was created around the couple decorated with flowers, stones, and tree branches. This is a custom that still persists in many current weddings. Then the druid blessed and consecrated the circle.
The gods or spirits of nature were honored. The offerings were deposited in the place that the druid had fixed. The bride and groom's parents exchanged gifts honoring their bloodlines. They blessed the new union that almost always led to requests for fertility and prosperity toward the couple. Once the rite was over, the banquet took place. It was a custom that has reached our days and the fertility parties where the newlyweds were honored with different dances and rituals.
The eve of the Akha Teej is a date of good omen according to the Indian calendar. Traditionally, thousands of young boys marry girls of their same age. Akshaya Tritiya is also the largest gold festival, which takes place in India, after the Dhanteras which is held in November.
In this way, and as it is traditional in the festivities of Celtic origin, most marital unions were celebrated in the heat of the festivals that were celebrated between April and September. According to the few chronicles that have reached to our days, marriages were held during Litha and Lughnasadh, the festival that marks the beginning of the harvest season and the maturation of the first fruits. Beltane was also a favorable time for marriages.
During the Buidhe Bealtaine, bonfires were lit in honor of Belenos to celebrate the union of God and the Goddess. The couples gathered with other members of their communities and taking advantage of the celebrations, united their souls under the sacred union of the Gods.