FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions about Weddings and Handfastings with Rev. Joy Burton
What is a handfasting?
A handfasting is a ceremony in which the hands of a couple are joined with a ribbon or cord. It can be a standalone ceremony or part of a regular wedding ceremony.
Most couples do a handfasting as another creative feature of their wedding, similar to the exchange of rings or a sand ceremony or unity candle, to literally "tie the knot", and other couples wish to perform the ceremony as part of an engagement celebration. Others might do the ceremony as part of a non-legal commitment ceremony and others might wish to do the ceremony to express a time-limited commitment ceremony for a year and a day. The tradition may have roots in ancient times but was most certainly popularized in the 1800's. Handfastings are resurging as part of a modern wedding experience. The vast majority of handfastings that I perform are done as part of a wedding ceremony intended to bond a couple together in a monogamous marriage until death parts them. They are also popular for Renewal of Vows ceremonies. Read more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Handfasting
Do I need to join a church?
No, but you are welcome to learn more and join if you wish. My worship group is Living Earth Church, an open circle of Nature-centered spiritual people and open to everyone. Joining is unnecessary. If you are interested in hearing about our welcoming and active community please visit and join at meetup.com/livingearth. Information about the group is at that meetup website and also at our main website www.livingearthcolorado.org.
What are your requirements for couples?
I do have several requirements of the couples for whom I perform ceremonies uniting them in a lifetime or eternal commitment. These requirements do not apply if you ask me to perform a Year-and-a-Day Handfasting or other type of ceremony.
1) I first need to meet and speak with you both before confirming that I will do your ceremony. Not all couples that come to me do I end up agreeing to perform their ceremony; I may not be the best fit for them and I take it upon myself as a very weighty responsibility not to lead couples through a ceremony to make vows they do not understand or clearly are not ready to make. I have been performing weddings since 1998 and in that time, the divorce rate for my couples is less than one percent. And I keep in touch with my couples!
2) The couples I work with are usually willing to do some homework and spend some of the time in our meetings talking about your relationship to help prepare you not only for the ceremony, but for marriage. There is a set of "homework" I assign, that includes reading together and reflecting on a book about marriage and talking to couples you know who have long-lasting, good marriages about what they think makes them work. Most couples think it's very helpful and fun, and I promise the homework isn't excessive.
3) I would ask you to promise each other that if you ever in your marriage are at a point of considering divorce, you would agree to three years of marriage counseling before even considering separation or divorce. Marriage is not easy and when most couples think the answer is divorce, I believe they are just getting to the point where the real work of marriage is starting.
Do you work with LGBTQIA+ couples?
Yes, of course!
What about alternative and interfaith ceremonies?
I do interfaith ceremonies quite frequently and I myself am in an interfaith marriage of 15 years, together for 17 years, and we have three beautiful children together.
Most ceremonies I officiate have guests that come from a wide variety of religious paths. Sometimes that is a point of friction in families and some families are very open to the differences. Regardless of the situation I pride myself on being able to weave a ceremony that makes everyone feel comfortable and focused on your union. I once had a baptist minister whose daughter chose me as her officiant enter the ceremony feeling very aggressive and uncomfortable because her daughter chose not to follow in his religious footsteps. After the ceremony he told me that it was the most beautiful wedding he'd ever seen.
How much input can we have in our ceremony?
All my ceremonies are custom-crafted based on what the bride and groom desire and what I learn about the couple through our meetings. You can have as much input as you want. Most couples don't even realize how many choices they have and they are eager to hear about choices, alternatives, and unique ideas, and have guidance about what types of ritual elements or logistics work well. I urge all couples to make sure I know what is important that their ceremony includes, and I'll find a way to weave it all together seamlessly.
What about our vows?
For your vows, I have a compilation of suggestions and ideas. Most couples write their own after getting inspiration from various sources. There are three sets of vows: the statement of intent, the spoken vows, and the ring vows. Not all ceremonies include all three but for the ones you do include, the language is fully customizable. I also recommend your vows are memorized, for specific reasons we'll discuss.
How do we get started?
Email or a phone call is the best way to get in touch. If you have a firm date, we'll first need to find out if I am available. I then ask for a no-obligation meeting to give you the opportunity to ask questions and see if I am the right fit for your ceremony. I charge $45 for this hour-long initial consultation. If you decide to move forward with me as your officiant, I require a 50% deposit at that time and in that case the initial consultation is included in that fee. View Complete Fee Schedule.
How do we prepare?
Divorce-Proof Your Marriage: I've been performing weddings since 1998, and in all that time my couples have a divorce rate of about 1%. How is this possible, in a country with a divorce rate of about 50%?
I only facilitate legal weddings when everyone is very comfortable, ready, and able to live up to the commitment of marriage. In the process of creating your 100% personalized ceremony, we talk about all the expectations, goals, dreams, and challenges we face in partnerships so that when it's your big day, you are not only prepared but comfortable and excited to move forward with your beloved. Plan on a total of 10 hours of "homework" talking, reading, and sharing your thoughts and ideas, which includes in-person meetings before the wedding, all included in the officiant fee. Some people, especially grooms, might hesitate at the thought of having to do some "homework" or talking about marriage, but overwhelmingly every single couple I have worked with has said their time was not only very valuable, but made the wedding itself that much more exciting.
These services are not required for weddings that are not legally binding, or are a renewal of vows, or year-and-a-day commitment/handfasting ceremonies.