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At One: Pagan Handfasting – Supplier Showcase: Cat Treadwell

October 8th, 2011 | Julia Braime

UK Wedding Blog – Brides Up North – Wedding Supplier Showcase – Cat Treadwell, Druid Priest

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As a , I think its my job to inform my readers about as many types of wedding as possible.  Just as not everyone wants to go down the DIY, funky shoes, retro hair and bright underskirts route, equally others can’t imagine anything worse than a traditional “Princess” wedding.  {Side note:  I think both rock!}

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The most important thing to consider when starting your wedding planning is who you are as a couple and what the day should mean to you.  Not your mum, friends, dog, Auntie Hilda and certainly not the online community – but the two of you.  That’s what its all about! 

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Variety is the spice of life – and that’s why you wont find any entry requirements at the door of this wedding blog.  You don’t need to act cool, spend your parent’s retirement fund, have everyone (including your cat) in perfectly matching duck egg blue outfits, drape yourself in bunting, source your favours from the moon or wear your grandma’s nightgown hand sewn with vintage lace by a thousand tiny elves up the aisle (although, on second thoughts, I would love to blog that wedding!).  All you need to do is celebrate love, our differences… oh, and being proud to be Northern helps a bit (although we are kind to our Southern sisters too)! 

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With that message in mind, today I chat to the lovely Cat Treadwell, a Druid Priest, about the Pagan ritual of handfasting.  I have to admit that this was a ceremony I knew diddly squat about prior to meeting Cat, so was really interested to learn more.  And there was lots to learn… 

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Brides Up North Wedding Blog: Cat Treadwell Druid Priest/ Pagan Handfasting

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What is your background?  How did you become a Druid Priest?

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Like most modern Pagans, I think I can honestly say that I’ve always felt this ‘calling’ – I just didn’t know how to define it! As a child, I can remember happily pottering around for hours in the woods and hedgerows; then in my 20s I was given some books on Paganism and things grew from there.

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I’ve been a practising Pagan for over 10 years now, but formally began Druid training in around 2005. When my partner and I were ordained as Awenydd (priests) of the Anglesey Druid Order, we made a promise that with this knowledge comes responsibility: it was time to be out in the community acting as Priests for those who need us. And so here I am!

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   Brides Up North Wedding Blog: Cat Treadwell Druid Priest/ Pagan Handfasting   Brides Up North Wedding Blog: Cat Treadwell Druid Priest/ Pagan Handfasting

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Can you explain a little about the Pagan religion?

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Paganism is ultimately about the connection that we as humans have as part of nature, seeing the sacred in the world around. It is the overarching term for a variety of practises, including Druidry, Witchcraft, Wicca, Heathenry and many others, all with different ways of seeing the universe; ultimately, our spirituality stems from our relationship with the world in which we live.

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As humans, we aren’t disconnected from the Earth, or somehow raised above it to use it as an infinite resource (especially in these days of increased awareness of ecological responsibility). Everything we do both fed by and back to other living things. We are nourished by the world, and so we return that by honouring it in our lives.

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Brides Up North Wedding Blog: Cat Treadwell Druid Priest/ Pagan Handfasting

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What is a handfasting ceremony?

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A handfasting is a traditional wedding ceremony in which a couple declare their vows of union to each other. This can be personal, between couple and priest, or in the sight of family, friends and loved ones.

Couples generally say to me that they are looking to marry in a way that is important and meaningful, but not necessarily in a traditional ‘church’ ceremony. The spirituality of nature allows them to say their words to each other in the sight of their witnesses, the land of their birth and the wider world. As those who’ve done it will tell you, it’s a truly joyful and moving experience.

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Is a handfasting ceremony a legal marriage?

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Sadly not at this time. The Pagan Federation is looking into the legalisation of handfasting ceremonies in the UK, but until then, couples must have their union witnessed by a Registrar in order for it to be confirmed under law.

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Brides Up North Wedding Blog: Cat Treadwell Druid Priest/ Pagan Handfasting

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Where can a handfasting ceremony take place?

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Anywhere! We do recommend outdoors, but ultimately the location is entirely up to the couple. I’ve performed handfastings in hotels, in museum and gallery grounds, on a cliff top, on a golf course… and even within Stonehenge itself.

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Brides Up North Wedding Blog: Cat Treadwell Druid Priest/ Pagan Handfasting

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How can a couple personalise a handfasting ceremony?

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Each ceremony starts from a template structure, but from that moment, every single part of the rite is personalised. The focus is the couple, their preferences, beliefs and requirements, so until the moment of the ceremony itself, anything can be ‘tweaked’ to their needs!

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We suggest couples include the names of loved family members or friends to thank in the rite, their parents or children; parents can still ‘give away’ the bride, and both can have handmaidens or a Best Man. It is the meaning behind this that we look into – those individuals become part of the ceremony, with their specific role and duty. The other guests all act as witnesses and participants, so absolutely everybody is included.

Every single ceremony is unique in that I do not memorise a set ritual text. Inspiration comes from the couple, the surroundings, those present (in body and in spirit). And of course, each set of vows is entirely personal to those two individuals.

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Brides Up North Wedding Blog: Cat Treadwell Druid Priest/ Pagan Handfasting

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Do I need to be a practising Pagan to marry in a handfasting ceremony?

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Not at all. The majority of those I’ve married have been generally secular – just wanting something ‘meaningful’ in a more natural manner. Everybody feels a kinship to the natural world on some level, so it’s reaching into that for a spiritual ceremony based around the couple’s own particular beliefs… primary of which is their love for each other.

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On the other hand, one couple married in an Iron-Age roundhouse, calling on gods of fertility to help them start a family! So there are certainly more Pagan couples out there looking for rituals tailored to their needs.

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Brides Up North Wedding Blog: Cat Treadwell Druid Priest/ Pagan Handfasting

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Any really memorable ceremonies that you have carried out?

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Honestly, every single ceremony is memorable in its own way, with its own challenges and wonders.

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Stonehenge was obviously a true privilege and an unforgettable experience. But perhaps the first handfasting that I ever performed will naturally stand out – in Verulamium Park, St Albans, under a beautiful tree by the Roman walls, first thing on a bright, fresh spring morning.

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What is the fee for a handfasting ceremony?

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I’m very aware that many couples cannot afford large amounts in monetary terms these days, but I obviously need to cover costs as well, so it’s finding a balance. I generally start from £100 plus expenses (specifically petrol, sometimes accommodation), with more for weekdays as I have to take time off work!

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For that you will receive a full Priest service from the time of agreement until the day itself – and, I’m proud to say, usually beyond, as I stay in touch with most of those I’ve had the privilege of handfasting.

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Brides Up North Wedding Blog: Cat Treadwell Druid Priest/ Pagan Handfasting

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Where are you based and are you prepared to travel?

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I’m based near Derby, but have travelled the length and breadth of England when called upon to do so. I was even asked recently to perform a ceremony in France!

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Brides Up North Wedding Blog: Cat Treadwell Druid Priest/ Pagan Handfasting

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What can Brides Up North who book you expect from their ceremony/ the whole process?

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Initially, I will provide a template to give an idea of the ceremony… and then ask the couple to go through and change it! We organise to meet, to ensure that everyone is happy, with a small rehearsal if possible nearer to the date itself. The rite will be finalised over time, with discussion to ensure that the couple are prepared. My partner is also fully available to chat, in case the groom needs a man’s point of view!

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I can also provide hard copies of the rite as Orders of the Day for guests – very few are familiar with the handfasting ceremony, so it does provide a little peace of mind, as well as a nice keepsake. I also hand-make the handfasting bread for the couple’s first ‘feast’, and can provide mead (or juice) in a ceremonial cup.

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It’s a constant process, but I do promise a full Priest service from start to finish. I’m available via phone or email (or in person if possible) if called upon – from dress difficulties to worry over vows.

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Is there anything else that Brides Up North should know?

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I’m happy to be contacted to discuss any aspect of the handfasting ceremony, or Paganism and Druidry generally, as needed. For more details on what I’m up to, my website is www.druidcat.wordpress.com

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And while the focus of the wedding day is specifically two people coming together, I’m glad to help with any of the other aspects of a very busy day if I can!

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Brides Up North Wedding Blog: Cat Treadwell Druid Priest/ Pagan Handfasting

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Why do you read Brides Up North?

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I was introduced to Brides Up North by Andy at Peacock Pix, after the beautiful article on the Stonehenge handfasting – and was amazed by the eclectic nature of the website! I’m often asked for help with suppliers, and the sheer variety of (relatively) local people bringing their skills together to make a day so special is absolutely fantastic.

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Every wedding day is unique. Brides Up North really does show the imagination and effort that goes into these declarations of love and unity

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To speak to Cat about your handfasting ceremony click here to visit her website

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  – Images © 2011 Cat Treadwell/ Peacock Pix/  

Cat Treadwell is a Brides Up North Featured Supplier

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comments

  • October 8, 2011 | Permalink | Reply

    I love a good handfasting and Cat is terrific. I photographed three last year and Cat certainly knows how to conduct a great one :)

  • Tony Furminger
    October 8, 2011 | Permalink | Reply

    The Handfasting at Stonehenge that Cat mentions was a double one with myself and my wife and two good friends of ours. It was an amazing experience, made all the more special by the beautiful Miss Treadwell and her partner, and fellow celebrant, Jim Begley. The greatest thing about that day to me tho, is that I have made 4 new friends (Cat, Jim, Andy & Sally Pickard) that I will stay in contact with all my life.

  • October 26, 2011 | Permalink | Reply

    It has been a true pleasure both in a professional and personal level to work with Cat & Jim. They are a wonderful example of people who are committed to what they believe and endeavouring to make any couple who are lucky enough to use their services feel truly special. I hope to work with them again to capture the magic moments for other couples pledging their love through a handfasting ceremony .

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about the author

Julia Braime
Former lawyer and bride to be Julia founded Brides Up North in 2010 with a chip on her shoulder. Frustrated by the poor Northern presence in glossy bridal magazines and online, she decided to do something about it herself. Astounded by the rapid growth of her blog and brand, Julia now manages Brides Up North’s online content alongside their busy wedding exhibition season, industry events and related commissions. And she’s always, always, got a new project on the go…

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