For H I chose Handfasting not only because I want to learn the mechanics of it for writing but also because my girlfriend and I are planning to have this kind of ceremony for our own wedding. Me being Pagan and her departure from Catholicism (No, I didn't convert her and yes, we've had a very functional and understanding relationship, we accepted each other's personal spiritual path and respected it. Point of fact, neither of us cared what the other believed as long as neither of us was hurting anyone else) we thought decided Handfasting best suited us.
I will be doing a little more research (and possibly adding to this post or making a part 2) when I purchase and read this book
simply because it seems to have different types of ceremonies such a Greek or Heathen style, the list goes on. We just haven't had the chance or extra funds to order it. So in lieu of having as much information as I would like to give, you'll have to take what I found on the Internet.
A Handfasting is another type of wedding ceremony wherein two consenting people come together in a formal, equal, and loving partnership. Generally it is between two Pagans but it has become more a little more mainstream and those seeking alternatives to Christian ceremonies will have a Handfasting instead. For Pagans the oaths (vows) spoken are taken very seriously. They are sworn before the couples Gods and Goddesses and are very carefully decided on and discussed before hand and usually with the Priestess or Priest who officiates the ceremony.
What was really interesting, as I understood it, there are some Pagans who handfast for a year and a day. Some will renew vows after each year and a day and some handfast for life while still others do so for life and beyond in accordance to Pagan beliefs in reincarnation.
In history, popular in the British Isles, some couples would declare their love without a state license. It was like a common law marriage because sometimes it would be weeks or months before a clergymen would stop in their town or village.
Some men and women would simply clasp hands in front of a witness or witnesses and declare that they were married.
But handfasting kind of petered out for several years until the 1950s when the witchcraft laws were repealed and Dorren Valiente and Gerald Gardner looked for a non-christian term for their wedding ceremonies. They decided on "Handfasting". Thus the concepts was revived or resurrected within the Neo-Pagan movements. It used to be that a Handfasting would be done in secret with a couple's study group or coven but later it became more mainstream.
Of course there are different variations of a Handfasting but some parts remain universal. Generally the ceremony is held outside, weather permitting. There's a making of sacred space, honoring of the four elements, a welcoming of all present, the Goddesses and Gods are called forth to bless the couple in their marriage and their future together. The couples hands are bound and they swear their oaths (vows) that will define their relationship, and then their hands will be unbound. Some people chose to remain bound until their marriage is consummated while others take the unbinding as a token of their loyalty to each other to be together of their own free will. Rings are exchanged and the ceremony is generally concluded with the couple "jumping the broom". They both jump over a broom and it's a symbol of them crossing over from their old lives into their new, shared life together. After all is said and done this great event is followed by celebration and feasting!
BBC- Religions- Pagan Weddings
Handfasting History: An Old Tradition Made New