A Pagan Viking Wedding is conducted beneath the branches of an overhanging Oak tree. Bride, Groom and Celebrant Keli Tomlin are dressed in Viking attire at the centre. Guests sit on hay bales in a circle around them

Getting Married in Circle

We are all familiar with the image of a wedding ceremony laid out in typical ‘church’ fashion; guests seated like audience members and the couple standing with their at the front, as if on a stage or a cinema screen.

Have you ever considered getting married in a Circle? Not only is it an unusual idea that many of your guests will not have experienced before, but the powerful inclusivity of a circular space fits wonderfully well into a wedding.

A Circle ensures everyone present a great view of proceedings and can be excellent for acoustics, if handled correctly. It does away with any politics about who gets the ‘best seats’ and gives every wedding guest a sense of being a vital part of a whole (which of course they are!)

Circles have long been considered powerful symbols of unity, connection and eternity. Standing in a circle, to make promises of loving commitment, is a wonderful way to invoke these qualities in all you say and do; from ceremony beginning to end.

Have I got you convinced yet? Below are a few ways you can personalise getting married in Circle…

The entrance to the Stone Circle at Ruthin Castle decorated for a medieval wedding ceremony with feathers, roses and a white wheel
© Keli Tomlin

The Outer Circle

The boundary or Outer Circle of your ceremony space should be large enough to hold your guests, yourselves, any symbolic acts you have planned and have some breathing room too. By its very nature it is spacious, so no worries about folks feeling cramped or claustrophobic.

Whether you choose to marry in an existing circle  – such as a grove of trees, a circular room or even a stone circle – or to create one yourself, the boundary can be decorated as elaborately or as simply as you would like. Mark it with flowers, rope, cloths or stones or perhaps leave it invisible, made of intention alone. The Outer Circle can be a feature of your whole day, a focal point for folks to return to throughout, or it can disappear without trace once the wedding/handfasting ceremony is over.

The easiest way to mark the Outer Circle is to place your guests there. If they will be seated then chairs, haybales or benches can all be arranged in a circular fashion. If they will stand then you have the extra benefit of being able to shift the size of the circle, during the ceremony, should the need arise.


The Inner Circle

To really invoke the symbolic power of the circle during your ceremony you can mark out a second Ceremonial Circle within the Outer Circle. This is the space into which you and your partner step as individuals and leave as a married couple; where you speak your vows, exchange rings, are handfasted (if you wish) and are married.

This Circle can be as aesthetically complex or subtle as you like, can be pre-made or formed as part of the ceremony itself. Perhaps you create the Circle together with measured steps and the laying of stones? Or do family and friends come and lay coloured ribbons around you to acknowledge their loving support?

Whatever you choose, a Ceremonial Circle adds a sense of strength, security and holding for you both, and is a beautiful focal point for those bearing witness.

A Viing Bride and Groom stand at the centre of a circle of friends and family during their wedding ceremony led by Celebrant Keli Tomlin. There is an altar in the foreground with a wooden box, candles, forget-me-nots, bottles of mead and cake.
© Matt Thompson

Stuck In The Middle With You

Enacting your wedding ceremony at the centre of a circle provides a sense of equality for all your guests, who are each given an equal share of the view. This can be challenging for the Celebrant but offers those experienced in handling it the opportunity to bring movement and flow into the ceremony itself. There is no fear of feeling too static or stuck in one place for too long, allowing the pace and energy to stay active and alive.

It is also a wonderful place from to welcome in guests, who might take the centre space with you to perform readings or take part in symbolic acts, such as handfasting. Similarly, group singing or speaking is a wonderfully rich and joyful experience when it takes place in Circle.


From The Top

You might choose instead to enact your ceremony from the ‘top’ of the Circle, emulating the focus of a proscenium layout but maintaining the sense of connection and inclusivity that a Circle brings. These circles tend to be smaller, ensuring that voices reach those at the ‘bottom’, and require a practised Celebrant who can ensure the energy travels across the space, keeping everyone engaged.

This can be a perfect space to include symbolic acts such as ‘jumping the broom’ or planting a tree; making great use of the wide open space created by the Circle of your guests.


In and Out

Entrances and exits and exiting are an important element of the wedding ceremony that aren’t always as clear or obvious when in Circle, so you want to consider where and how the doorway, (through which the processional enters and through which you depart once married) is marked. It can be decorated with an archway, floral arrangements or even formed by naturally occurring beings such as trees.

You could also have two doorways: one through which you enter and the other through which you exit, symbolically marking the transformation of your marriage and the onward journey that lies ahead of you.

A DIY flower arch for an outdoor garden wedding. Beside it is a bucket of sunflowers and behind is an altar table with a Handfasting cord and vase of flowers. Taken by Keli Tomlin
© Keli Tomlin

So, what do you think?

Have you ever seen a wedding in Circle?
Would you consider it yourself?
What interesting spaces would you love to be married in?

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