Photos by Taylored Photo Memories
Now and then I’m granted a peek beyond the pretty into the very personal side of weddings, and I feel so privileged to do so. Today the opportunity pops up again, with Tara and Austin’s private destination elopement photographed by Taylored Photo Memories.
This very intimate ceremony consisted of a handfasting that took place in a Loft Suite overlooking at Monte Carlo’s boutique HOTEL32. Officiating this Pagan handfasting was Brenda Mastriano, also known as Lady Elzbet Whitefire.
Tara and Austin’s wedding began with a more traditional ceremony which transitioned into a handfasting ritual. Modern handfastings are a version of a much older traditional European wedding custom where a couple’s hands were bound by a cord instead of wedding rings to serve as a symbol of their marital status.
Since I personally do not know much about handfastings and this is the first one featured on Little Vegas Wedding (yes, EVER!) I asked Lady Whitefire to answer a few questions about the ritual.
She has been a practicing Wiccan High Priestess for nearly 30 years, and has lived in Las Vegas since 2001. She began officiating Wiccan and Pagan weddings and unions in Las Vegas after realizing there were no legally recognized Pagan/Wiccan clergy in the area, and often couples had to have their handfastings be a two part process: a legal ceremony followed by the handfasting. After applying, Lady Whitefire was granted legal Wiccan and Pagan officiate status in Las Vegas, and has since supported the ordination of three more Pagan/Wiccan officiants in the city.
So what happens during a handfasting? According to Lady Whitefire: “A traditional handfasting consists mainly of joining a couple together in a tangible way that offers a physical reminder of the vows given and received. In traditional handfasting both the man and woman are asked if they desire to join together their lives and then they are asked to offer the other a gift that represents their relationship, commitment or vows. Once their gifts are exchanged they are then bound with the five elements of life: Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit.
“After binding their hands together they are then asked to face their first obstacle as a couple. The obstacle can vary but is most often a crossed broom and sword (or dagger). The cords or ribbons used to bind the couple are never untied for so long as the two people joined wish to remain within the union. Often hung within the home, they are a constant reminder of the day these two people joined their lives to share a common committed path.”
In addition to the rings the couple brought candles for the ceremony, which the bride, Tara, made herself. All other necessities of the handfasting: the broom, dagger and ribbons, were supplied by Lady Whitefire.
The broom, or besom, is a traditional symbol of home and hearth and represents the female side of the joined soul. The sword (or dagger in this case) is traditionally carried by the groom or his best man at the ceremony, and represents the male side of the joined soul, symbolizing a hunter or protector. During the handfasting, these symbols are crossed and then jumped by the couple. This trial represents the joining of the two sides, as well as representing the first obstacle faced by the couple: one which allows them to accept and respect one another.
Unfortunately the trial of jumping the broom and sword was not the first obstacle when it came to Tara and Austin’s wedding (although Tara admits it wasn’t easy to do the jump in her wedding gown!)
A tight budget and schedule saw them flying in the day of the wedding, and rushing to the downtown courthouse to get their marriage license straight off the plane. This caused some pre-wedding beauty appointments to be missed and added a wee bit of stress ahead of the ceremony. Despite these hiccups, everything went off beautifully, however.
The bride, Tara: “We also had SO much fun taking pictures with McKenzi!! We wished we didn’t have to stop. Austin normally doesn’t like being in front of a camera, but McKenzi made us feel truly at ease. McKenzi, Sonja (their helpful HOTEL32 Suite Assistant) and our priestess Lady Elzbet truly all went above and beyond to help make sure we were taken care of. “
After their Las Vegas ceremony, Austin and Tara had dinner for two at Gordon Ramsay’s Steak, then returned to their suite where Austin, with Sonja’s help, had set up a romantic scene of rose petals, champagne, and chocolates. For their honeymoon, Austin and Tara slipped away to Mexico.
Congratulations, and thank you for letting us take a peek inside your beautiful, very personal wedding, Austin and Tara!
Vendor and Venue Details:
Photographer: Taylored Photo Memories / Wedding Venue: Loft Suite at Monte Carlo’s HOTEL32 / Reception Dinner: Gordon Ramsay Steak at Paris Las Vegas / Wedding Dress: Alfred Angelo / Veil: Imperium Decor / Hair + Makeup: Stevee Danielle Hair and Makeup / Jewelry: DIY by the bride – on the flight to Vegas! / Groom’s Suit + Menswear: Men’s Warehouse / Officiant: Lady Elzbet Whitefire / HOTEL32 Suite Attendant: Sonja / Ribbons, Broom and Dagger: Courtesy Lady Elzbet Whitefire / Candles: DIY by the bride from Peak Candle Supplies
A reason to elope in a HOTEL32 Suite? Their insuite assistant will send your wedding gown and tux out for steaming in record time, and help you get dressed, like she did for Tara!
Tara made her jewelry herself on the flight to Las Vegas, from gemstones purchased on Etsy. The one-of-a-kind necklace featured opals: the bride and groom’s shared birthstone.
Tara brought the candles for the ritual, which she also made herself: “I used soy wax and colors from Peak Candle Supplies, and made or borrowed scents. The colors and scents of the candles match the elements/directions. North was Earth, green, and smelled piney. East was Air, yellow, and smelled like a meadow breeze. South was Fire, red, and smelled like amber and myrrh. West was Water, blue, and had a clean scent. The center, or spirit candle, was black and smelled like amber and Dragon’s blood (both tree resin scents).”