Thursday, 12 March 2020

Hibernating, me?

I might as well have been. Just so much other stuff going on in my life, the writing had to take a back seat. On the upside, the kitchen got a complete makeover, as did the bathroom and downstairs cloakroom.

I'd love to say I've come back raring to go, but all the enthusiasm from mid January is already starting to wear thin as the crazy effort spent promoting my books seems to have plateaued out.
Watch this space for some cool updates on a brand new, 4-book series coming later this year.

Friday, 16 August 2019

Stags and Hens

Boys will be Boys

The first bachelor parties goes were as early as the 5th century B.C. where ancient Spartans were the first to celebrate the groom's last night as a single man.
Spartan soldiers held a dinner in their friend's honor and made toasts on his behalf — with, one assumes, a Spartan sense of decorum.
Since then, the events have generally grown more raucous.

The event is known by different names in different countries: the stag party in the U.K., Ireland and Canada; the buck's party in Australia; and, with typical panache, the enterrement de vie de garçon in France (translation: "the burial of the life as a boy").

In the past, a bachelor party could commonly involve a black-tie dinner hosted by the groom's father, with toasts to the groom and the bride.
The traditions of hazing, humiliation and debauchery — often consuming entire weekends and involving travel to an exotic destination such as Las Vegas or its nearest available facsimile — became a staple of bad '80s sex comedies. (The 1984 Tom Hanks vehicle Bachelor Party hit the genre's perfecta, featuring beer, drugs, strippers, an ill-fated donkey and MTV video vixen Tawny Kitaen.)
Modern bachelor parties are diverse, ranging from Las Vegas trips (losing teeth, dignity and sometimes the groom, as in The Hangover) to a casual party with friends and/or the fiancée. The event is an important step in saying goodbye to one's single life and relieving prewedding jitters. There doesn't even have to be a party: some men now opt for "groom's showers," in which they acquire their own dowry of football tables and power tools.

Girl Power

In Ancient Greece, there were three parts to marriage. First came the Proaulia, in which the bride would spend the last days before her wedding with her mother, female relatives and friends preparing for marriage. The festivities included a feast, and offerings made by the bride-to-be and her family to the gods. The bride would sacrifice her childhood toys, clothing, locks of hair, and her girdle to the virgin goddess Artemis, whose protection she was departing for Aphrodite’s sphere of sexuality.
Prior to the late 19th century, women were limited to bridal showers, the main function of which was to acquire a dowry and gifts to prepare them for marriage. The name may derive from the custom in Victorian times for the presents to be put inside a parasol, which when opened would "shower" the bride-to-be with gifts.
By the sexual revolution of the 1960s, women had launched their own version of the prewedding festivities: the bachelorette party or hen night in the UK.
Bachelorette parties are every bit as diverse as men's and often involve the "hen" wearing a pink sash (and "L" plates) and all the "chicks" wearing similar outfits or even identical t-shirts with witty slogans. They may be themed, for example: Butler in the buff, It's a Knockout, Spa day and even Medieval Jousting with proper knights in shining armour.

Combined Dos

Other couples, uncomfortable with the expectations of debauchery, celebrate their last night together in combined stag and doe parties — an idea that's grown popular as more couples live together and marry later in life. These are known variously as "Sten" or Hag do's in the UK, both combinations Stag and Hen.


Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Plighting your Troth

You gotta love the olde-worlde speak. Well, maybe not gotta, but many of us do.
Decode: to Plight One's Troth is literally to Pledge One's Truth.
Almost everyone associates it with a proposal of marriage, and maybe, in a series of wedding-related blogs, this one shoulda come first. But such is life.

Hence we have a betrothal (literally, be true), nowadays known as an engagement, where you are affianced to your prospective wife/husband. Hence fiance. All good stuff.

So what did it mean back in medieval times? So many customs which modern women would find downright insulting - but back then, the fairer sex were naught but chattels to be bought/sold and used by our betters (i.e. men)

Once the marriage settlement had been agreed (between the families), there would be a betrothal ceremony. If one of the participants was a very young child, the betrothal wasn’t always binding. Effectively, where children had not yet reached the age of reason, it was much easier to wriggle out of a marriage alliance than after. Seven was regarded as the age of reason and after that time is was harder to break a betrothal. A full coming of age was twelve for girls and fourteen for boys.

One of my favourite scenes from a top-10 movie "Moonstruck" sees Cher demanding her hapless would-be fiance get down on bended knee while Bobo the waiter complains:
"She's got him on his knees. He's ruining his suit."

And then later, she gets another proposal from the guy's brother - the yummy Nick Cage.

If you've never seen this ultimate feel-good family film, it's a start-to-finish romp about how not to plan a wedding. Utter Genius!

The Dowry
As in "money, goods, or estate which a woman brings to her husband in marriage."
Charming, eh?
Essentially, it meant the Father of the bride had to pay a bunch of money to a guy to take his daughter off his hands. Which is why, with five daughter's to offload, poor old Mr Bennet is such a quivering wreck for most of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. That and an overbearing wife ...
The closest we get to it in modern day is the idea that the bride's father should pay for the wedding. Although in my experience, it's way more likely the bulk of the cost is down to the couple getting wed, and some spend the first few years in hock to personal loans. Ah well, it's all good practice for when those sprogs start a-popping.

The Ring
The exchanging of betrothal rings dates back to the ancient Egyptians, who believed circles were symbols of eternity. Wedded couples exchanged rings made out of braided reeds. These were worn on the left hand ring finger, which apparently had a vein that ran directly to the heart, later named Vena amoris.
Western European countries wear their engagement rings on their right hands, instead of their left. This is also common in England, France, Germany, and Norway. Russia and Canada also follow this tradition. Once you're married, tradition dictates that your engagement band be moved back to the third finger on your left hand. When you do so, your wedding ring should remain closest to your heart (where your spouse placed it on your wedding day) and your engagement ring is placed next to the wedding ring. Many of these traditions get passed down from generation to generation, but the meanings of the rings symbolize the same ideas no matter what finger the ring is worn on: love and fidelity.

The Bended Knee
During the Middle Ages, chivalry was not yet dead and formal courtship was the medieval version of modern-day dating. Kneeling was also the protocol for many ceremonial rituals and rites of passage, including those of the romantic kind. Medieval artwork and literature shows knights genuflecting before their feudal lord as a sign of honor and respect, or kneeling in front of a noblewoman to express their eternal servitude and admiration in a show of “courtly love.”

The Venue
Back then, the strict etiquette rules meant a young noblewoman could not be alone with her beau, so in theory, all proposals were in front of some manner of chaperone - and only after the suitor had sought (and gained) the approval of his prospective father-in-law. In most cases, this meant it would have taken place in some kind of "parlour" or equivalent of a drawing room.
For the peasants, there was a little more freedom, and it was not unknown for the proposal to be virtually on the way to the church.
Just like everything else to do with weddings, nowadays there is a huge variety of places - the more unusual the better, with people hiring musicians, sky-writing planes and people holding placards to ask the question. Rings can be hidden in a variety of receptacles from a banana to the bottom of a glass of champagne (hopefully with an anti-choke-hazard warning!) There are lots of ideas on the internet, I thought this was a great summary:, and I didn't get bugged by reams of intrusive ads - always a plus!

The Party
According to Wiki, olden-day engagement parties had the appearance of normal parties at which the father of the bride-to-be made a surprise announcement of the engagement to his guests. The engagement party had the purpose of sharing the engagement news with family members and friends. Therefore, it was not a traditional gift-giving occasion, as none of the guests were supposed to be aware of the engagement until after their arrival.
 In ancient Greece, an engagement party was a commercial transaction. It was essentially an oral contract, made between the man who gave the woman in marriage (usually her father) and the groom. The bride was not present.
A Jewish engagement party is known as a vort (Yiddish: word‎). Breaking a ceramic plate at a vort is customary, symbolizing the permanence of marriage and mirroring the breaking of a glass at a Jewish wedding.
In the Scottish Gaelic tradition, a rèiteach was a betrothal ritual which typically ended in a dance party for the whole community.

The Timing
Long engagements were once common in formal arranged marriages, and it was not uncommon for parents betrothing children to arrange marriages many years before the engaged couple were old enough. This is still common in some countries. The duration of the courtship varied vastly, and was largely dependent on cultural norms or upon the agreement of the parties involved.

While I was researching, I found this - top ten marriage proposals from movies.
Not surprisingly, "The Proposal," and "Four Weddings and a Funeral" are in there, but can you gues the top three? Have a go before you watch.

Here's how  the scene played out in 12 Days of Yule.
I was going for fun and originality - did I do it?

Jarl shuffled himself into a sitting position, favouring his wounded shoulder, but regaining some of his former agility and strength. He allowed Senna to administer the drink, then cleared his throat. “Thank you. And good morn to you. As you can see, I’m feeling much better.”
She put the beaker down and would have moved away, but he caught hold of her arm with his good hand.
“Wait. Before you dash off to start, I want you to know something.”
Tension filled her body at his touch, but she did not pull away for fear of hurting him. His smile was unexpected, but none the less devastating to her tenuous defences.
“Firstly, I don’t know if I should be affronted by the fact that you wake up in bed with me and your first thought is to tend to my needs as a patient.”
Mischief lit his eyes, and she mirrored it back. “What makes you think it my first thought?”
He laughed. “I choose to believe my own version of your other thoughts, and it makes me bolder. Senna … dash it, I should be down on my knees.”
“I recommend against that in your current state.”
“Always the healer first but, I hope, the woman second. Senna, I love you dearly. I have loved you since the first day with the pails and the yoke.”
“Stop, Jarl. Before you go any further, I have to know the truth about you and Eanje.”
He released her hand. “You know the truth. She was in trouble after her father died, and Tavern held back most of her wages because she refused to act the strumpet.”
“But that was a year ago. Why did she continue to live in your house after Shayla and Quinn left?”
“My cousin asked me not to sell it. Quinn’s business means they need somewhere local to stay for a few days every moon. So Shayla pays Eanje to tend the house. It works well because I’m rarely there.”
“But when you are …” She couldn’t finish the thought.
He nodded. “I see. You think I am … With Eanje. No. Definitely not. I promise you.” He shrugged. “The girl has no family to look after her. I have been staying in the hut my father built for me when I came of age.”
“So you are not … in love with her?”
“Absolutely not. I could never love anyone but you. I have never loved anyone but you.” His sincerity made Senna’s questions dry up, and she glanced away.
Jarl cleared his throat. “Will you do me the immeasurable honour of becoming my wife?”
“Oh, Jarl. You know I cannot.”
His face crumpled.
After a scant moment, he spoke, his voice a whisper. “Is it because you don’t trust me?” Without allowing time for an answer, his words tumbled out. “I have been searching my memory for the promises I may have broken, ever since he mentioned them, but ...”
“Who mentioned promises?” She butted in, her tone cautious.
“No one.” Again, he forged ahead before she could speak. “The only time which comes close was at Beltane when I pledged I would stop fighting the raiders and start training the militia instead. But I never broke that.”
“So why did you go back up north a week ago?”
“Because Dennon had a direct order from the council that he, Aleksi and I must join with men from every village to support the troop at the border and repel a massive force. But it turned out to be a falsehood. We had no chance, even before the ambush.”
“I see. In that case, you did not break your pledge.” A sly glance. “What else did Lyran say?”
“That I broke two promises and you could not trust … how did you know it was Lyran?”
“I know he watched over you when you were away. He’s been with me for the past moon, advising and protecting.”
Jarl recoiled. “He said I attacked you in a dream.”
“I was mistaken. It was Domenyk, wearing a glamour so I thought it was Lyran, then you.”
 “So, you do trust me, then?” He leaned forward – barely an inch.
She put her hand on her heart. “With my life.”
“And I haven’t broken another promise to you?”
“Not to me, no.”
“Then to whom?”
Her lips twitched. “To Lyran.”
“What? No, that cannot be. I vowed to take care of you, and that’s what I’ve been doing. I even gave up my livelihood for you. How is that breaking my pledge?”
“You promised him you would be my husband.”
“How can you know that?” He frowned.
“He made you repeat it three times to make it an oath.”
“Oh. He told you that?”
“No. I heard him ask you on the day of our handfasting.” She echoed his embarrassed expression.
“So you’ve always known?”
“That you made a vow? Yes.”
“That I love you.”
She glanced at him, mischief shining through her eyes. “Since that day with the yoke. I would have worked it out by myself, you know.”
“Of course I do. Now. But back then, I just wanted to impress you with how strong and smart I was.”
A giggle escaped her lips. “All I saw was a boy who respected his mother enough to learn what she taught him.” She paused as he absorbed this idea, and could almost see his mind wanting to ask the question she could never answer. Only one way to distract him; she bent forward and kissed him, something she’d wanted to do all those years ago when she was Lyrelie’s age.
He stiffened, not a wise reaction with his wound. Then he allowed himself to follow her lead, resulting in a kiss of such exquisite tenderness, her eyes filled with tears.
She finally had to breathe, so she pulled away, noting the moisture in the corner of his eyes. “Ask me again.” Her voice caught in her throat, and it took him a while to understand.
“Senna, love of my life. Will you do me the immeasurable honour of becoming my wife?”
“Yes, Jarl. I will marry you. As soon as I am able to.”
He glared at her. “You mean …? Why did you not say that when I asked you earlier.”
“Because I was teasing. If you’d waited, I would have added not until my mourning year finished. But at least I now know you are doing it for the right reasons.”
“I said I love you – is that not enough?”
“Men speak those words lightly. I needed to be certain.”
“And now you are?”
“Yes, Jarl. I know you love me as I love you.”
     “Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s go and see if the Archdruid is busy.” He threw aside the covers, but the action caused pain.
      “Calm yourself. We have several weeks yet.”

Saturday, 20 July 2019

Wedding Party Roles

Attendants of the Happy Couple
Ancient Roman law required 10 witnesses to be present at a wedding, which is considered a precursor to the bridal party tradition. Traditionally, in many countries, bridesmaids and groomsmen had to dress just like the bride and groom to confuse vengeful spirit presences (or real-life jealous suitors) who might try to harm the newlyweds.

Another origin story for the bridesmaid tradition is Biblical: When Jacob married Leah and Rachel, each brought her own “maid,” but these were personal servants who tended to the bride's every need. The bride was often accompanied by a child meant to symbolize a fruitful union. Flower petals tossed in the bride’s pathway were representative of the way to a beautiful future.

In a time in which “marriage by capture” was practiced, close friends of the groom would assist him in taking the bride from her family. They’d form a small army to fight off angry relatives so that he could escape with her. In some early traditions, the groomsmen were called Bride’s Knights, because they helped protect her—and her dowry, and her virginity—or because they assisted in her kidnapping.

Bridesmaids of the past also used to walk down the aisle with aromatic bunches of garlic, herbs, and grains to drive evil spirits away (and to help make things smell nice). Being a bridesmaid was considered a good way to procure a husband. In the 16th century, if you had served as bridesmaid three times without getting married yourself, it was believed that evil spirits had cursed you. To break the spell, you’d have to be a bridesmaid four more times, for a total of seven rounds on the wedding circuit.

In early Victorian times, tradition called for all-white weddings, so bridesmaids—who were supposed to be younger than the bride—wore white dresses with short veils, contrasting with the bride’s more ornate veil and train. By the 20th century, this had fallen out of favor, and the bride alone wore white to better stand out. Victorian bridesmaids were tasked with making party favors out of things like ribbons and flowers and pinning them onto the sleeves and shoulders of guests as they left the ceremony.

Historically, no person of status went out unattended, and the size of the retinue was closely calculated to be appropriate to the family's social status. A large group of bridesmaids/groomsmen provided an opportunity for showing off the family's social status and wealth.

Nowadays, the number of bridesmaids in a wedding party is dependent on many variables, including a bride's preferences, the size of her family, and the number of (family) attendants her partner would like to have as well.

The male equivalent of a bridesmaid is the groomsman, known in the UK as an usher from one of the original functions, that of escorting guests to their seats.

In some cultures, particularly in Europe, one (or more) of the bridesmaids can be a small girl, frequently carrying flowers during the wedding procession and known as a flower girl.

Parents of the Bride/Groom
Father of the bride: The Anglo-Saxon word "wedd" means a pledge or vow. This could refer to the groom vowing to marry the woman, or the barter money or trade agreement with the bride's father for his daughter. The bride's father would setup a contract with the groom, involving land, social status, or political reputation. A female child in those days was known to be property of her father and so the transferring of "ownership" to her groom on her wedding day was a legality. The tradition of "giving away" signifies that the bride's family no longer had control over her or her possessions (dowry) and her husband would take on the responsibilities and obligations her father once boasted. The tradition of taking his hand and placing the groom's on the bride's is symbolic of the "passing" of his property or duty.

Nowadays, the most common functions of the bride's father are to accompany his daughter to the church, lead her down the aisle where he "gives her away." He often gives some manner of speech thanking people for attending and toasting the bride and groom. In many weddings, he will dance with his daughter, and it is still traditional for the bride's parents to pay for the reception, if not the whole thing.

Mother of the bride: Historically, the bride's mother planned most of the wedding, organising the church, reception, catering, guests and accommodation for out-of-towners. Nowadays, many couples take care of it themselves, or engage a wedding planner. Great emphasis is placed on the emphasis of the mother's outfit, usually including a hat (or fascinator), and most mums will coordinate with the grooms mother to ensure their outfits do not clash or - horror of horrors - are identical.

Mother of the groom: There's a not-so-nice traditional saying about what the mother of the groom is supposed to do: show up, shut up, and wear beige. For most people, that saying is not true and there are some distinct responsibilities of most mothers of the groom, such as supplying a list of the groom's relatives, paying for certain events like the rehearsal dinner and, if he is keen, dancing with her son.

For more details about the history and roles of the wedding party, there are some great websites and books - I recommend you try:
Save the Date: The Occasional Mortifications of a Serial Wedding Guest

Saturday, 6 July 2019

The Time of my Life

Well, if you're doing a post about the wedding dance, there is only one song really ...

But let's start at the beginning.
Back in medieval times, there would be dancing at weddings, but not as we know it.
For those of noble birth, there would be small entertainments throughout the feast, involving minstrels and musicians. After the feast (or sometimes between courses), the guests would join in the formal, structured dances of the time - like the one in A Knight's Tale.

For the peasants, it was more likely to be the local version of a "carole" - a chain dance with everyone joining hands  and moving in a circle to the left in an energetic romp. There may be a few percussion instruments like bells, drums and occasionally a lute or "gittern," like a guitar, but if nothing else, the dancers would accompany themselves by singing various songs.

The idea of the "first dance" originated in the middle ages, when the guest of honour normally performed a short dance with his wife as the grand opening to a ball. Research has brought up a number of different proposals for first dances:
  • In 16th Century, a "country dance" would have been performed.
  • In 17th Century France, it would have likely been a Minuet.
  • 18th Century Debutante Balls frequently opened with a Cotillion.
  • In Victorian Britain (19th Century), they preferred a Quadrille.
  • In 19th Century Russia, a Polonaise would have opened an Empire Ball.
When did it become commonplace at weddings? Your guess is as good as mine.
I found this wonderful summary from Fiona Kelly:
"I love a first dance, however it’s done, and its particularly wonderful when it’s fun and heartfelt. A bit of action is always good to see, but a sweet dance between two people who are lost in each other is equally as lovely.
Sources I found tell me it dates back further to the days when the groom used to steal his bride and would show off his new wife to his friends by dancing her around the fire before the celebrations could begin. This evolved into the era when brides were bought from their fathers and the first dance would be a sort of fertility ceremony. Whereas now it’s generally considered a romantic moment, a continuation of a couple’s marriage vows to one another. Some couples find it a bit strange to have everyone stand and watch them dance, so often invite other couples to join in after the first verse and chorus."

And another photographer gave this advice: "Should you have the first dance at a wedding? The choice, Ladies and Gents, is entirely yours! But if you do decide to do something special and choreographed please please make sure to inform your wedding photographer and videographer beforehand!"

I would like to add another warning based on my own experience. The whole "First dance" thing was maybe not such a "thing" back in 1986, but whatever the reason, it didn't come up for us until the dj came to set up for the evening session. When he asked what to play for the first dance, my hubby and I named "our tune" - a song by Randy Crawford called "You Bring the Sun Out."
He didn't have it, so instead he played David Bowie's "Modern Love." It was horrible to dance to - way too fast, and I was a tad annoyed at the time, thinking he'd only picked it because one of the lyrics is "Get me to the church on time."
But I heard it on the radio the other day and my first thought was, "That was our wedding song." My second thought went along the lines of how cool it was to have a song by Bowie, who is a huge hero of mine, particularly since the movie Labyrinth (one of my top 5 movies), which actually released in 1986. There's some serendipity, right there.

Monday, 17 June 2019

Old, New, Borrowed and Blue

One of the most popular wedding day traditions is centred around what a bride should wear on her wedding day for good luck. The Victorians turned it into a rhyme:
Something old,
something new,
something borrowed,
something blue,
and a sixpence in her shoe.

Something Old
Traditionally, the old item provided protection for the baby to come, warding off the "Evil Eye," thought to render women barren. The more modern meaning represents continuity, and contemporary couples use this as a chance to wear a sentimental piece of jewelry or item of clothing belonging to an older relative. Often the parents of the bride will gift her an heirloom before the ceremony.

Something New
This offers optimism for the future, as the couple enter into a new chapter in life. Buying new represents an investment in the relationship and a hope it will flourish. More often than not, both bride and groom shell out for a brand new dress and smart suit, or even top hat and tails. It can be any other item from luxurious underwear, jewellery or shoes.

Something Borrowed
The item borrowed from another happy bride provided good luck. Another countermeasure against the Evil Eye was to wear the undergarment of some woman who has been blessed with children. The belief was the clothes communicate fertility to the bride. Today, it is more often about honoring a loved one or holding onto something of sentimental value or an heirloom passed down for generations.

Something Blue
The colour blue was a sign of fidelity and, in medieval times, was worn by brides as a sign of their virginity. This has been replaced in modern days by white, and the blue item frequently takes the form of a garter, with its own traditions.
The wedding garter tradition originated in the Dark Ages. In Wedding Customs Then and Now, published in 1919, Carl Holliday describes medieval England: “The brides-maids start with the weary bride to the wedding chamber when suddenly the cry arises, ‘Get her garter!’... If the woman has been thoughtful, she has fastened it loosely to the bottom of her dress so that it drags in plain view of the scrambling ruffians; if she has not been a wise virgin, she may find her clothes in rags after the struggle.” For a guest, having a tatter of the bride’s dress was considered good luck. Modern traditions include the groom removing the garter at the reception (with his teeth!) and throwing it to the crowd of bachelors.

Sixpence in her shoe
The sixpence—a silver British coin—was a symbol of prosperity or acted as a ward against evil done by frustrated suitors. Traditionally, it was worn in the bride's left shoe.

Of course it is possible for a single item to tick more than one box, e.g. you could borrow an old blue handkerchief.

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Tying the knot

More Medieval Wedding Traditions

The phrase "tying the knot" comes from the ancient tradition of Handfasting when a couple's hands were bound together by a rope, cord or ribbon to signify their bond to each other.

A line often included in church ceremonies, harks back to this tradition: What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.
Where the hands are bound with a single cord, several knots can be tied, each one with a corresponding vow or promise from both partners.

Alternatively, several different coloured ribbons can be used, each one being linked to a vow.

In modern handfasting ceremonies, the ribbons can be as simple or complex as required,
and the celebrant works with the couple, exploring all the options to ensure the ritual
is as simple or complex as they are comfortable with.

Here's the simple vows from Senna and Jarl's Handfasting: 

The Archdruid positioned them so their right hands gripped each other’s wrists. He bade them gaze into each other’s eyes as he wrapped the cord around her hand and Jarl’s forearms.
He addressed each in turn with the age-old questions. “Senna. Will you share in Jarl’s pain and burdens, seeking to alleviate them?”
She smiled deep into Jarl’s eyes. “I will.”
“Jarl. Will you share in Senna’s pain and burdens, seeking to alleviate them?”
“I will.” He copied her loving gaze.
“And so the first binding is made. “As he spoke, the Archdruid tied a knot, then crossed the two ends of the cord over and under their clasped arms.

At the next question, about using the heat of anger to temper the strength of the union, Jarl’s eyes flicked downward for an instant before he matched her steady gaze and unwavering answer.
The Archdruid completed the second knot.
Subsequent questions became easier as he asked them to share in each other’s laughter, looking for the brightness and positive. On the fourth knot, they promised to share in each other’s dreams so their spirits might grow in the marriage.
The final knot bound Jarl’s hand to her arm as they agreed to honour each other as equals in the union.

The Archdruid entreated the elements and deities to bless these hands in their quest to nurture and support each other. He smiled at the couple. “I now invite you to commit your vows and seal them with an exchange of rings, whose perfect circle represents eternity.”

Senna vowed to listen without judging, speak with kindness and forgive whenever necessary.
Jarl promised to honour, cherish and respect her.

Her second vow had taken a while to get right, and she hoped he understood her meaning. “Jarl. I will always accord you with the same level of honesty, trust and gentleness I demand from myself.”
A spark in his eyes said he’d recognised her unwillingness to apportion blame about the trust issues which prevented them from coming together sooner. He squeezed her arm subtly as he vowed to be generous with his time, affection and understanding.

 “Jarl. I promise to love, support and care for you for the rest of our days.” Senna took the ring Cora offered, pushing when it stuck at his knuckle.
As they’d discussed, Jarl pledged the same, adding, “no matter what life may throw at us.” He fumbled with the ring Alfun offered, nearly dropping it. His hand warmed hers as he slipped it easily on her cold finger. Then he defied tradition, kissing her hand to delighted chuckles.

And the more complex ones from Senna and Lyran's Handfasting: 
Yellow cord (air) - the element of air brings with it the communication, enthusiasm and spontaneity the couple would need to strengthen the equality of their union. They both agreed to speak with kindness and good humour, and to treat each other as equals in the union.

Red cord (fire) - the fire not only brings passion but courage, strength and occasionally anger. “Lyran, will you honour Senna with a bright, passionate love which is slow to anger?”
“I will.” Lyran’s eyes sparkled with fun.

Green cord (earth) - Alfun spoke of nurturing the tender sapling of their wedding with trust and honesty before he asked them to cherish and support each other.

Purple cord (divinity) - representing wisdom, peace and harmony. In turn, they each vowed to listen without judging and forgive easily.

Pink cord (love) - "This is the final, and possibly the most important binding, as it represents three things every person would require, in or out of wedlock. They are health, wealth & happiness.” Draping the cord over all the others, he addressed them together. “Lyran and Senna, will you promise to love without boundaries and share each other’s pain and burdens for the rest of your lives?”
“We will.” They answered simultaneously as he tied the final knot. “May these hands be blessed this day, and may they build a relationship founded in love, and rich in caring. Neither these cords, nor their knots form the bond of marriage; this is created by the vows you exchange.”

1: Him: to be generous with his time, affection and understanding, and slow to find fault.
Her: to be sparing in criticism, and generous in praise for things well done.

2: Him: to regard her with the deepest respect and use the heat of anger to temper the strength of the union
Her: to accept all weaknesses and frailties with understanding and consideration.

3: Him: to always share in her laughter and bring out the very best in her.
Her: promise to look for the brightness and positive in every situation and always to inspire and encourage him.

To find out more, you can read "3 Handfastings and a Burial" for free on Kindle Unlimited.