A Tale of a Modern Magical Wedding by Ellen Dugan - Water Magic

Llewellyn's 2018 Magical Almanac: Practical Magic for Everyday Living - Team of authors 2017

A Tale of a Modern Magical Wedding by Ellen Dugan
Water Magic

When two people meet and fall in love, there’s a sudden rush of magic.

—Tom Robbins

It started out quietly enough. Our daughter brought a date to the family’s annual Halloween bash. He seemed like a nice-enough guy. He was quiet, polite, and, hey, he was cheerfully holding his own among a coven of Witches and still seemed to be enjoying himself. That’s a good sign, I thought. Then I watched the two of them and realized something was different this time. By the following October they were still going strong even though she was out of state at grad school. By the third turn of the Wheel back to Samhain they were officially engaged. And that’s when things crazy—because, OMG, we were now planning a wedding!

All weddings are magical events. But for some of us the challenge becomes incorporating our Pagan traditions and still being respectful of the other family’s religious beliefs. There, that sounded so nice and dispassionate . . .

Planning a Nontraditional Wedding

The truth is we found ourselves planning a wedding ceremony and reception that would be outside of the norm of what most people would come to expect. In this case “most people” meant our relatives and the family of the groom. In other words the bride and groom wanted a “nontraditional wedding.” And I had no idea how much that phrase was going to become a part of my life.


My daughter and her fiancé had their hearts set on a Sunday morning semiformal event. I had my heart set on giving the bride whatever she wanted . . . within budget. She wanted the local antique greenhouse, a popular place for ceremonies, because it gives you a garden look all year long no matter the weather. The space was intimate, romantic, and magical. The groom agreed it was a wonderful space, so off we went to tour it. The question of an officiant was never really a question at all: within hours of my daughter having a ring on her finger she asked a friend of mine who heads up an international Witch school to officiate. The groom was comfortable with that; after all, he knew my friend.

Soon it was time to meet the future in-laws. My daughter identifies as Pagan; her fiancé identifies as Christian. His family is from Texas; ours is from the Midwest. Our family is loud, unbreakable, and demonstrative; his is quiet, soft-spoken, and reserved.

We invited the groom-to-be’s parents to our home, so we could all meet for the first time. My daughter was humming “One Normal Night” from the musical The Addams Family as we set up, and I rolled my eyes and kept my mouth shut. Because, hey, everyone’s got to have a dream. You want normal? Define “normal.”

The eyes of the future in-laws were huge when they arrived, but taking advantage of the holidays, I’d invited them over when the house was lavishly decked out for Yule. It took less than ten minutes for his family to relax. Yes, they knew their son was marrying into a Pagan family, and, yes, they knew about her mother, the Witchcraft writer . . . but they soon discovered we were a loving, fairly normal bunch of folks. While the groom’s mother and I discussed the perks of a nontraditional wedding, everyone smiled, laughed, got to know each other, and had a nice time. It probably didn’t hurt that I was pretty free with the wine.

Then next thing you know, the bride and groom picked out a date. My daughter pored over lunar calendars and finally chose the day of Ostara. It would fall on a Sunday, the Moon was almost full, and she loved the idea of working with the magick of the sabbat. I put a deposit on the ceremony venue, and then my husband and I took them to tour a ballroom for the reception. The bride and groom held hands and looked around the reception space with tears in their eyes. My husband and I held on to each other for dear life, trying to play it cool, and looked around the space with tears in our eyes . . .

While my daughter was talking about the brunch menu and table arrangements with the event coordinator, I looked at my son-in-law-to-be. “Would you like your reception to be here?” I asked him quietly. After all, it was his day, too. We wanted his opinion. He simply nodded yes and grabbed me up in a big hug.

On a funny note—when the event coordinator asked if we wanted an open bar, the kids tried to refuse. “Oh, that’s okay. It’s too expensive,” they said. “Mom, Dad, we don’t need an open bar.”

My husband and I answered in unison, “Yes, we do!” So we got the open bar, and I got out my checkbook.

Dressing the Part

Next step: The. Gown. While I figured she’d go for a long black gown (because, hey, black wedding dresses are en vogue), my daughter threw me yet another curveball. Nothing long, she announced. She wanted the dress above the knees and absolutely not white.

Imagine the look on the salespeople’s faces when we went looking for a short wedding gown. Tea length, sure, but short? They were horrified and confused, and finally I whipped out my catchphrase and simply said that she was a nontraditional bride. I’m a Witch mom: obviously, I can handle nontraditional. But her grandmothers . . . not so much. It took a little convincing, but pretty soon both grandmothers were on the “short dresses are fashion forward” bandwagon.

Next hurdle: Every short wedding gown we did find was white. As the bride has that Irish milk-pale skin, putting her in white would have been a bad choice. I agreed with the no-white rule, but finding a short, not-white wedding gown in the Midwest? There was the challenge. I actually lit candles to whatever gods of fashion there might be.

I prayed, I cast spells to help us find something the bride would love, and then we found one! A short, gorgeous confection in a nude—almost a pale peach—color and it sparkled and shimmered. She ordered some killer gold shoes and a custom-made gold headpiece. All in all it wasn’t as expensive as a long gown. Until I added in the accessories. Gulp. I got out my checkbook and wrote more checks.

Next task: Bridesmaids dresses. Off to the big bridal store we went. It ended up that our consultant was a Witch. (Seriously, how awesome was that?) My daughter took one look at the consultant’s purple hair and pierced nose, and they started talking about their love of retro fashion and black bridesmaids dresses. We found some great gowns, and the bridesmaids loved them because these were actually dresses they would wear again. For the tuxedos, the bride and groom wanted all black again. They also decided upon a best woman and two groomsmen standing with the groom, and the maid of honor, bridesmaid, and a bridesman standing with the bride. Why not? Let’s mix it up!

The flowers were all in neutrals of white and softest peach. Music, food, centerpieces, candles, and on and on it went.

Then came the day of the bridal shower when I overheard the groom’s family asking, “What exactly is a handfasting ceremony?” The groom, without skipping a beat, smoothly told them it was an ancient Irish wedding ceremony.

“Ooooooh, how romantic,” replied the groom’s mother and sisters. Well played, son. Well played.

The Ceremony

Time raced by, and then we were at the big day. The first day of spring! The redbuds were blooming, the magnolias were pretty pink cups, daffodils danced in the breeze, sunrise broke on the festival of Ostara . . . and it snowed like crazy!

Huge puffy snowflakes came down. It snowed, and it snowed some more. I panicked, and the bride was thrilled. She loves snow. With her hair and makeup done, I helped the bride and bridesmaids all get dressed. The bride slipped on a golden-hooded cloak to protect her hair and gown, and we were driven to the ceremony venue and secreted away for first looks. The bride and groom braved the snow and did pictures in a spring garden dusted with snow, posing under a big clear umbrella. The photographer happily went nuts over how gorgeous it was outside, and my daughter came shivering and beaming back to the bride room to warm up and wait for the start of the ceremony.

Guests arrived and looked around the venue with delighted surprise. As Erin was the first grandchild not to get married in a church, there had been some raised eyebrows. We ignored it, knowing what would happen when everyone arrived on the big day. The ceremony started, the bridesmaids walked down the aisle, and there were gasps as the bride and her father entered.

I know I’m her mother, but she looked like an elfin princess. As in Tolkien. My girl walked in on her dad’s arm tall, slim, sparkling, and gorgeous in that short nude-peach colored gown with her long hair falling down her back and a band made of delicate gold leaves across her forehead. I don’t know how she managed the shoes. My theory is that she floated.

My father, who is an old curmudgeon, took one look at her, pressed a kiss to my cheek and whispered to me that his granddaughter’s dress was perfect. I’d managed to hold it together until that moment. Then I cried, too.

As the ceremony commenced the light coming through the glass roof slowly changed. As the bride and groom exchanged rings, the Sun came out, and I swear a beam of light illuminated the bride and groom. There were more gasps. The photographer scrambled to change lenses and settings on his camera. Some people looked around nervously, while the Witches in attendance just smiled.


When the bride and groom stepped outside after the ceremony, the cobblestone streets were dry, the Sun was shining, and the snow had disappeared. Magic? Maybe. But then again, love is its own sort of magic.

My brother-in-law came through the receiving line and gave me a hug. “The light changed when they exchanged rings,” he whispered to me with very large eyes. “The Sun came out at the perfect moment.”

“Yes, it did.” I said with a smile.

He slanted me a look. “I knew that was you.”

“I’m not the only Witch here, you know,” I said seriously. I’m not sure if my statement comforted him or not.

At the end of the day, the ceremony and reception went off beautifully. The bride and groom enojyed their brunch and folks devoured the food—eggs, bacon, and fruit, or ham, green beans, and pasta. People gleefully dug in and went back for seconds. Then after the first dance came the cake pops, another huge hit. People loved them. Again, because they were unexpected. I lost track of the number of times I heard comments about how lovely the ceremony had been, so romantic and Old World. How different, how special, the event had been. Nontraditional was fun. Nontraditional was trendy and cool.

And that, dear readers, is the point. It’s okay to do something different and—dare I say it again? Nontraditional. We found a way to do a wedding that was inclusive and friendly to all the attendees. People were so swept up in the atmosphere and the romance of it all that, honestly, most of the Pagan elements went right over their heads. We made sure that the day was all about the bride and groom. It was what they wanted; it was what my husband and I gave them.

May they live happily ever after.