The summer solstice is the longest day of the year, a day falling around late June when there are approximately 17 hours of light.
The name comes from the Latin solstitium meaning “sun stands still”. It happens because the sun stops heading north at the Tropic of Cancer and then returns back southwards which means our days begin to get shorter.
Why is the summer solstice significant?
The summer solstice is a special day for many as it means the start of the summer.
It has links to many ancient cultural practices as different cultures have celebrated it being symbolic of renewal, fertility and harvest.
Why is Stonehenge significant for the solstice?
Stonehenge in Wiltshire is the most popular place in the UK to celebrate the longest day because the prehistoric monument aligns to the solstices. The rising sun only reaches the middle of the stones one day of the year when it shines on the central altar. Every year, hundreds of pagans and non-pagans congregate at Stonehenge to see the sun rise in the morning and welcome in the summer.
Many people want to get married at Stonehenge which in Pagan terms is known as a handfasting. Hand fasting is an ancient Celtic marriage ritual and it involves tying a piece of cord or ribbon around a couples joined hands, as a symbolic way of representing union as a married couple. It may well be where the expression ‘tying the knot’ came from! The 1995 film, ‘Braveheart‘ shows William Wallace (Mel Gibson of course) and the love of his life, Murron, having a hand fasting ceremony.
Under English & Welsh Law, the only wedding ceremonies that are recognised in law are those that are solemnised by a Registrar on Approved Premises. However, if coupled with a brief civil ceremony you can have your dream wedding anywhere you wish. Many couples are choosing to do the ‘paper work’ side of the marriage the day before, or earlier in the morning in a registry office and then have the wedding they really want in the form of a wedding blessing, which gives them much more flexibility in their choice of location. By choosing this option it basically means you can get married whenever, and wherever you wish.
Stonehenge is the ultimate venue for a Hand Fasting and if you would like to be able to have your ceremony at Stonehenge you can gain access to the Inner Circle. Stone Circle Access takes place outside the normal opening times at Stonehenge, and are very early in the morning or late in the evening, and are not offered during the normal opening times. The visit must be pre-booked and as they are in high demand you should allow plenty of time in advance for your ceremony. Each visit lasts for one hour, and you are only allowed a maximum of 26 people within the stones. This also means if you don’t purchase all 26 slots you can end up with unwanted tourists wandering around during your ceremony.