When I returned to school in my late 30s, I took a sabbatical from astrological counseling, figuring life as a middle-aged undergraduate would be demanding enough without the added emotional pressure of advising others about their lives. Gradually, though, I drifted into choosing wedding dates with astrology to pay my tuition.

Despite my accidental astrological specialty, however, I didn’t choose the date of my brother’s wedding. Rather, the happy couple based their decision purely on practical considerations, the way 99.99% of the population chooses wedding dates (albeit with only a 50% success rate). And that suited me fine; for although I’ve found an astrological niche for myself choosing wedding dates for clients, I often worry that in plying this ancient art I may be messing around in matters that would work out just as well, perhaps better, without my interference.

I’m reminded of a bride who, after years in a tortuous relationship, asked me to choose the date for her wedding. I was reluctant, having seen and heard enough about the relationship over the years to doubt that astrology could do much to help this marriage succeed, but I did my best. Finding an astrologically acceptable date within the time frame they were willing to consider was difficult, and convincing them to use it was nearly impossible. But marry they did, at the appointed hour, and they managed to stay together several more years, causing each other considerable misery before ultimately divorcing.

I later wondered if the relative harmony of the wedding chart had acted as a kind of cosmic superglue, holding the tenuous union together beyond its natural expiration date. Maybe, had they chosen one of the other, astrologically ruinous days they were considering, the whole mess would have been over and done with more expediently! In cases like this one, good astrology may be employed to ill effect; after all, as any child can tell you who has eaten too much candy, getting what we want is not always what’s best for us.

Perhaps, if left to our own devices, we instinctively gravitate to the moments that are right for us to do things, whether or not they lead to our desired outcome. In fact, I suspect that using astrology in an attempt to influence outcomes may be self-defeating – that this very human desire to outwit fate may, in fact, deny us our right course of action and neutralize astrology’s power to show us both our own motivations and the mysterious workings of spirit.

So maybe my brother and his bride had the right idea: to begin the mad gamble of togetherness by simply circling a date on the calendar, without first asking the astrologer if the time was right!

A Time to Every Purpose

That said, doesn’t it stand to reason that if there is indeed "a time to every purpose under heaven," it would make sense to align ourselves with this purpose? I propose that electing wedding dates with astrology be approached as a ritual to bring individual will into alignment with universal wisdom. Employed in this spirit, the process of choosing a date can actually yield a better understanding of the forces that significantly impact a couple’s lives and decisions.

Having decided to petition the gods for their blessing on your union, which astrological factors should you look to for verification that you’re on the right path, or warning that you’re on the wrong one? Here are a few important guidelines to get you (and your astrologer) started:

Begin with Venus, the planet most closely associated with marriage. A wedding chart should feature a Venus placement that is strong and happy as possible, in a good sign (Venus is strongest in Taurus, Libra, or Pisces) and in harmonious aspect to other planets. In real life, of course, this dream scenario is rarely achievable, because the ceremony must take place on a Saturday in June when Aunt Ruth is visiting from Portland, and when Venus is not necessarily in good shape. On one point, however, I am intractable: Thou shalt not wed when Venus is retrograde. Retrograde periods are times to reflect upon the matters represented by the planet, not to initiate action.

Mercury is legendarily problematic when retrograde; items are misplaced, miscommunication is rampant, decisions are made based on inadequate information. Mercury is retrograde more often than Venus (a few weeks at a time, four times each year) but is still relatively easy to avoid. Occasionally, though, you’re stuck with it, and in the event the bride or groom has been married before the symbolism of Mercury retrograde (which is a time for "redoing" things) can even be appropriate. But avoid it if you can; planning an event as logistically challenging as a wedding is stressful enough without inviting Mercury retrograde to the party!

The Moon’s position by sign, house, and aspect are seen as a microcosm of how any action initiated under its influence will unfold and ultimately be resolved. Some lunar placements that are perfectly fine in a birth chart are considered unacceptable for a wedding date - for instance, the Moon in Scorpio or Capricorn. Likewise, marrying on a void-of-course Moon (a Moon making no further aspects to other planets before leaving its sign) is considered tantamount to astrological suicide.

Over the years, though, I’ve seen enough exceptions to begin to question some of these rules. I’ve chosen several wedding dates featuring the Moon in Scorpio or Capricorn, because the Moon in those signs harmonized beautifully with other planetary placements on the date. For similar reasons, although traditional rules recommend marrying during the Moon’s waxing phase (between the New and Full Moons), this is not always practical, nor in my observation especially important, falling more in the category of "nice if you can get it."

On the other hand, harmony between the Sun and Moon, representing the relationship between the bride and groom, is vital. Avoid Full and Quarter Moons. And while I can’t always avoid every difficult aspect between the Moon and other planets, I do try to make sure the Moon’s last aspect before leaving its sign is a harmonious one. I was taught that the Moon’s last aspect in the sign describes the way everything, great or small, will tend to "end up" for the couple.

What if you can’t get married on the "right" day?

Which is more important to your future happiness: a favorable wedding chart, or holding your wedding ceremony when Aunt Ruth can be there to share it with you? Common sense tells us that the best wedding chart in the world will cause more problems than it will solve if you’ve got to turn your entire life upside down to make it fit! Every wedding chart, like every marriage, has its tough spots, so don’t drive yourself (and everybody you know) crazy holding out for a perfect wedding date; it doesn’t exist. Work with what you have, and learn what you can from the messages astrology is giving you about the date you’ve chosen. But understand that much more goes into creating a happy marriage than just the wedding date. A strong relationship simply can’t be ruined by a wedding date, even one that breaks every astrological rule in the book!

Conversely, it is a mysterious truth that trying to squeeze an unhappy relationship into a happy marriage chart is nearly always doomed to failure. It is usually relatively easy to find a good wedding date for a happy, relaxed couple, and almost impossible to do the same for a stressed out, uncertain couple. Even if I am able to present such a couple with an astrologically fabulous date, something will almost always prevent the marriage from taking place at this favorable time. They gradually, unconsciously, negotiate their way back to the date and time that perfectly reveals the most important issues they must face together, then ask for my astrological blessing. Stubborness? I prefer to think the influence at work is that of the wise moon, perfect as she is in any sign or aspect, guiding this couple as she has so many others to the starting gate that’s exactly right for them – however forbidding it might look to us!

We can approach astrology forcefully and inorganically, as a way of bending life to some abstract ideal. Or we can approach it with the wisdom of the moon, and the dish and the spoon, respecting its mystery and acknowledging our limited understanding. We can use it to analyze the moments to which we are spontaneously drawn – just as we spontaneously gravitated toward the moment of birth, with all its potential for pain and glory – to see what secrets those moments can reveal to us. And we can use the traditional rules of electional astrology as we might use candles or any other ritual device, not as an inoculation against life but as an invocation to align ourselves with a greater wisdom. And that's not such a bad use for astrology.

Author's Bio: 

April Elliott Kent has been a professional astrologer since 1990. She has written about the astrology of marriage and the practice of prediction for the Mountain Astrologer (USA), Wholistic Astrologer (Australia) and Aspects (South Africa) magazines and for the websites MoonCircles, Beliefnet, and AOL Horoscopes. She specializes in the astrology of choosing wedding dates and the study of eclipses. Her first book, Star Guide to Weddings, was published in February 2008 by Llewellyn Worldwide. Her website is: http://www.bigskyastrology.com