What’s a handfasting and when is it performed?
It’s a very moving Ancient Symbolic Wedding Ceremony which has gained popularity with modern couples. During the ceremony two people’s hands are gently tied together by a cord in a symbolic knot. The binding of the hands symbolises their unity and the binding of their lives together.
Who can perform a Handfasting Ceremony?
Realistically, anyone can perform the ceremony. Traditionally, Wiccans and Pagans embraced handfasting as a part of their wedding ceremony. But these days, it’s gaining popularity with couples from many different beliefs and backgrounds. It’s a lovely way of personalising your Wedding Ceremony. It cannot be performed at a religious or civil ceremony. It’s usually performed by a Wedding Celebrant, who can include many special and interesting elements into your Wedding Ceremony which will make it unique to you.
photo: Hossam-m-omar – unsplash
Is it a legal ceremony?
It’s a Symbolic Ceremony so it doesn’t have any legal status, but it is a statement of intent between two people, symbolising their commitment for “as long as love shall last.”
The legalities are normally done a week or two before your symbolic ceremony. All you need is two witnesses for the legal bit, which takes about 30 mins maximum and costs £60. Then you can have your wonderful Wedding Ceremony that includes all the special elements of a Handfasting that a Celebrant can create. As well as the Handfasting there are many other symbolic rituals that you can include which will make your wedding ceremony unique to you.
How are the cords tied?
There’s no right or wrong way to do a Handfasting. The core of the ceremony is the hands being gently tied in a symbolic knot. And as you can imagine there are many and varied ways to do this. Each person performing the handfasting will do it in their own way.
Both hands may be bound together or just the right hands, or opposite hands. Couples may be asked to stand face to face, or they may stand side-by-side.
There are many different ways to tie-the-knot, and yes, this is where this well-known phrase has it’s origins!
What are the cords made of?
The cords can be made of any material. Natural fibres are best and more ecological. The ceremony will have more personal meaning to you both if the cords you choose have some meaning to you.
The colours of the cord can symbolise different things. Traditionally white symbolises purity, innocence and new beginnings. Red often symbolises passion, strength, fertility, courage, health, vigour and lust. Blue represents tranquility, understanding, truth, sincerity, and loyalty. Orange can represent passion, fun energy and warmth.
Handfasting cords can be braided / plaited or woven and ribbon is the ideal material to use for this as it’s soft and pliable and easy to tie. And it’s easy to buy many different colours and styles of ribbon. The plaiting symbolises the inter-twining of a couple’s lives, hearts and souls, and the endless love, loyalty and the joint path of the couple as they go forward. It can be tailor made to suit you and it really is wonderful if you can make your own cords.
How many cords are used and how long should they be?
In Pagan symbolism the numbers 3 and 9 have significance. You can literally weave this symbolism into the making of the cords if you’d like to. The cords need to be at least 6 feet long (2 metres) when they are finished to allow for the knots to be made.
You could choose to have 3 ribbons plaited into one cord and make 3 of these. Using colours and materials that mean something to each of you. Why not make one cord each and one cord together? It really is up to you!
Are special words used during Handfasting?
Each Celebrant will use their own words but ‘The Blessing of the Hands’ is often a part of the ceremony.
‘These are the hands of your best friend, young and strong and full of love for you, that are holding yours on your wedding day, as you promise to love each other today, tomorrow and forever.’
The Handfasting can be used in combination with your own Wedding Vows that you have written yourselves. This makes the ceremony all about you and completely personal. No two ceremonies should be the same.
“Love took me by the hand;
Love took me by surprise.
Love led me to you,
And love opened up my eyes.”
– Michelle Branch, “Drop in the Ocean”
How can I have a Handfasting on my Wedding Day?
This beautiful and ancient ceremony can be performed as part of a Symbolic Ceremony created and officiated by a Wedding Celebrant or a Pagan Ceremony Practitioner. If you’d like to find out more about it or if you’ve decided you’d love to have this ceremony on your special day get in touch for a chat. I’m very happy to help you have the day you’ve been dreaming of and craft a Ceremony that’s unique to you.
I am a Celebrant creating personalised ceremonies for all major life events.
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