A Handfasting ceremony was the traditional way a couple announced their intention to marry. Mainly a Pagan ritual, handfasting ceremonies are commonly used in many wedding ceremonies regardless of the belief and lifestyle of the couple. The traditions of the handfasting ceremony vary as do the beliefs behind the history of them. A handfasting is a symbolic and interesting element to any wedding ceremony.

Handfastings started off as a Pagan betrothal ritual, where the hands of a couple were bound together and they were supposed to live together as a couple for a year and a day. After the time had passed they either married or went their separate ways if they decided they couldn’t live together. During the ceremony, the couple’s hands are bound together with a series of different coloured ribbons; each colour symbolic of a different attribute required for a happy and prosperous marriage. The couple make promises to each other as each ribbon is draped around their held hands, and a cord or rope is used to tie the ribbons and bound hands together. This is apparently where the term ‘tying the knot’ comes from.

Steampunk handfasting
Image by Alternative wedding photographer – Rob Farrell Photography

After the wedding, the cords can be kept in a keepsake box, displayed in a frame or hung above the marital bed. The cords used are a reminder of making the decision to be bound together as a couple. Handfasting ceremonies can be performed as part of an engagement ceremony, renewal of vows or a baby naming ceremony, as well as a wedding.

Alternative couples usually opt for a handfasting during their wedding ceremony as a lot of couples tend to have an interest in Pagan or Wiccan culture. Couple’s having a traditional church weddings incorporate them into their ceremonies by adding religious words to the ceremony. Prince William and Kate Middleton had a small handfasting during their wedding ceremony. Information on Handfasting ceremonies including their origins can be found either online or in various books available on the subject.

I perform handfasting either separately, as part of an engagement ceremony or as part of a wedding ceremony. Whatever elements you decide to have during your ceremony; define your day your way.

Handfasting ceremony