Handfasting, a popular and the most requested unity ceremony and ritual in a celebrant wedding. Handfasting is a meaningful and visual ritual during a wedding or commitment ceremony.
Where does handfasting originate from?
The Norse word ‘handfesta’ is attributed to where the term handfasting comes from. Handfasting is a Pagan marriage custom and has become associated with being of Norse and Celtic origin but can also be found in other religious practices. Where handfasting originated from isn’t known, only speculation it was Celtic.
Is Handfasting just for Pagans?
No is the simple answer. Anybody can have a handfasting, but to be handfasted is a Pagan wedding rite. During a Pagan handfasting things are done slightly differently than for non-Pagans. Available by anyone who seeks it; religious appropriation should be considered and respected if choosing to have a handfasting with some Pagan themes or content.
What happens during a handfasting?
The joined hands of those the ritual is for are wrapped with ribbons, rope, cords, straps, chains, strips of cloth, a scarf; whatever they want to use. Ceremonial words are said with many choosing to say vows to each other. Family members, children friends, chosen people or the celebrant will place these items and a knot will be tied.
It is important to note there isn’t a right or a wrong way to place the ribbons etc and to tie the knot. Searches on YouTube will show various methods and every celebrant will have their own way to do this. If you have a specific or preferred request regards placement of the cords or how the knot is tied, inform your celebrant.
After the ritual the handfasting bindings are removed and should be kept as a reminder of the ceremony.
Do all celebrants perform handfasting ceremonies?
Most wedding celebrants will have had some training regarding handfasting ceremonies. I specialise in handfasting ceremonies and have been honoured to have created and performed many of them. Find a celebrant who is confident and knowledgeable about handfasting.
Any colours of materials can be used. Some choose to use their wedding colours; Pagans may choose the elemental colours. Many decide what colours they want to use by the meanings of these colours, as colours have certain attributes associated with them.
An online search of the meanings of colours will show different interpretations. Choose which interpretations are Important to you, or why not choose your favourite colours? Much more personal.
Making your own handfasting cords
Pagans are more inclined to make their own handfasting ribbons or cords as they are an important part of the ceremony and represent the bond you make to each other. Internet searches will give instructions and ideas on how to make your own handfasting cords, or online shops including Etsy have a varied selection with different styles, colours, materials, and decorations.
Some decide to use tartan for their handfasting, which can be of family clans. Combine it with a traditional Scottish Quaich ceremony for a Celtic vibe.
Those who book me as their celebrant have the option to ask me to make their cords, as I am happy to do this. I have made many sets over the near 10yrs I have been a celebrant, but no two sets have been or will be the same, as each set is unique.
Any poem, reading, song lyric or words can be said, many celebrants choose to recite ‘Blessing of the Hands’ by Rev. Daniel. L Harris. A meaningful and well liked poem, but not the only one suitable for a handfasting ceremony. There are other poems that can be read.
The job of a wedding celebrant is centred on the creation and narration of tailormade and individual ceremonies. If you are reading this because you are interested in asking a celebrant to create a handfasting ceremony for you, ask them to write a poem or personalised words rather than include a poem suggested for many, (unless of course the words resonate with you both).
Exchanging vows and rings
Personalised vow exchanges and the giving or a ring, jewellery or other chosen item can take place.
Signing a certificate
I provide all who have a handfasting or a wedding created by me with a certificate to sign during their ceremony. These certificates are commemorative reminders of the ceremony.
What to wear for a handfasting ceremony
Anything you choose to wear is perfect for your handfasting ceremony. Pagans may favour a certain style of dress and clothing in colours associated with their beliefs. Non-Pagans who have a handfasting as part of their wedding ceremony are in their wedding attire. Like a wedding, the ceremony is an important acknowledge of the bond between those it is for, not what they are wearing. The choice is yours.
Where to hold a handfasting ceremony
It is the preferred choice from many to have their handfasting ceremony outdoors in the presence of nature. A beach, woodlands, a field, a festival wedding, a family garden, or any outdoor space makes a beautiful and natural setting for a handfasting ceremony. With the weather in the UK unpredictable, you may decide to choose an alternative place or venue should it rain on the day.
Pagans favour outdoors within stone circles or in woodland settings.
When to hold a handfasting ceremony
Outdoor ceremonies usually take place late spring, summer, or early autumn. It’s your ceremony so choose the time of year which suits you. Sunrise, sunset, morning, afternoon, or evening are all considered times for handfasting ceremonies.
Pagan couples choose certain times of the year such as Belatine, and some prefer sunrise to have a handfasting.
Are handfasting ceremonies legal in England and Wales?
No. Currently a handfasting ceremony or a wedding which includes one held in England or Wales isn’t currently recognised as a legal marriage. There is an exception to this and that is for Pagans when held at the Glastonbury Goddess Temple.
Are handfasting ceremonies just for weddings?
A handfasting can be created and performed during many kinds of ceremonies. Anniversaries, commitment, family blending and naming ceremonies have included handfasting. Handfasting is a commitment to another or others, binding them together as one.
Handfasting cards and gifts
We give gifts to those a ceremony or special occasion is for, and handfasting is no acceptation. Cards can be handmade or purchased online. Suitable gifts can include a frame to display the cords in, an engraved wooden box, a photo frame, a tree to plant in celebration, plants, a herb garden, wine or mead, a small cake for those the ceremony is for to use within the ceremony or to share alone afterwards, money, gift cards or something homemade. If you are musically talented writing a song or playing an instrument during the ceremony will be well received.
There aren’t any right or wrong ways to have a handfasting, just ways that are meaningful and appropriate to you.