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Handfasting Ceremony: Everything You Need To Know

handfasting ceremony

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Marriage is a beautiful occasion that commemorates the joining of two people – and what better way to celebrate this occasion than with a meaningful ritual? A popular choice among most couples today is handfasting.

Handfasting involves the bounding couple’s hands together, preferably using a cord or ribbon, symbolizing their unity through marriage.

In most cases, this ritual is carried out at celebrant-led wedding ceremonies. From this article, you’ll find the origins of this ritual that most couples seem to be embracing today, what it involves, its legality, and the person in charge of carrying out a handfasting practice, to mention but a few.

Origins of the Handfasting Ritual

Handfasting is one of the oldest wedding rituals to the extent that its origins cannot be exact. It’s a tradition that goes back several thousands of years, with many people believing it is traceable to Druid and Celtic ceremonies. It is where phrases ‘bound for life’ and ‘tying the knot’ originate.

In Scotland, for instance, pieces of tartan were traditionally used for the handfasting ceremony, though it was primarily used to signify some betrothal, as opposed to the entire marriage itself. The practice was adopted in several European countries and became a norm in Viking weddings among other groups.

Today, handfasting is popular with several couples who want a more personalized and intimate celebration.

What Does Handfasting Involve?

Handfasting is complicated, as you may initially imagine. It involves the couples about to get married holding hands so that their pulse joints or wrists are touching. Once they hold their hands together, a cord or ribbon is looped or tied around them.

In some wedding ceremonies, you’ll notice the ribbon being looped 6 times, with the couple making their vows or some form of declaration to each other. The final tie is mostly done loosely to ensure the couples keep the noted ribbon as a special symbol of their new marriage.

In most wedding ceremonies where handfasting is common, the ribbon is composed of two pieces of material, symbolizing the couple or strands of different colors, signifying essential aspects of their relationship.

Is Handfasting Legal?

There’s nothing wrong with a handfasting ceremony in many places across the globe. However, it would be best to remember the ceremony itself isn’t recognized as a legal wedding, especially in the United Kingdom.

In many jurisdictions across the globe, by law, civil ceremonies aren’t supposed to contain any religious content, meaning that handfasting isn’t a requirement in any civil service. Fortunately, if you’re lucky, you can find an understanding handfasting registrar who may allow you to finalize your handfasting ceremony, but in a separate room.

The easiest way for you and your partner to enjoy a handfasting wedding ritual ceremony is to ensure that you have some small civil celebration. Note that this should be separate from a celebrant-led or humanist service that includes handfasting.

Small civil ceremonies can be carried out with just 2 witnesses present and quite affordably if you do it at your local register establishment. While the handfasting ceremony will not be legally binding, on the other hand, it gives both of you some flexibility on what you wish to include in your legal wedding.

Who Performs a Handfasting Ceremony?

Since handfasting isn’t a legal ceremony, anybody can perform it. Your close friend, family member, or anyone you like can conduct this service without problems.

In most cases, though, celebrants perform handfasting rituals alongside some broad service. A celebrant may discuss with you the best method to customize the handfasting to fit your unique needs as a couple because they have probably performed similar rituals countless times before.

Couples with a variety of religious and atheist beliefs undertake handfasting, which has no particular religious significance.

What’s the Best Time to carry out a Handfasting Ceremony?

You can perform the handfasting ceremony any time during the wedding ceremony, though most people prefer to have it right before exchanging their rings. If you have it undertaken before exchanging your wedding rings, you’ll be in an excellent position to say your vows while bound together before finishing off with your wedding rings.

You need to note that some couples choose to do it quite differently. If you wish, you can undertake handfasting once you exchange your rings. You need to discuss this with your officiant and find the best time for you.

You shouldn’t perform the handfasting ceremony on your wedding day. Still, you can do it once you get engaged with your partner or wish to celebrate a huge milestone, like a significant date in your relationship, your vow renewal, or your anniversary.

What Materials do you need for a Handfasting Ceremony?

During the handfasting ceremony, you will need ropes or ribbons to bind your hands together. You are free to select any color you like: Choose colors that have special meaning for the occasion or coordinate with your wedding’s color design.

For instance, crimson denotes desire, and white represents purity. You may make the ritual uniquely yours by choosing your or your loved ones’ favorite colors. You have total control over the decision!

Should I Choose Handfasting for My Wedding?

Particularly in recent years, weddings have become much more personal. Many couples believe that weddings with a stronger traditional bent can be too constraining. Alternatively, it could be that their marriages don’t accurately represent their identities or meanings.

A handfasting ceremony is a beautiful way to express your connection, unity, and increased intimacy. On the other hand, some choose to honor the old-fashioned custom itself.

How Long Should Couples Stay Bound while Partaking the Handfasting Ritual?

Long ago, couples partaking in the handfasting ritual remained bound together up until midnight. However, this is different in the modern times. For instance, you’ll want to greet your invites, eat, drink, and dance without being tethered together.

For the above reason, you should remove your ties as soon as the ritual ends. It is advisable to try to remove the ties without rupturing the knots. Make sure you store them safely if you want to take them home as a souvenir or have a bridal party member take care of them.

Wrap Up

The handfasting ceremony is one of the oldest wedding rituals that have survived generations up to today, with most couples in modern times finding this ritual ideal for their wedding. Handfasting is a practical and visible way to acknowledge your connection as a couple on your big day.

I am Megan Nova, a wedding planner and Author based in New York City. My vast exposure in the wedding planning trade and my passion for storytelling has inspired me to share expert advice and creativity on this blog.

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