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Everything You Need To Know About Handfasting Ceremonies

You may have already heard about the ancient tradition of handfasting. In recent years, handfasting has experienced a resurgence in popularity. Many couples of diverse backgrounds are choosing to incorporate this meaningful tradition into their...

You may have already heard about the ancient tradition of handfasting. In recent years, handfasting has experienced a resurgence in popularity. Many couples of diverse backgrounds are choosing to incorporate this meaningful tradition into their wedding day. A handfasting ceremony is a beautiful way to symbolize the union of two lives, combining ancient Celtic tradition with modern expressions of love and commitment.

What is handfasting?

Handfasting is a term used to describe an ancient Celtic and Pagan tradition that involves tying a couple’s hands together during their marriage ceremony. The act of handfasting symbolizes the couple’s union and commitment to each other. This tradition is thought to date back to the pre-Christian era. However, in recent years, many modern couples include this symbolic gesture from ancient times in their weddings or civil unions as a symbol of the couple’s commitment.

The process of a handfasting ceremony

The handfasting process starts before the ceremony. The couple selects a cord, ribbon, or piece of fabric for handfasting, often with personal significance or chosen based on color symbolism. Some couples opt for handfasting cords with multiple strands, each representing a different aspect of their relationship. The material is draped over the couple’s hands, creating a figure-eight or infinity symbol. As the vows are spoken, the cord is wrapped around the couple’s hands, symbolically binding them together. Once the couple’s hands are bound, a final blessing is offered, and they are presented as a newly united couple.

The history behind handfasting

The word "handfasting" comes from the Old English word "handfæsting," which means "the act of making a contract by joining hands." This ritual dates back to the pre-Christian era as part of pagan ceremonies in Scotland, Ireland, and other parts of the Celtic world. The custom continued through the Middle Ages despite the Catholic Church's attempts to suppress it. Handfasting is still widely practiced today, allowing couples of Celtic heritage to connect with their ancestral roots and cultural traditions.

Who performs a handfasting ceremony?

Handfasting ceremonies are a custom that transcends religious boundaries. Historically, Druids, Celtic priests, and Pagan High Priestesses performed these ceremonies. Today, couples can choose a handfasting practitioner, a wedding celebrant, or even a close friend or family member to perform the ceremony. The key is to work closely with the chosen individual to ensure an authentic and personalized experience.

Who can be handfasted?

Handfasting is an inclusive ritual that welcomes couples of all backgrounds, gender identities, and sexual orientations. It is especially popular among modern-day Pagans, Wiccans, and followers of Earth-based spirituality. It is also a beautiful way for couples from different religious or cultural backgrounds to integrate and honor both traditions. Handfasting can be adapted to suit any couple's preferences and desires.

When does the handfasting ceremony take place?

There are no strict rules regarding the timing of a handfasting ceremony. It can take place before or after the exchanging of vows and rings, or even as the main event in a dedicated handfasting wedding ceremony. The timing depends on the couple's preferences and the structure of the overall wedding ceremony.

Is handfasting legally binding?

In the past, handfasting was a legally binding marriage in some regions. However, in modern times, a legal marriage requires a marriage license, making handfasting a symbolic ceremony rather than a legally recognized marriage.

Different types of handfasting knots

There are several types of handfasting knots, each with unique symbolism and aesthetic appeal. Some popular options include the Infinity Knot, Gift Knot, Draping Knot, Side by Side Knot, and Celtic Knot. Couples can choose the knot that resonates with them and their relationship.

Other unity rituals to include in your wedding

In addition to handfasting, there are many other beautiful unity ceremony ideas to make your wedding day extra special. Some popular options include the Unity Candle, Sand Ceremony, Wine Ceremony, and Tree Planting. These rituals symbolize the joining of two lives into one and can be tailored to reflect the couple's unique love story.

Final thoughts

Handfasting is a profoundly symbolic and personalized way for couples to express their love and commitment to one another. Whether you choose a traditional Celtic knot or a contemporary draping technique, the handfasting ceremony is a beautiful way to celebrate the love you share with your partner. It allows you to honor your heritage and create a solid foundation for your life together.