Weddings aren’t complete without a few timeless traditions such as vows and processionals. Other newer customs and ideas are also vital to personalize your special event. Unity rituals are great ways to symbolize your union on your wedding day! There are many options for unity rituals, from candle lighting to sand mixing. One popular ritual used today is the handfasting ceremony.
What is Handfasting?
Have you ever thought about where the phrase “tied the knot” came from? The phrase actually originates from the handfasting ritual. Handfasting is a Celtic unity ritual where you and your fiance’s hands are tied together to symbolize the binding of your lives. Handfasting originated in Scotland as an engagement announcement or marriage ceremony. This ritual includes the wrapping of a cord into the knot of your choice. Though the handfasting ceremony has pagan roots, the ritual does not have to be religious. It is actually a great ritual for non-religious or interfaith couples as well!
When to Do a Handfasting Ceremony
A handfasting ritual can be used for multiple ceremonies! Others have used the ritual for wedding ceremonies, vow renewals, anniversaries, engagements, and more! Whether you do it before you exchange vows and rings or at the end of the ceremony, it is completely up to you!
How to Do a Handfasting Ceremony
The officiant will begin the handfasting ritual by explaining what it is and its meaning to you. This statement often refers to how you and your fiance are binding your lives together, along with the union of your hopes and dreams. The couple is invited by the officiant to join hands which symbolizes your free will in entering into the marriage. For the binding, you can decide to use different cords for each vow or have a few cords twisted or braided and have them wrapped around your hands as one.
The officiant will read a series of vows as they wrap the cords around your joined hands. They may also add an additional statement about having completed the binding and what it means. Afterward, you can either use the handfasting vows as your vows and go straight to exchanging rings or you can say additional vows.
Types of Handfasting Knots
There are many types of handfasting knots you can use at your wedding! Some knots can be wrapped softly or tightly, everything is completely up to you! It makes for a great keepsake from your wedding!
1. The Gift
The gift knot resembles the way a ribbon is tied when you are wrapping a gift. When performing this knot, you will face your fiance and alternatively stack your hands together. The officiant will drape the cord over your stacked hands, wrap around, and tie the knot at the top.
2. The Loose
This knot can be done with either one person’s right hand and the other’s left hand or you can do it by both you and your fiance using your left hands. You can also face your friends and family or even walk back up the aisle with your hands still tied.
3. The Wrap
You can actually be seated for this ritual if you would like. With the wrap knot, you and your fiance hold hands, and the cord is wrapped around your joined hands until the cord is used up.
4. The Wrap, Release, and Pull
This is a cool variation that will allow you to keep the knot afterward as well! You and your fiance release your hands from the knot and pull on opposite ends of the cord. It will end up leaving a knot in the middle that you can keep.
5. The Drape
The drape knot is not actually a knot, it is more like an entwinement that snakes a little way up the arms. It can also just encompass your hands. To do this “knot,” you and your fiance will face each other, and using just your right hands, you will hold each others’ wrists. You then touch palm to palm.
6. Side by Side
With the side-by-side knot, the cord will be tied at the wrists. You stand side by side during this ritual so afterward you can walk up the aisle with the knot still in place. It’s great for creating photo opportunities!
What Kind of Material is Used
Traditionally, a ribbon or cord* is used for the handfasting ceremony. However, you can use a piece of cloth such as a piece of something that meant something to you. You can also buy or make your cord or ribbon. It is a fun craft for you and your fiance to do before the wedding. You can twist or braid the cord(s) or you can have that done at the ceremony during one of the knots!
What Colors Can Be Used
The colors you use can say a lot about you as a couple. They also don’t have to mean anything but that the colors are your favorite and you wanted to use them. However, over time the cords and colors have been given meanings. They can express your personalities, your past, present, and future, your hopes and dreams, the people most special to you, promises made by or to you, or your religion(s).
What Do the Colors of the Handfasting Cords Mean?
Over time the colors have started to gain different meanings. You can use the colors you picked for your wedding or you can use your favorite colors. You can even use colors that may mean something to you, it’s totally up to you! Here is a list of a few popular colors and their meanings.
Red has been given the meaning of passion, love, strength, and fertility.
Pink is the color of unity, happiness, honor, truth, and romance.
White is the color of devotion, purity, and peace.
Black is the color of wisdom, vision, strength, and success.
11. Dark Blue
Dark Blue is the color of longevity and strength.
12. Light Blue
Light blue is the color of patience and health.
Purple is the color of progress and power.
Green is the color of fertility and luck.
Yellow is the color of charm and harmony.
Orange is for kindness, plentiful, attraction, and encouragement.
Brown stands for earth, home, grounding, and talent.
Gray stands for balance and neutrality.
Gold is the color for unity and longevity.
Silver is the color of inspiration, creativity, and protection.
Can You Personalize a Handfasting Ceremony?
There are so many ways to personalize your handfasting ceremony. It is your choice how you want to do it, but here are some ideas to get you started!
21. Have a family member tie the knot
One of the most popular ways of personalizing the ceremony has been having family members take turns wrapping the cord instead of the officiant.
22. Use multiple cords
Some couples have used as many as 13 cords in the ceremony. The most popular amounts have been 1,3, and 6 cords.
23. Add charms and decorations
A nice way to personalize the cords is to add some decorations or charms* to the end of them.
Handfasting in Pop Culture
The handfasting ceremony has actually been featured in a few TV shows and films. Outlander, which is about a woman named Claire who goes back in time to 1745 Scotland, features the ceremony multiple times such as Jamie and Claire’s wedding in season one. Game of Thrones features the ceremony in season two of the show when Robb Stark and Talisa secretly get married during the war. A film the ceremony was featured in is Braveheart, which is about William Wallace and the Scots going up against King Edward I of England in the first war for the independence of Scotland. They show the ceremony as William Wallace gets married to Murron in the forest.
A unity ceremony can be a fun and beautiful ceremony that can make your wedding memorable! With a handfasting ceremony, you can say you literally “tied the knot”. For other unique wedding features, check out our blogs on processional songs, dessert tables, destination weddings, and more!
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Written by Kristen Alley