Handfasting

The ritual of handfasting, the tying or binding together of a wedding couple’s hands, dates back at least to Medieval Celtic times in these lands.

Hand tying with ribbons

Hand tying with ribbons

Originally a pagan custom of betrothal, it became commonly adopted as a legal marriage in the Tudor era, often performed in a church or cathedral in the presence of a lawyer and a scribe who would note the legal wedding in the Parish records.

Today a full and authentic handfasting ceremony can still be performed by a pagan priest or priestess, but it is not recognised as a legal marriage ceremony, a possible exception being in Scotland, if the Celebrant is authorised by the Registrar General.

It is, however, becoming more and more common for couples of eclectic spiritual paths to incorporate some form of this ritual into their wedding ceremony. To do so can be a way of strengthening the vows and as a commitment to a more spiritual form of married relationship.

Depending on the text used (many are available, and a couple may also wish to write their own) it really offers an opportunity for the marriage partners to bare their souls to one another in front of witnesses.

Humanist handfasting

Humanists will perform symbolic handfastings. An interfaith Minister can perform either a symbolic tying, or can work with you to develop a deeply spiritual text, according to your own tradition or intent. There are many ways of ‘Tying the Knot’ (or knots!).

You might have a loose tying with ribbons which then slide away, symbolising that it is really the vows that bind you. Or a more elaborate binding with knots could be done, perhaps with your own woven cord which is specifically meaningful to you. This can become a keepsake for future use in remembering your vows on anniversaries or for a later vow renewal.

Handfasting vows

Handfasting

Celtic Handfasting with knots

The vows taken during the handfast may be for one year and a day (usually relating to betrothal), for as long as you both shall live (the usual legal wedding vow) or for all eternity. I personally would be reluctant to bind two souls together for eternity, unless they could convince me of a very sound reason for doing it.

Handfastings may need to be ritually ‘undone’ if the marriage fails, either by the original celebrant or by the couple themselves. If you feel drawn to considering some form of handfasting, I will be happy to look into this with you.