What is Handfasting?
Updated: Jul 8
The Handfasting ceremony dates back to ancient Ireland in the time of the Celts. Dating back as far as 7,000 BC, two people who chose to be married, were brought together, before their wedding day and their hands were bound together, proclaiming them as engaged. The period of engagement was typically one year at which point the couple could renew their vows for another year, get married or separate. This ritual gave us the expression ‘tying the knot’ which has lasted to this day.
Wedding Ceremony Ritual
Handfasting has survived to this day and is one of the most popular rituals to include in your wedding ceremony. While the ritual has changed since Celtic times it has remained as a beautiful way of symbolising the binding of two individuals in commitment and love in the union of marriage.
Traditionally the was made of rope or cloth. Today it varies from satin or silk ribbons, coloured ropes, fabric taken from an heirloom or anything that can be tied around your hands.
The handfasting ritual can involve just the couple or can include your guests. You could invite guests to add coloured ribbons to your cord as a symbol of their good wishes to you. If there are children, it is a wonderful way to involve them in your ceremony. Each picking their favourite colour and adding to the cord.
The colours you choose for your handfasting is your choice and can reveal a lot about you as a couple. The ritual, based on the colours chosen, can bring a lovely poignant feel to your wedding ceremony.
The colour can demonstrate the values you want to bring to the marriage. For example
Black: pure love, wisdom, success, strength
Blue: fidelity, longevity, strength, safe journey
Brown: Nurturing, home and hearth, healing
Gold: wisdom, prosperity, longevity
Grey: balance, neutrality
Green: fertility and growth, love, luck, prosperity, nurturing
Orange: kindness, encouragement, adaptability, attraction
Pink: love, happiness, unity, romance, honour, truth
Purple: spiritual strength, power, health, healing
Red: passion, love, courage, strength, health, vigour
Silver: protection, inspiration and vision, creativity
White: purity, serenity, peace, truth, devotion
Yellow: harmony, balance, attraction confidence
Some different ways you can use colour in the ribbons and cords of your handfasting can also include:
Your past, present and future – every colour or fabric will represent a different period
Your dreams, hopes and adventures as a couple
Your county or country
Special people in your life – for example, if you have children, they could be symbolised with one colour, your parents with another and so on
It could even just be in line with your wedding colour scheme!
Handfasting is a ritual that can be included in more than just a traditional wedding ceremony. It is a beautiful way to incorporate an Irish tradition if you are planning to elope to Ireland. It can also be included in a commitment ceremony, where a couple vow to commit to each other, symbolising that commitment through the binding of their hands in friendship and love. It is also a beautiful way to symbol your recommitment and bond to each other in a vow renewal ceremony.
There are so many variants of beautiful words that can be said over the bound hands. One of my favourites:
“As this knot is tied so your lives are now bound. Woven into these cords are your hopes and dreams for your life together.”