Civil Ceremonies and Hand Fasting

 I love and enjoy being around people. To train as a celebrant seemed a natural part of my Spiritual journey. To be part of the ceremony uniting two people as they start their life’s together is a real privilege. When two people share the creation of a ceremony to declare their vows to special friends and family it is beautiful, filled with laughter and a honour to be part of that celebration. 

Handfasting is a beautiful, symbolic marriage ceremony, or ritual. It is believed to span several cultures dating back thousands of years. Hand Fasting is widely accepted as being of ancient Celtic origin and a nature-related ritual with a spiritual tradition. It brings together ancient rituals from Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England.  

The History of Hand Fasting

The true origin of handfasting is not known, but the typical modern handfasting ceremony is derived from the Celtic tradition, predating Christianity. It is a historical term for the word wedding and as couples in Celtic England could not wander down the high street to buy a gold ring, they used handfasting as their marriage ceremony. Gold bands were also the preserve of the aristocracy, so the relatively simple, but highly symbolic ritual of handfasting, was much more affordable. 

Couples would pledge their intent and love by binding their wrists with strips of fabric torn from old garments, or cord from rope to symbolise their union and would then be tied till midnight. They would often then be escorted to the bedchamber to consummate their union. This part of the ceremony is clearly not necessary in the 21st century, and I have never been asked to stay and carry out this duty!

It was considered that if the couple survived the obstacles of life for the rest of the day then surely they would survive in marriage together. In the Scottish Celtic tradition, the binding would be for a year and a day and if after that they still wanted to stay together the handfasting was formally recognised as their wedding ceremony.

The phrase ‘tying the knot!’ and the action of shaking someone’s hand to agree on something, are probably derived from this action of binding the couples hands together, often with coloured ribbon or cord to symbolise their union of love.

Beautiful words are spoken by the couple, friends of the couple and wedding celebrant at different stages of the ceremony. This makes everyone feel part of the ceremony, makes it relevant to all, romantic and a very special occasion.

Hands can be joined by crossing them or side by side and the ceremony is used by all types of couples as a lovely addition to their hand fasting ceremony, irrespective of religious belief or cultural traditions.