All You Need to Know About Handfasting

Handfasting is an old Pagan wedding custom, believed to be Celtic, but it can be found in varying forms of other religions. It is the binding together of the hands of those the ceremony is for using ribbons, cords, or any other materials of their choice. Handfasting is no longer just for Pagans. Religious, nonreligious, spiritual and atheist people can have a handfasting. Is it relevant to know where something comes from and how old it is if it is chosen?

Wedding Customs Origins

When people decide to marry, wed, commit or be handfasted to each other, do they do so with an accurately historical knowledge of the rituals, words, and origins of what they want to happen within their ceremony, or do they choose to include these things because they like them, and they have a meaning or purpose to them?  Generally, the latter.

How many wedding certificates are signed each year across the world, and how many people are aware of the origins of signing a wedding certificate and who started this? (The Ketubah signed by Jewish newlyweds).

Further information on wedding customs origins

Religious and Cultural Appropriation

When deciding to incorporate anything into a wedding ceremony, advice is to be respectful of religious and cultural appropriation. Handfasting is the Pagan marriage custom and if you aren’t Pagan, handfasting can still be included, but no ceremonial wording or other inclusions should be used. The many branches of Paganism have had their rites, copied many times so even though they are used to it, it doesn’t make it ethically or morally right to do so.

Handfasting Locations

Handfasting is favoured to be outdoors, but an indoor ceremony won’t make it any less meaningful. Whatever location, whatever season of the year, whatever colours, whoever is involved, whatever materials are used, saying vows or not; all are personal choices.

Handfasting by a Wedding Celebrant

Most wedding celebrants who are trained by reputable celebrant training organisations will have had some training on handfasting. YouTube has videos of handfasting ceremonies which may be useful or may be confusing as there are so many of them. Each celebrant will have their preferred way of creating and performing a handfasting, either using ribbons, cords, or any other materials of their clients requests.

Certain celebrants (such as Choice Celebrant Founder Ellie Farrell) specialise in the ritual of handfasting; all wedding celebrants should be confident and knowledgeable about handfasting as it is a popular ritual and wedding unity ceremony.

Wording that is ceremonial should be said as handfasting is a wedding ritual. There are many poems and readings for handfasting online, a lesser known one is:

May these hands be blessed this day.

May they always hold each other.

May they have the strength to hang on during the storms of stress and the dark of disillusionment.

May they remain tender and gentle as they nurture each other in their wondrous love.

 May they build a relationship founded in love, and rich in caring.

May these hands be healer, protector, shelter, and guide for each other.

Author unknown

Ribbons or Cords

Family, friends, the celebrant, or wedding party can each wrap a different coloured cord of ribbon over the wrists and joined hands of those the handfasting ritual is for. The colours can be chosen to compliment the wedding décor, their favourite colours, or for the meanings of the colours. All colours represent things needed for a successful relationship.

Meanings can be found online and vary so choosing meanings of relevance is essential.

Some celebrants may offer the service of providing handfasting cords or ribbons, some may not. Bespoke ones are available online if these are preferred.

Suggested Personalised Choices

Material from a mother’s wedding dress, lace from a grandmother’s wedding veil, a late father’s tie or even a beloved dog’s lead have all been used during handfasting ceremonies.

Saying Vows

Many choose to say vows as part of a handfasting ceremony. These can be written by each other, or the celebrant can make suggestions or write them. They should be personalised vows written especially for those the ceremony is for.

Jumping Over a Broom

Broom jumping can be included within a wedding with handfasting and the broom like the handfasting ribbons or cord is kept by those jumping over it. This can be decorated with the same colours used for the handfasting.

Further Information on Handfasting

There are many books available about handfasting, and there is a lot of information to be found online. It is always worth noting many are the beliefs or the thoughts of the author as handfasting has evolved and will continue to do with the demand for it being higher than it has ever been.

Blog by Choice Celebrant Training