‘These are the hands that will hold you, love you, cherish you, comfort you and give you strength for the rest of your days’
Weddings are a time-honoured celebration of love and commitment, often accompanied by deeply meaningful rituals and traditions. One such tradition that has deep historical roots is handfasting. Originating from ancient Celtic practices, handfasting has experienced a resurgence in popularity as couples seek to infuse their ceremonies with symbolism, spirituality, and a touch of the mystical.
Ancient Celtic roots
Handfasting is an ancient Celtic tradition. In Celtic culture, marriage was often considered a sacred bond, and handfasting was the ritual through which couples symbolised their commitment to one another. The ceremony involved the joining of hands of the betrothed, often bound with cords or ribbons, as a physical representation of their union.
The purpose of handfasting
The purpose of a handfasting ceremony is multi-faceted. It is a celebration of love and commitment and a moment to publicly declare one's intention to share a life together. A handfasting ceremony is a deeply personal and spiritual experience, bringing two people together in unity. It provides an opportunity to infuse a wedding ceremony with symbolism that resonates with couples, such as love, trust, commitment and the binding of their lives and destinies.
Joining together with a cord or ribbon
Handfasting ceremonies are often performed by a chosen celebrant or officiant, a friend, or a close family member. In handfasting ceremonies, cords or ribbons are used to bind the hands of the couple. These cords are typically made of natural materials such as silk, satin or hemp, and are chosen for their symbolic significance. Couples may select a cord in a colour that holds a particular meaning for them. There are several styles of cords and ribbons to choose from. Some couples choose to make their own handfasting cord or ribbon using materials that are significant to them. Once the cords or ribbons have been tied during a handfasting ceremony, the knot remains, symbolising a couple's unity.
The rising popularity of handfasting
In recent years, handfasting has become an increasingly popular ritual that can be incorporated into a wedding ceremony. During a handfasting ceremony, couples can exchange promises or commitments to each other that are personal to them. Handfasting provides an opportunity for couples to break away from the traditional and create a ceremony that truly represents their values, beliefs, and individual personalities.
The rich symbolism and spiritual undertones of handfasting can deepen the sense of meaning and connection for couples and their loved ones, making the ceremony an even more memorable and transformative experience. The symbolic ritual and spiritual significance of handfasting has captured the imagination of couples all around the world. As the popularity of handfasting continues to grow, it serves as a beautiful reminder of the enduring power of love and commitment.
Written by Celine Gucher, Independent Wedding, Funeral and Naming Celebrant based in East Sussex.