A beautiful and accessible unity ritual, handfasting, is an ancient tradition and a popular custom for modern day weddings. Some say that the Celtic tradition of ceremonially binding a new couple’s hands together as a symbol of their public commitment to each other, is the most ancient wedding ritual. It is believed that handfasting is where the term "tie the knot" derived from.
The couple joins hands to form an infinity symbol, visually demonstrating that love will always be present and will run between the two throughout the years. Then a cord is wrapped and knotted around the couple's hands.
Usually, I place the handfasting in the ceremony right before the “I dos”. The “I do’s” in today’s modern ceremony is the part where the couple consents to the marital relationship understood by local civil laws. There is a traditional script that can be read while the cord is knotted, or anything you choose can be shared at this time. The couple’s hands remain tied as the vows are spoken and unknotted to exchange rings.
There are many different significant items that couples choose to use as their cord in their handfasting.
Sometimes, a cord of various colors chosen with each color of the cord representing a special meaning and explained while knotted. Additionally, the wedding party can contribute to the ritual and each member can hold a ribbon during the ceremony and can tie around the couple's hands individually. A family heirloom like a rosary can be used as the cord, and in Hawaii a maile lei (garland) is used for hand fasting.
The following is an excerpt from a recent wedding ceremony with a handfasting ritual and a traditional handfasting script. The bride's sister, who served as the maid of honor assisted with the cords. The colors of the cords were chosen by the bride and groom.
Bride & Groom, please join hands to form an infinity symbol, visually demonstrating that your love will always be present and will run between the two of you throughout the years. Remember then as your hands are fasted, these are not the ties that bind, but are rather cords that signify the uniting of two lives into one.
These are the hands of your best friend, young and strong and vibrant with love.
[Cords are held by maid of honor]
The love already shared by your hearts has been strengthened by the vows you have taken.
You will be bound by your love as you are bound by your clasped hands from now until the end of your days.
Each color of the represent a special meaning:
The Blue represents tranquility, patience, devotion and sincerity.
The Pink represents unity, honor, truth, romance, and happiness
The Silver represents neutrality and balance
And The Green represents fertility, charity, prosperity and health
[Hands are wrapped and cords are knotted)
These are the hands that will love you and cherish you through the years, for a lifetime of happiness.
These are the hands that will countless times wipe the tears from your eyes: tears of sorrow and tears of joy.
These are the hands that will work alongside yours, as you build your future together. These are the hands that will hold you whenever illness, fear, or grief may find you.
These are the hands that will give you strength when you need it.
These are the hands that will hold you tight as you struggle through difficult times.
These are the hands that will give you support and encourage you to chase your dreams. Together, everything you wish for can be realized.
These are the hands that even when wrinkled and aged, will still be reaching for yours.
Bless these hands that you see before you this day.
May they always reach out with love, gentleness, and respect.
May they build a loving relationship that lasts a lifetime.
May they always be held by one another.
If you follow these words and heed this sacred binding, your hands will heal, protect, shelter, and guide.
Now, you may remove the cords, but remember the knot is a lasting symbol of your binding and commitment
[Cords are removed after vows are spoken and handed to maid of honor]