Our name is Fuze and we’re addicted to handfasting! Yes, it’s true, we’re unashamedly obsessed with this ridiculously romantic tradition and it’s not because we’ve watched the wedding scenes of Outlander & Braveheart one too many times (Willam & Murren’s woodland ceremony though!); it’s simply because the ancient Celtic ritual of handfasting is symbolic perfection!
Handfasting, the centuries-old marriage ritual, where a piece of ribbon or cord is used to bind a couple’s hands together in order to signify their joining, is becoming an increasingly popular part of wedding ceremonies; but don’t let its popularity put you off, because the beauty of handfasting is that the ritual never plays out the same way twice so you can rest assured that your hand-fasting will not be “samey”. Plus, we can guarantee that you and your guests will LOVE IT!
With all of the above in mind, we thought we’d compose a little ‘Tying the Knot’ Q&A to get you thinking about incorporating a handfasting into your wedding day:
What is the history behind handfasting?
The expressions ‘tying the knot’, ‘giving one’s hand in marriage’ and ‘bound for life’ all derive from handfasting, which is a ritual so ancient that its origins can’t be 100% ascertained. The earliest accounts of handfasting derive from Scotland & Ireland where the ritual has been performed for thousands of years. Therefore, if you’re looking to drop a big slice of Scottishness into your ceremony, look no further!
Is handfasting legally binding?
Up until the mid-20th Century, handfasting was legally binding, but when the new Marriage act of Scotland was passed in 1939, handfasting lay mainly forgotten until the 1960s when Pagan’s took back the ritual, incorporating the tradition into their wedding ceremonies. Since then, handfasting has slowly crept back onto the scene and although the ritual is no longer legally binding, it is frequently used throughout legal Humanist ceremonies because the knots are the perfect way to symbolically illustrate that a couple are joined to one another.
How does handfasting work?
Every celebrant has their own unique way of handfasting, but as a rule, the marrying couple will hold right hands so that their pulse points are touching. Two lengths of ribbon will then be looped and tied around their joined hands, each ribbon representing the bride/groom. After personal vows, a reading or blessing has been completed the couple will then release their right hands whilst pulling the ends of the ribbons with their left hands, leaving a perfect Celtic knot to be cherished forevermore as a symbol of their marriage.
What fabric can we use?
Humanist wedding ceremonies are all about injecting a couple’s personality into their big day and handfasting can be a great way to achieve this. The fabric needs to be at least 1m in length and here’s where the personal element comes into play; the fabric can be absolutely anything you desire. We’ve had couple’s use dog leads, pieces of fabric from a grandmother’s wedding gown, rock climbing ropes, clan tartans, offcuts from kilts/wedding dresses or simply ribbons to co-ordinate with the couple’s wedding theme. The world is your oyster and your celebrant will work any personal element into the ceremony script.
When does handfasting take place?
The nature of Humanist wedding ceremonies means that anything goes so it’s entirely up to you, but the majority of couples and ALL guests (and celebrants) LOVE, LOVE, LOVE hearing personal vows so we often recommend that handfasting is used as a symbolic way of confirming a couple’s personal vows (think glorified pinky promise)!
What if we’re not keen on writing personal vows?
If, like lots of couples, you are uncomfortable with the prospect of writing and reading personal vows, fear not, as there’s plenty of other options. Your celebrant can read a blessing or ‘repeat after me’ vows throughout. Or how about asking a family member or friend to read a poem or perform a reading during the handfasting?
Can anybody else perform the hand-fasting?
Yes! Because handfasting isn’t a legal part of the ceremony, effectively anybody can perform the handfasting. If you have a family member or cherished friend who you’d love to get involved, let your celebrant know in advance and he or she can give the chosen handfaster a little pre-ceremony tutorial!
What can I do with our knot after the ceremony?
Knotted ribbons can be kept forevermore as a perfect keepsake and reminder of your big day. Directly after the ceremony, how about tying the ribbons around the bride’s bouquet or why not place it on the top table or encircle it around the wedding cake. Post-wedding, maybe you could use the ribbons to tie the Marriage Certificate in a scroll or why not frame the knot in a shadow box alongside invitations, dried flowers or an inscribed quaich?
Cover photo by Wonderful & Strange Photography.