Handfasting – “to take each other’s hand in marriage”

Today I am going to let you discover a centuries-old practice which is one of most spiritual and perhaps still not well-known ceremonies of the civil wedding: the handfasting, tying the hands together.

Dating back to the time of the ancient Celts, a Handfasting is an old Pagan custom, celebrated in the rural areas of Ireland and Scotland when a priest was not available. It was originally more like an engagement period, where two people would declare a binding union between themselves for a year and a day. After that time goes by the couple could either split as if they had never been married or could decide to enter permanently into marriage with the christian ritual.

Nowadays it is legally recognised in some parts of the USA, the UK and Ireland, whilst in other countries is possible to ask for the presence of the civil officiant to validate the marriage, furthermore it is a ceremony that can be performed also for homosexual couples.

The bride and groom wrap their hands together with a cord that forms an infinity symbol to which the celebrant ties the 4 coloured ribbons, symbolising the 4 natural elements of Earth, Fire, Air and Water. This knot will have to create a figure 8 to represent infinity as it is the connection and devotion to one another.

Each colour has a different meaning and the bride and groom decide which ones they want to use for the ribbons based on the symbol they prefer to give.

These are the different colours:

  • orange: attraction, abundance
  • yellow: trust, harmony, balance
  • green: fertility, luck, health
  • light blue: stillness, patience
  • blue: longevity
  • brown: health, home
  • pink: love, happiness
  • red: passion, sensuality, desire
  • gold: wealth
  • silver: creativity, protection
  • grey: equilibrium
  • white: peace and serenity
  • black: success, pure love
  • violet: possess

The ritual ends with the couple jumping the broom as a symbol of their entrance into a new life together, leaving the past behind.

Photo by: Offbeat bride

The best way to celebrate this ceremony is being immersed in the nature, like in the woods or on the beach, and possibly at dawn or at sunset where both the sun and the moon are present. Furthermore, everyone should participate barefoot.

Photo by: green wedding shoes

Handfasting is a very particular ritual and it allows many different variations that can be customised to you; would you like to have it in your wedding?

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Dalila Azzurra Giordano