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handfasting wedding ceremony

How to Perform a Handfasting Ceremony at a Wedding

As a wedding celebrant, incorporating meaningful rituals into a couple’s wedding ceremony is an excellent way to create a unique and memorable experience. One such ritual is the handfasting ceremony—a centuries-old Celtic tradition symbolizing the joining of two individuals in love and commitment. In this article, we will guide you through how to perform a handfasting ceremony at a wedding as wedding officiant, ensuring a beautiful and meaningful celebration for the couple.

Check out other Wedding Rituals and Sub-rituals Here.

What is a Handfasting Ceremony?

A handfasting ceremony is a ritual with roots in Celtic tradition, symbolizing the joining of two individuals in love and commitment. It involves the binding of the couple’s hands using a cord or ribbon, representing their unity and dedication to each other. The handfasting ceremony offers a unique and meaningful way to celebrate the union of the couple during their wedding ceremony.

handfasting wedding ceremony

History of the Handfasting Ceremony

The handfasting ceremony has a rich history dating back centuries. Originating in Celtic culture, it was a way for couples to declare their intent to marry and symbolize their commitment. The binding of hands represented the joining of two individuals in love and signified their willingness to walk the path of life together. Over time, the handfasting tradition has evolved into a popular ritual incorporated into modern wedding ceremonies. And it is from this tradition we get the term ‘tying the knot’.

What You'll Need for a Handfasting Ceremony

To perform a handfasting ceremony, you will need the following items:

  1. A cord or ribbon: Select a cord or ribbon of significant length and material that is meaningful to the couple. Usually 3 ribbons at 1.2metres each.

When and Where to Include a Handfasting Ceremony in a Wedding Ceremony

The handfasting ceremony can be included as a distinct segment within the wedding ceremony or integrated into the exchange of the vows. When looking at the wedding ceremony order of events, it is typically performed after the exchange of personal vows. Just like the quaich ceremony, you can choose to include the handfasting ceremony in the same place within the wedding ceremony every time, creating a consistent flow and structure.

handfasting wedding ceremony

Step-by-Step Guide to Performing a Handfasting Ceremony

Step 1: Get to Know the Couple Before the wedding day
Meet with the couple to understand their preferences, vision, and beliefs regarding the handfasting ceremony. Discuss their desired level of involvement and customization, ensuring that the ceremony aligns with their values and desires. See if they would like to include family members or whether they are happy for you as officiant to perform the role.

Step 2: Set the Scene
Choose a serene and meaningful location for the handfasting ceremony, such as a garden or a beach. Decorate the area with elements that hold significance for the couple, such as their favorite flowers or candles. Consider the timing and weather, especially for outdoor ceremonies, to create the perfect ambiance.

Step 3: Couple Preparation
Ensure that the couple is appropriately dressed and emotionally prepared for the ceremony. Make sure their hands are free and ready for the exchange of vows and the handfasting ritual.

Step 4: Perform the Handfasting Ceremony
The handfasting ceremony consists of several meaningful steps. Let’s break down each phase:

  • The Couple Stands Face to Face: The couple stands facing each other, holding hands, ready to embark on their journey of love and commitment.

  • The Officiant Explains the Significance: Take a moment to explain the importance of the handfasting ceremony. Share insights into its Celtic heritage and emphasize the couple’s commitment to one another. Call for the ribbons if family members are bringing them forward.

  • The Couple Exchanges Vows: Allow the couple to exchange heartfelt vows, expressing their love, promises, and dedication to each other. Offer guidance and assistance in crafting personalized vows that reflect their unique bond.

  • Binding the Hands: Using the selected cords or ribbons, carefully tie the couple’s hands together. Loop the cord several times, emphasizing the binding of their love and dedication. Use this moment to explain the symbolism behind the cord and its significance in the ceremony.

  • Exchanging Rings or Symbols: This is a customary part of the handfasting ceremony where the couple may choose to exchange rings or other symbols of their love and commitment. This can be done either before or after the handfasting ritual, depending on the couple’s preference.

    • The Officiant Concludes the Handfasting Ceremony: Offer a final blessing, prayer, or words of encouragement for the couple’s future together. And get them to tie the knot.

Handfasting Ceremony Script

Opening:

[Couple’s Names] have chosen to honour they’re Irish and Scottish heritage by participating in a traditional Handfasting ceremony. It symbolises their entering into the bonds of marriage. It is from this practice that we get the expression “tying the knot”. 

Introduction:

Each ribbon represents a family

The Bride’s family 

The Groom’s family

And the new family they create today

I now call [bride’s] Mum to bring forward the ribbons

Couple joins right hands, wrist to wrist.

[Couple’s Names], this cord is a symbol of the connection between your two lives. As your hands are bound together by this cord, so too, will your lives be bound together in marriage.

Exchange of Vows:

Binding of Hands:

The Couple’s wrists are wrapped and tied loosely with ribbon or cord. 

These are the hands that will love you.

These are the hands that will hold and comfort you through the years.

These are the hands that will give you support and encouragement.

These are the hands you will each work with, create with, and use to build a life together.

The knots of this binding are not formed by these ribbons but instead by your vows,

The promises you make in your hearts and uphold each day through your actions.

Remember, you hold in your own hands the making of this union.

Just as your hands are now bound together, so too, are your lives.

Because you cannot always be physically joined together, you will now each give to the other a wedding ring to symbolise this connection. 

Now, please tie the knot!

***The Handfasting cord is removed, without untying it.***

Conclusion: Performing Handfasting Ceremony

A handfasting ceremony is a beautiful and profound way to celebrate the union of two individuals in love. By following this step-by-step guide, you can ensure that the handfasting ceremony is conducted with care and meaning, resonating with the couple and their guests.

Remember to customize the ceremony to fit the couple’s preferences, incorporating their unique beliefs and desires. With thoughtful preparation, a heartfelt approach, and a deep understanding of the ritual, you can create a deeply personal and significant experience for all involved.

The handfasting ceremony, like the quaich ceremony, adds an extra layer of symbolism and depth to a wedding ceremony, making it an unforgettable event for the couple and their loved ones.

Special Thanks

Marriage Celebrant

Gary is dedicated to ensuring that wedding officiants and wedding emcees like you excel in creating unforgettable wedding experiences! With a passion for celebrations, he is an enthusiastic, down-to-earth, and fun Wedding Celebrant and Professional Wedding MC, operating in Australia.
 
Count on Gary to provide expert guidance and a relaxed approach to help you deliver remarkable ceremonies and receptions. His goal is to empower you to curate the best possible wedding day for couples, where every detail is thoughtfully arranged, and the party atmosphere is electrifying!