handfasting ceremony

Five Good Reasons To Include Handfasting in Your Wedding Ceremony

28/07/2021- Tips and Articles – by Jennifer Cram – Brisbane Marriage Celebrant

Including a handfasting ritual in a secular marriage ceremony has become increasingly popular over a number of years. Ever since it was depicted in the secret forest wedding of William Wallace (Mel Gibson) and Murron MacClannoughin’s (Catherine McCormack) in the movie Braveheart. Handfastings in Outlander and Game of Thrones have increased the interest. It is my favourite wedding ritual, for five very good reasons.

So what is it, what does it mean, and where does it come from?

A handfasting ritual consists of your joined hands being bound together as a symbol of your intention to live in unity for the rest of your lives. It has roots in Celtic and Nordic cultures. And it is usually accompanied by a narrative that explains what it means to you.

It’s visual

Most wedding ceremonies are “talking heads” experiences for the guests – except for the exchange of rings and the kiss, both of which are fleeting. A handfasting gives the guests a lot to look at and your photographer lots to photograph. It takes some time. What is used to bind your hands adds colour and interest. The ribbons or cords can be photographed before, as details pictures, during, and after the ritual is carried out. They can be carried and held by various members of your wedding party. They can be placed on the signing table while you are signing your certificates. They can be carried back up the aisle during the recessional.

It’s infinitely variable and adaptable

Handfasting is the most adaptable of all rituals – both traditional and invented. Whereas there are limited possibilities for sand, candle, and ring ceremonies, the lack of written historical records and the various elements required allow you to

  • Choose how you are going to join your hands – two hands, four hands, palm to palm, pulse to pulse
  • Choose what you are going to use to bind your hands – as long as it can be used to wrap round your joined hands and knots can be tied in it, you can choose anything, cord, rope, ribbon, vines, fabric, even lengths of Christmas tinsel! One length. Multiple lengths. All the same or different. Or a single braid made by plaiting individual lengths together.
  • Incorporate whatever symbolism you wish – the meaning of the colours you choose, for example, and how those relate to your hopes and intentions. Or a reference to your family roots through the use of a tartan band
  • Choose when to insert the handfasting into the ceremony. Say your vows while your hands are bound together or have your hands bound as a confirmation of your marriage, for example.

It’s scalable

A handfasting is a scalable way of including friends and loved ones. Multiple ribbons or cords can be presented and wrapped by multiple people, or only one. Multiple knots (traditionally it is three) can be tied by multiple people, or just one.

The meaning is obvious, without being the bleeding obvious

Tying a couple’s hands together has obvious symbolism, but all the additional layers of meaning you add through your choices, shared via the narrative, elevate it from the bleeding obvious!

You have a memento to keep

At the end of the ritual you will slip your hands out of the tied cords/ribbons, preserving the knots. Many couples then display their handfasting cords/ribbons in their home. Hanging on a wall, preserved in a shadow box, or incorporated in something else lasting. One of my couples had theirs embedded in a resin coffee table top as a permanent reminder, and fabulous talking point.

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