What is a Handfasting Ceremony?

Handfasting is a ritual that embodies the heart of any wedding ceremony: commitment, coming together and trust.

In its simplest form, the hands of a couple are bound together to symbolise a promise has been made between them. The process can be embellished and expanded upon in an infinite number of ways to ensure that the act is as unique as the promise and the people involved.

Some speak vows whilst their hands are being bound, others receive blessings or other words of wisdom from family and friends. Still others choose to have a poignant reading spoken over the top or perhaps perform the ritual in silence, or while music plays.

For some the Handfasting is the entirety of the ceremony, replacing all other traditions and embodying everything they need. For others it is one ritual among many, but one that lingers in the memory long after the ceremony is over.


© Matt Thompson

An Old/New Tradition

The roots of Handfasting lie in the murky waters of ancient Celtic tradition and is commonly thought to have been a promise of betrothal, or the intention to wed, with the actual marriage occurring about a year later. This history is sometimes still honoured today, with couples choosing to Handfast for a “year and a day” before legalising their marriage at the end of that time, should they still wish to.

Nowadays, Handfasting is more commonly used to express the act of marriage itself, as part of a larger ceremony. The binding of hands symbolises the intention to live a life entwined with another’s and “tying the knot” at the end is a clear indication of the long-term commitment being made.


© Keli Tomlin

A Beautiful Thing

There are many ‘traditional’ ways of conducting a Handfasting, each with its own tools and format. But its resurgence into popular culture has allowed the basic idea to be taken up and explored to its fullest, by individual Celebrants and couples.

Numerous sellers online offer handmade Handfasting cords; the colours, materials and charms of which can often be personalised, either to match your colour scheme or to embody specific qualities and meanings you might apply to them.


Rainbow Elementals Handfasting Cropped
© Phillip Parnell

The number of Handfasting cords used is not fixed either. Some choose to have a single cord but others will have more; each one embodying a particular promise, quality or even the blessing of an outside force (such as the Four Elements) or friend/family member. A bundle of different cords wrapped around a pair of hands is a truly beautiful thing; expressing the abundance of love held in the moment!

Asking your friends or family members to make the cords for you can be a wonderful way of including them and knowing that the tool you are using will be filled with loving thoughts and positive energy. Similarly you might choose to make your own Handfasting cord and fill it with specific intentions and dreams for your future together.

The Greatest Gift

There is something deeply moving about a Handfasting. It calls to the ancient part inside of us that understands the importance of ritual and how marking promises with action has been a part of being human since prehistory.


blessing the handfasting
© Chris Seddon Photography

It goes beyond language, bringing a clarity of understanding that even the most well-crafted words cannot match. It declares that those involved are now bound together, joined in a way that is more than just paperwork; they have literally “tied the knot!”

But most importantly it is a tangible sensation; something that you feel and remember in your body as well as your memory. The tightening of the cord around your joined hands is visceral confirmation of the promises and vows you have made to one another.

That sensation, and all the certainty and promise it holds, are the ultimate wedding gift (for you and your guests) that will stay with you for years to come.



Have you considered having a Handfasting? Would you use one cord or more? Who would perform the binding?

Let me know and lets make it happen!