Handfasting a thousand year custom


 You may remember previously we talked about the ancient Scottish wedding tradition, the Quaich, where the bride and groom take a drink, usually of a nice malt whisky from the Quaich, or loving cup as it is also known, just before they say their wedding vows.

Recently I was delighted to have had requests to include another Celtic custom in ceremonies this year: Handfasting


What is handfasting?

A wedding tradition popular in Scotland and Ireland, Handfasting is a custom which goes back thousands of years, where a couple joined together to declare their intent to marry. The act symbolises unity, being tied together as one.

You may have watched Mel Gibson “tie the knot,” with his love in the film Braveheart.

Braveheart Handfasting scene.

There are various ways to perform the ceremony. The couple will usually face each other and link hands while ribbons of sorts bind their hands to one another. If you have ancestors from a particular clan, it is a nice touch to use the cloth of the specific tartan. Alternately, coloured ribbons, symbolising something important to the couple.

This can be two or more ribbons. Maybe one from each of you to the other or if you’d like to involve family members, you could have three or more. One from a different family member. We’d also include a cord along with the ribbons which would represent the coming together of the new family.

Once the ribbons or cloth have been placed on the hands and the knot in place, a lovely reading would be recited.


“The Blessing of the Hands,” by Rev. Daniel L. Harris.


These are the hands of your best friend, strong and vibrant with love, that are holding yours on your wedding day, as you promise to love each other all the days of your life.

These are the hands that will work alongside yours, as together you build your future. As you laugh and cry, as you share your inner most secrets and dreams. These are the hands that will passionately love you and cherish you through the years, for a lifetime of happiness.

These are the hands that will countless times wipe the tears from your eyes, tears of sorrow and tears of joy. These are the hands that will comfort you in illness and hold you when fear or grief engulfs your heart.

These are the hands that will give you support and encourage you to chase down your dreams. Together as a team everything you wish for can be realised.


Two future Handfasters, being put through their paces


After which would then be the perfect time for the couple to express their love and commitment in making their vows. On the build up to the exchange of rings, we would remove the ribbons, and if the task has been performed properly, we would be left with a perfect knot! This could be a wonderful keepsake in a frame or could tie beautifully around the wedding certificate in a scroll. You may even wish to tie the ribbon around the bridal bouquet or even the wedding cake.

This may feel a little daunting, but fear not. I am fortunate enough to have access to a small function room in Central London, which would be perfect for rehearsing your ceremony prior to the big day at a time which suits you. By the time you leave, you will be focussed on nothing else other than looking forward to your wedding.

There are of course many styles of Handfasting ceremonies and if you have a method in mind which varies from what has been mentioned here, I would be delighted to perform the ritual as you wish.

Handfasting is suitable for use in both civil partnership ceremonies and weddings. If you require any further information on handfasting ceremonies, please do not hesitate to contact me.
















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