Celebrant Views

Authentically Alternative Series: © 4 Different Ways to “Tie The Knot”

Authentically Alternative Series : 

Alternative handfastings: as the Alternative Celebrant , I am always excited when I discover an alternative way to look at, create, or dress up a celebration.

I aim to live my life as authentically as possible and I love to share my joy in the alternative, and the ‘ordinarily extraordinary

What is Handfasting?

handmade handfasting cords by Cabbage White FashionHand Fasting is an ancient tradition thought to originally link to betrothal rather than marriage; it is an ancient Celtic/Druid ritual symbolising the joining together of two people and almost certainly is where the phrases “Tying the Knot” and “Bound for Life” originate.

These days it is becoming increasingly popular in alternative wedding ceremonies led by celebrants.

There is no one correct way to perform a hand fasting and no specific material recommended.  Some people use cord, some ribbons, others, lengths of material meaningful to them.  You can make your own cords, buy off the shelf or find a local artisan who will make some especially for you incorporating bits and bobs that are meaningful to you: lucky charms, buttons, bits of lace from your grandmother, your late fathers favourite tie.

Alternative Handfasting (1): Tying an eternity knot:

This would typically involve 3 cords (ribbons or lengths of fabric). The couple hold each others wrists so they are touching each others pulse.  The 3 cords  (each about 2m in length) are laid over their joined hands.  this can be done by the celebrant or a member of the wedding party.  Perhaps a way to involve older kids.

The first two cords symbolise each of the two families joining together and welcome the other in, the 3rd symbolises their joint life going into the future.  Whilst this is happening you may wish your celebrant to talk about your relationship and your unique love story.

The celebrant (or a guest ) will then hold each end of the set of 3 cords in each of their hands.  holding one length the other is passed over the hand holding them, back under and then through the centre where the cords rest on the joined hands.   This is a good point for the couple to exchange their vows.

The celebrant then hands one set of cords to each of the couple who then separate and remove their other hand from the knot whilst pulling the knot together to form an infinity symbol signifying your eternal love for each other

Alternative Handfasting (2): Involving your congregation, family and friends:

As I specialise in micro-weddings and elopements it is possible to involve all your guests in the ceremony .  One way of doing this is through a hand fasting / ring warming combination  ceremony.

The couple hold their rings in the palms of their right hands and hold hands as if shaking them.  One partner places their left hand on top and the other underneath to symbolise protect and support.

Each guest in turn places a length of ribbon over your joined hands and can, if they wish, say a few warm wishes.  The Celebrant or members of your family then tie the ribbons together, by gathering both sets of lengths.  first they tie a simple knot underneath the hands to symbolise one partners love for the other.  Finally a third knot to symbolise the new chapter of their life together and the love and support they have from all those gathered   The hands are then removed.

After all the guests have blessed the rings with their length of ribbon the couple remove their hands and place the rings on each others fingers.

At which point the couple say their vows is entirely up to them.  Whilst holding hands still following each knot tying, or afterwards once they slip on the rings.

Alternative Handfasting (3): Tying the knot

I love this one as not only is it simple and beautifully symbolic but it is a way of taking precious old memories and absent friends and involving them in your celebration of love.  The idea is to have two pieces of fabric… ; they can be anything:  a piece of an old dress belonging to you or an absent friend; and old tie;  part or a baby blanket or  some extra fabric from your wedding dress.  Whatever you chose each piece symbolises each of the couple.

The couple join both hands one palms up the other palms down.  the first piece of fabric is placed in the left thump of the front upturned palm and then draped over the hands to the other upturned thumb. The second is placed in the right thumb of the top hand taken over that hand and under the arms to the other thumb.  both joined hands are then slid out of the fabric as the couple hold all the ends and can then raise the knot to the congregation to demonstrate that they have, indeed “tied the knot”

Alternative Handfasting (4): Red String of Fate

This is a a very sweet and simple idea, based on Chinese and Japanese legend. According to the Chinese myth, the gods tie a red cord around the ankles of those that are to meet one another in a certain situation or help each other in a certain way.  Often, in Japanese culture, it is thought to be tied around the little finger.   Using a single red ribbon,  in turn you tie each end around the others little finger as you say vows. You will then link these fingers to make a joint vow of your unity to each other.  Connected by the red thread, you are destined lovers, regardless of time, place, or circumstances. This magical cord may stretch or tangle, but never break.


Follow me on Inst to find out more about my authentically Alternative life 

Want to know more about what a celebrant does and how to find the right on for you? Click here

© content is copyright to me, Bernice Benton, The Alternative Celebrant.  If you use my copy please let me know, credit me and link back to this page


Feel free to comment