Celebrant Views

Handfasting ideas

Handfasting or Tying the Knot, which hints at the origins of the phrase, has become very common within the celebrant led wedding.  It offers a beautiful, visual symbol of the meaning of getting married.  As I said, “tying the knot” as a phrase for getting married, derives from it.

So, What is Handfasting?

handfasting ribbons your ceremonyHand 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.

What do you need for a handfasting?

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 for example a length of grandmas wedding veil; their childhood blankets; grandpas ties.

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.

Most common is the tying of an eternity knot

Handfasting - tying an eternity knot
photo credit Richard Crease

This would typically involve 3 cords (ribbons or lengths of fabric). The couple can either hold hands or 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.

photo credit : Bobbie Lee Photography – fun handfasting

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

Involving your congregation, family and friends

My favourite thing is to involve some or all of the witnesses in this.

You can create your own format for this.  Here’s a couple of ideas

💝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 then ties them into an infinity knot.

💝Each guest in turn places a length of ribbon over your joined hands and can, if they wish, say a few warm wishes then the parents of the bride and groom (or the best man and woman; or the bridesmaids and groomsmen, for example)  tie the ribbons together.  You would need 3 people or 3 knots.  They would gathering both sets of lengths then tie a simple knot underneath the hands to symbolise one partners love for the other. Then again for the other partners love and finally a third knot to symbolise the new chapter of their life together and the love and support they have from all those gathered.

💝Members of the congregation each have a scarf.  They form a circle around the couple and tie the scarves together to form a ring around the couple with two open ends.  The best man and woman then lay the joined scarves over the joined hands of the couple and each tie a knot

For more alternative handfastings ideas click here





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