Everything You Need to Know About a Handfasting Ceremony

If you are looking for a way to make your wedding ceremony more meaningful and personal, you might want to consider a handfasting ceremony. A handfasting ceremony is a ritual that dates back to ancient times, where the couple’s hands are tied together with a cord or ribbon, symbolizing their bond and vows.

Handfasting ceremonies can be customized to suit your preferences, beliefs, and culture, and can be performed by anyone you choose. In this article, we will explain what a handfasting ceremony is, how it originated, and how you can have one for your wedding. Whether you want to honor your Celtic heritage, express your spirituality, or simply add some flair to your wedding, a handfasting ceremony can be a wonderful way to celebrate your love.

handfasting ceremony

What is a Handfasting Ceremony?

A handfasting ceremony is a beautiful and historic tradition that can be incorporated into modern weddings. It originated over 2,000 years ago in Celtic cultures. During the ceremony, the couple’s hands are bound together, symbolizing the joining of their lives.

The meaning of handfasting has evolved. In the past, it could represent an engagement, a temporary marriage, or even a permanent marriage depending on the specific culture and historical period. Today, it’s primarily a symbolic act included in wedding ceremonies to express the couple’s commitment to each other.

Couples can personalize the handfasting ceremony to make it even more meaningful. They can choose ribbons, cords, or braided cloth to bind their hands, and can incorporate their vows, readings, or music into the ritual.

What is The Significance of a Handfasting Ceremony?

Handfasting holds deep symbolism and represents various aspects of a couple’s relationship. It serves as a powerful reminder of the promises made and the commitment to honor them. This beautiful ritual allows couples to express their love, trust, and devotion to one another in a profound and personalized manner.

How to Plan a Handfasting Ceremony

Selecting the perfect venue for your handfasting ceremony is crucial in creating an atmosphere that resonates with the significance of the occasion. Whether it’s a lush garden, a rustic barn, or a picturesque beach, finding a location that aligns with your vision will add an extra touch of magic to your special day.

The handfasting in the video above was filmed at Errol Park Estate. A stunning private property in the Scottish highlands.

Selecting the Elements

Handfasting ceremonies offer endless possibilities for personalization. From the colors of the cords to the meaningful symbols incorporated. Every element can be tailored to reflect your unique journey as a couple. Consider incorporating elements such as flowers, gemstones, or family heirlooms to infuse your ceremony with sentimental value.

Writing Your Vows

One of the most extraordinary aspects of a handfasting ceremony is the opportunity to create heartfelt vows that truly capture the essence of your relationship. Take the time to reflect on your love story and the promises you wish to make to one another. Let your words flow from the depths of your heart and soul, ensuring they encapsulate the profound commitment you are making.

handfasting ceremony

How do you Perform a Handfasting?

Handfasting is an ancient Celtic tradition that symbolizes unity and commitment. It is often incorporated into wedding ceremonies, but it can also be used to celebrate other important milestones, such as anniversaries or reaffirmations of vows.

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to perform a handfasting ceremony:

  1. Choose a cord or ribbon. The cord or ribbon used in the handfasting ceremony should be meaningful to the couple. It can be made of a special fabric, such as the couple’s favorite color, or a fabric with symbolic meaning. The cord or ribbon should also be long enough to wrap around the couple’s hands several times.
  2. Stand face to face. The couple should stand facing each other, with their hands clasped together.
  3. Wrap the cord or ribbon around the couple’s hands. The officiant or chosen participant should wrap the cord or ribbon around the couple’s hands several times. The knot can be simple or elaborate, depending on the couple’s preference.
  4. Recite vows or blessings. The couple can recite vows or blessings to each other during the handfasting ceremony. The vows can be traditional or personal, and they can be as long or as short as the couple wants.
  5. Pronounce the couple bound. The officiant or chosen participant can pronounce the couple bound, or the couple can pronounce themselves bound.
  6. Untie the cord or ribbon. The cord or ribbon can be untied after the ceremony is over, or the couple can choose to keep it as a memento.
handfasting ceremony

Here are some additional tips for performing a handfasting ceremony:

  • Choose a cord or ribbon that is comfortable to wear. The cord or ribbon should not be too tight or too loose.
  • Practice tying the knot beforehand. This will help to ensure that the knot is secure and looks neat.
  • Speak clearly and slowly during the ceremony. This will help to ensure that the couple and guests can hear what is being said.
  • Make sure that the ceremony is meaningful to the couple. The handfasting ceremony should be a reflection of the couple’s unique relationship.
handfasting ceremony

Where can I buy the best handfasting Cords?

During my research for this article, I found that Etsy was by far the best place to buy high-quality, handmade cords. Below are the shops I came across during my research that not only have many awesome customer reviews but also make their cords and ribbons from the finest material.

Creative Knottie

Customizable bespoke Celtic braided handfasting cords in recycled cotton yarn. Wide range of colors and pendants. Based in Ireland.

Embracing Cords

Contemporary Handfasting Cords in Custom Colors. Based in Portugal.

These cords are made from soft natural cotton that drapes beautifully and feels wonderful to the touch.
At 6 feet each, they are perfect to make an Infinity Knot at your ceremony. The infinity knot is set up on the hands of your celebrant, and finished by the couple pulling on either end to form the infinity knot – a lasting keepsake of your wedding day. You literally tie the knot!

These cords will make a wonderful addition to your ceremony. When knotted, they will be a lasting symbol of your union that you can treasure and display throughout your lives together.


Based in the United Kingdom

Made with great love and great care by Scottish Artisan Ceotha to create the perfect keepsake and accessory for your special ceremony. Completely customizable.

“Customer service is phenomenal! We ran into a little bump but Ceotha remedied it immediately and the cord is beyond beautiful! I appreciate how much care she put into making things perfect, It’s for my wedding so it’s deeply meaningful to me and I felt as though it was meaningful to her too to make sure everything was perfect for us. Thank you Ceotha and I can’t wait to have this cord at our wedding and hold our vows forever!”

Other Handfasting Ceremony FAQs

The specific hand used can vary based on cultural or personal preferences, but traditionally, the right hand is the more commonly used hand.

In many cultures, the right hand has been historically associated with strength, skill, and honor. Consequently, using the right hand in the ceremony represents these positive qualities and the sincerity of the couple’s intentions. However, it’s essential to remember that the choice of hand may depend on individual beliefs, cultural practices, or the preferences of the couple conducting the ceremony.

Ultimately, the handfasting ceremony is a symbolic ritual, and the most important aspect is the meaning and commitment behind it, regardless of which hand is used.

A handfasting ceremony is typically performed by a person who is authorized to officiate weddings or ceremonies, such as a minister, a priest, a rabbi, a celebrant, or a qualified individual recognized by a specific religious or spiritual tradition. In some cases, couples may choose a family member or a close friend who has been ordained online to officiate their handfasting ceremony.

Yes, anyone can participate in a handfasting ceremony, although the central participants are typically the couple getting married and the officiant who performs the ceremony. In the video above you’ll see the bride and groom have a number of their family members each tie a ribbon.

The material used for handfasting cords can vary based on personal preference and cultural traditions. Common materials include silk, satin, cotton, hemp, or even ribbons. The choice of material depends on the couple’s desired aesthetics, symbolism, and cultural background.

The exchange of rings in a handfasting ceremony can happen either before or after the actual handfasting ritual, depending on the preferences and customs of the individuals involved. There is no strict rule on the timing of the ring exchange, and it can be adapted to suit the couple’s wishes and cultural traditions.

The number of cords used in a handfasting ceremony can vary depending on personal preference and cultural traditions. While there is no fixed rule, many handfasting ceremonies involve using three cords. Each cord represents a specific aspect of the couple’s commitment or union, and they are often braided or wrapped around the couple’s hands during the ceremony.

The three cords can symbolize different elements, such as:

Past: Representing the individual lives and experiences of the couple before coming together.

Present: Symbolizing the present moment and the commitment being made in the ceremony.

Future: Signifying the hopes, dreams, and shared journey that the couple will embark on together.

However, it’s important to note that the number of cords used is ultimately a personal choice. Some couples may choose to use more or fewer cords, depending on their beliefs, cultural background, or the symbolism they wish to convey. The most significant aspect is the intention and meaning behind the cords and how they reflect the couple’s commitment to one another.

  • Red: Represents passion, love, strength, and courage.
  • Blue: Symbolizes loyalty, fidelity, and devotion.
  • Green: Represents fertility, growth, abundance, and renewal.
  • Yellow: Symbolizes joy, happiness, optimism, and communication.
  • Purple: Represents spirituality, intuition, and psychic abilities.
  • Orange: Symbolizes creativity, vitality, and enthusiasm.
  • White: Represents purity, clarity, and spiritual connection.
  • Black: Symbolizes protection, strength, and the power to overcome challenges.
  • Pink: Represents affection, romance, and nurturing love.
  • Silver: Symbolizes intuition, inspiration, and emotional stability.
  • Gold: Represents prosperity, success, and spiritual enlightenment.
  • Brown: Symbolizes stability, grounding, and a strong connection to the earth.

It’s important to note that these meanings can vary and may be interpreted differently by different individuals or cultural traditions. Couples are free to choose the colours that resonate with them personally and hold significance to their relationship.

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