Originally a handfasting was a temporary engagement period binding two people together (not literally I might add!) for a year and a day. After which the couple could decide whether to enter permanently into marriage, or not.
Later, during Tudor times, the handfasting came to constitute the entire legal wedding ceremony, rather than a temporary commitment.
How is this relevant to a wedding nowadays?
Handfasting rituals have been used during Wiccan or Pagan ceremonies for decades and are now gaining popularity in modern mainstream weddings too.
They are appearing within both religious and secular ceremonies; with many couples choosing a wedding Celebrant who is happy to offer handfasting as part of their services.
So, why might I want to consider a handfasting as part of my wedding ceremony?
Well, if you like symbolism and are looking for something a little bit different that your guests will remember, then a handfasting could be for you.
Incorporating this centuries-old tradition offers the chance to combine ‘old’ and ‘new’ customs on your special day.
It doesn’t need to replace any of the more well-known practices such as an exchange of rings or vows, either. In-fact it can really add to them – so talk to your Celebrant about how to combine your vows with a handfasting.
A handfasting is also incredibly romantic, and can provide different opportunities to involve your loved ones, as well as your partner.
We already have children, is a handfasting something they could take part in too?
This is a wonderful way to help children feel included in a wedding ceremony.
You’ll see from the photo accompanying this blog, that this handfasting represented Hil & Andy’s commitment to their children as well as to one another.
(If your children are very little, or might not be keen on having their hands fasted, they could be the ribbon bearers instead. A very important job and one they can really enjoy.)
What does it entail?
We’re all familiar with the phrase ‘tying the knot’ aren’t we? Many believe this expression originates from handfasting ceremonies.
Whilst hands are clasped the Celebrant will ask the couple to make a series of promises to one another. For every vow that is made a ribbon will be tied and knotted around their hands.
Alternatively, the ribbons could be used to signify individual values that are important to the couple. For example:
The ribbons could also represent a key person (or people) in your life.
Basically, there are many ways that a Celebrant who is familiar with handfasting can help adapt this ritual to reflect personal wishes.
What happens to the ribbons afterwards?
The final ribbon will join all the preceding ones together before the couple are invited to release their hands. This leaves a specially tied set of ribbons that tied together after the couple’s hands have been withdrawn. This is then given to the couple as a keepsake of their wedding ceremony. This serves as a visual reminder of what the handfasting represented, and leaves you with something pretty to be hung up at home.
I’d like to include symbolic in our wedding ceremony, but I’m not sure a handfasting is right for us….
Another age-old custom sometimes incorporated into modern weddings is ‘jumping the broom’ (sometimes referred to as ‘jumping the bresom’).
Originating from Welsh, Scottish and Roma cultures, amongst others, it sympbolises the start of a new life, as the past is swept away.
In this ritual; the couple physically jump over the broom together physically and spiritually cross the threshold into the land of matrimony.
Hmm, what other options are there?
Sand Ceremonies, Candle Ceremonies, Water Ceremonies and Love Letter Ceremonies; are all fabulous alternatives to a handfasting.
The website Confetti has a useful overview of these, and more…You can start a new wedding trend by creating your own symbolic ritual! There are no rules…
Is it worth using an Independent Wedding Celebrant?
Whatever kind of wedding ceremony you’d like, it is worth finding a great Celebrant to help you. Not only can they help with generating ideas, they can also support you with getting the timings right and how to involve other people. They will also advise on the choreography of the ceremony, such as where everybody stands and the entrances and exits.
Oh, and of course, they can also deliver the ceremony for you on your wedding day. It’s important to have someone who can hold that space for you, and make sure everything runs smoothly.
If you already have a friend or family member in mind to lead your wedding ceremony, then it can still be a good idea to work with a Celebrant in the run up to your wedding. They can create the ceremony of your dreams even if someone else is going to deliver it on the day.
I still have questions!!!
If you have queries about any of the above, or would like to discuss any ideas you might have, please feel free to get in touch.
I shall shortly be launching a ‘writing-only’ service too, so even if you are outside of my ‘usual’ work area, I may still be able to help. (I usually work in Brighton & Hove, East Sussex, West Sussex, Kent, Surrey & London – though I am happy to travel farther afield too).
Either way, I’m always happy to have an initial chat; and will gladly share advice wherever I can.
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