A handfasting is an old Pagan custom, dating back to the time of the ancient Celts. A handfasting was originally a wedding that lasted a year and a day, if the couple chose they could be bound together for longer after this trial period or they could go their separate ways.
A handfasting takes place after the vows and the ring exchange in a wedding. The couple’s hands are bound together with a cord or ribbons tied that are tied in the infinity symbol. This is where we get the expression ‘tying the knot”. A knot was literally tied between the couple signifying their marriage; the fact that they intend to be together as a couple. The infinity symbol means that the love and the union will be everlasting.
Handfasting is really popular in weddings these days, and becoming more and more widespread- and why not? It’s a beautiful tradition and a meaningful element to include in your wedding. Even though today handfasting is a symbolic ceremony it is a lovely way to show a couples intent and desire to commit to one another and to acknowledge that their lives and fates are now bound as one.
For a wedding in Ireland, especially for someone with Irish roots this ceremony enhancement is a must have.
As well as being a part of history, handfasting means that you have an actual knot as a keepsake from your ‘tying the knot’. Many couples choose to have their handfasting infinity knot framed.
A handfasting cord can be made up of anything, provided it is roughly 3 foot in length. Many people choose ribbons. The colours used have symbolic meanings.
Here is a list of the Celtic symbolic meanings of colours for handfastings:
Red: passion, strength, lust, fertility, love, health, vigor.
Orange: encouragement, attraction, kindness, plenty, stimulation.
Yellow: charm, confidence, joy, balance, attraction.
Green: love, finances, fertility, charity, prosperity, health, luck, nurturing, beauty.
Blue: tranquility, patience, devotion, sincerity, strength.
Purple: power, piety, sanctity, sentimentality, progress, healing.
Pink: unity, honor, truth, romance, happiness, love.
White: purity, concentrtion, meditation, peace, truth, devotion, serenity.
Black: strength, wisdom, vision, success.
Brown: healing, earth, grounding, talent, telepathy, home and hearth.
Silver: treasure, values, vision, creativity, inspiration, protection.
Gold: energy, wealth, intelligence, longevity, prosperity, strength, unity.
You can choose to use as many colours as you like either for their symbolic meaning, their meaning to you or simply because they match your wedding theme or perhaps your team colours.
If a coloured cord is not for you other ideas include burlap, which gives a lovely rustic feel, rope, again for a rustic feel, pieces of sari fabric for something colourful and different, or perhaps a specially woven piece of fabric which could contain your names or the date of your wedding. Whatever you choose it will make a really special keepsake that can be passed on for use in future weddings (maybe as someones something old in many years to come) or framed as a unique reminder of the beautiful promises you made to one another.
Apart from the beautiful history and tradition that come with handfasting it’s a great way to add symbolic elements to a wedding ceremony or to include members of the wedding party in the ceremony.
The cords that make up the handfasting cord are often threefold- the number three had a magical significance for the ancients (the rule of three times three- what you do comes back to you threefold is an example). The cords, is you decide to use more than one can be plaited. Symbolic items can be tied onto the ends such as tiny bells, to ward off negativity, a horse shoe (a traditional symbol of good luck in Ireland and commonly associated with weddings), a tree of life, crystals, rune stones… a crucifix… anything you like.
A nice way to include people who might not have a poem to read or a candle to light but would love to be part of your special day is to get them to bring up a ribbon for your handfasting- as many people are you like can do this. It’s a lovely way to include children who you may not want to have lighting a candle.
A nice way to conclude a ceremony after the handfasting is jumping over the broom- another ancient custom!