Handfasting Ceremony

Ancient Celtic Tradition

The Handfasting we perform is an ancient Celtic custom. Steeped in tradition and symbolism, it was especially common in Britain, Ireland, and Scotland until the mid 1700’s, in which two people came together at the start of their marriage relationship to declare themselves engaged or “married for a year and a day”. Their hands, or more accurately, their wrists, were literally tied together. This practice gave way to the expression “tying the knot” which has come to mean getting married or engaged.

The Celtic Handfasting ritual recognized just one of many forms of marriages permitted under ancient Irish law. The couple who came together for the Handfasting agreed to stay together for a specific period of time, usually a year-and-a-day. At the end of the year the couple faced a choice. They could enter into a longer-term “permanent” marriage contract, renew their agreement for another year, or go their separate ways.

Tying the knot

Handfastings were under the jurisdiction of common law rather than canon law. As such, only few unions were sanctified in a church or synagogue, rather they took place in the village square, in meadows, a grove of trees, or on a mountaintop and were celebrated by a simple hand fasting ceremony in which the couple joined their hands together in a figure 8 – the sign of infinity, symbolizing that their love and commitment was as vast as the Universe and would transcend time.

With only a few witnesses, the couple exchanged vows before their clan chieftain, family head, priest, priestess, shaman, or elder of the community and declared themselves to be united, binding together their hands and sealing their union with a kiss, the chords remaining knotted forever.

This time old tradition is gaining in popularity for its rich symbolism and down to earth realism. Found in a myriad of cultures, this rich and meaningful ceremony spiritual depth and meaning make it appropriate to use with all faith traditions and is perfect for both interfaith and secular ceremonies.

This ceremony is a wonderful way to include children and other family members or friends in your ceremony and is legal as long as you have a marriage license.

Thank you to Kimberly and Sean for providing this video of their hand fasting