Handfasting

Nov 8, 2016

I often get asked what a handfasting is.

Do you remember when Prince William married Kate Middleton? Although the ceremony was religious, they briefly incorporated a ritual that resembled a handfasting. The Archbishop draped material over the clasped hands of the couple.

royal_handfasting

So much else was going on that it attracted little attention. However, a handfasting is technically pagan, and often plays a central role in pagan ceremonies.

Alternatively, it is often chosen as an “add-on” in a traditional wedding.

A growing number of brides and grooms seem intrigued by this and are choosing to incorporate it in their wedding.

And of course it can be included in a Vow Renewal too.

History

Handfastings began as a marriage rite in the Middle Ages. When peasants married, they might have been unable to afford a clergyman’s fee to hear their vows or a ring to signify their love. The ritual of handfasting became a popular alternative.

A cord was wrapped round the wrists of the couple and left on them until their union was consummated. It would usually be kept as a tangible reminder and proof of their commitment and love.

It has given us the expression “tying the knot”.

Present-day Ceremony

Nowadays, the cord symbolises the pair’s mutual love. The way a handfasting can be slipped in is as follows, although this is only a suggestion, and it may be different for a pagan ceremony.

  • Walking down the aisle to be given away by the father
  • Officiant welcome
  • Meaning of love (possibly from a religious slant, if that’s wanted)
  • Here, or after the Handfasting, or at both times, a song or a reading/poem
  • Handfasting
  • Possibly, a Unity Candle or Sand Ceremony or Chalice ritual
  • Exchange of Rings/Vows
  • Jumping the Broom (not actually pagan, but deriving from wedding ceremonies conducted by slaves in the American South), now used to symbolise sweeping in the new as a new home is created
  • Concluding words

Thoughts

After the event

I conducted a memorable handfasting at an Iron Age Fort in Wiltshire. The ceremony was part-pagan, part-Jewish with rituals from both sides. (Of course, I made sure everyone could understand by explaining the symbolism.)

It was a totally unique occasion – absolutely perfect for the couple and – clearly – for the guests too.

I shared a wonderful experience with an American couple at Stonehenge at the time of the solstice – and that was quite unforgettable! A photo from that day is my featured image.

In order to add extra sparkle and personality to your big day, do find out about a handfasting. I shall be delighted to tell you more.