Why a Handfasting?

Mar 8, 2022
civil celebrant wedding - handfasting ritual

Although a lot of people have heard of “handfasting”, most don’t know what it is. So they don’t consider including it in their ceremony. It’s a lovely ritual, and they may be missing out.


Yes, it’s pagan, but if the thought of “pagan” conjures up visions of biting off the heads of live chickens, think again! This is a nature-related ritual, and nobody and nothing gets harmed!

Handfastings date back to the Middle Ages. They were originally a marriage rite, an alternative to the expense of a clergyman. So they were mostly for peasants.

What happened was that a cord was wrapped round the couple’s wrists until their union was consummated. (They would then keep it as a token of their commitment and love.)


Today, the symbolism remains the same. However, there are essentially two types of handfasting. One is the climax of an entire service; the other will just be an element in a ‘normal’ ceremony.

You have free choice of the type of cord you use. I advise one that is at least a metre long (to give me a chance to tie it successfully!). You can choose the colour or type. There are different ways of knotting – I prefer the figure of eight way (representing infinity).

Let’s see what the full service might look like.

What it is

There are no hard-and-fast rules about what goes in to the full service. Your celebrant can advise. Most ceremonies will include the following:

Sanctifying the Circle – symbolises the womb of Mother Earth – we make the wedding site a holy place.

Elemental blessings – these enable us to appreciate how the four elements help us on our journey.

Loving Cup – symbolises drinking in the promises or vows the couples have made.

Handfasting – the symbolic binding of the hands. This inspired the terms “bonds of holy matrimony” and “tying the knot”.

Jumping the Broom – another old custom (probably related to American slave weddings) symbolising the creation of hearth and home together.

Why include the handfasting?

The handfasting words and act are beautiful. They make the ceremony stand out, as the whole ritual is very special. For many people, the connection with nature is highly important. But there’s nothing wrong with simply including something that is different to the norm.

Whatever the reason for including it, you are welcome to discuss it with me. Just give me a call.

Photo: www.lyndseygoddard.com