Hand-Fasting Ceremonies and Tying the Knot
Are ancient Celtic Hand-fasting Rituals valid here in Australia? It’s a good question and as a marriage celebrant in Perth who has accidentally become a bit of an expert in Hand-fasting ceremonies, it’s a question I feel qualified to answer. The classic Hand-fasting Ceremony is based on an ancient Celtic ritual. Folklore has it that the hands of a consenting a couple, planning to be betrothed, were tied together as a symbol of unity and apparently also to test the couple’s ability to work as a team. The old saying ‘Tying the Knot’ originates from this practice.
A Hand-fasting ceremony is a symbol of a couple becoming one and united. The couple stand face to face as their hands are tied together, but how are they tied and what are they are tied with? There are as many options as there are couples wanting a Hand-fasting ceremony. I hope, with my experience as a Hand-fasting marriage celebrant in Perth, I can answer some of your questions.
What is the Relevance of a Hand-Fasting Ceremony?
A Hand-fasting ceremony, sometimes called a Hand-binding ceremony or the Love Knot, is something very personal and intimate between two people who have decided they want to devote their love and lives to each other. As your hands are bound, and your vows are made, you are captured by each other’s eyes and immersed in each other’s love, creating a very personal and meaningful space. It is often included as part of a legal marriage ceremony these days, but historically, this ceremony was performed alone with only the couple and an officiant present, and your promises were your binding word. As your hands are bound together your marriage celebrant will guide you as you make promises to each other which are then metaphorically and symbolically tied into your union.
Choosing the Cords or Ribbons
Anything that that can be tied in a knot can be used for a hand-fasting ceremony – cords, ribbons, pieces of fabric – off the bottom of your granny’s wedding dress for example, scarves, ropes etc. Whatever is most meaningful to you. The colours can also be meaningful as traditionally there are 14 colours which each represent certain values that you wish to tie into your union and/or marriage. How many bands? You may use any number from one up to ??? I once had a couple who invited all their 37 guests to each bring a ribbon! They all tied their ribbon individually and delivered a personal wish to the couple, it took a while but was very memorable. Make sure whatever you choose is at least 150 cms long as it will be difficult for your marriage celebrant to tie in a beautiful way otherwise.
For example a favourite scarf, chosen and bought together in a favourite place, or, a handmade sash decorated with shells from the beach you are to be married on ☺
How Many Hands in a Hand-fasting?
Here there are so many options! You can hold both hands, left to left and right to right, this forms the shape of infinity between you. One-handed can be either right to right or left to left or even right to left, but really it’s up to you and what feels most comfortable for you both. If it’s going to be one-handed I prefer left to left as this is from one heart to the other.
Choices of Tying the Knot
There are a few options available but they all have something in common, the shape of the knot will be a figure of eight, or the sign of infinity. The celebrant or officiant is often the person facilitating and tying the knot on top of the couple’s hands, or, a special knot can be made by the celebrant, which, at the end of the ceremony, is pulled into a knot by the couple themselves. If, as a marriage celebrant or officiant, you are starting out with hand-fasting ceremonies, I suggest you practise at home to make sure you get it right on the day ☺
Making it Extra Special
This couple, Pam and Gary, decided that they would spend the evening before their wedding doing something quite special and meaningful. They had chosen 5 different coloured ribbons and Pam had found that there is a very interesting plait made from 5 ribbons! They decided, that with every plait, they would make a promise to each other, as together as they prepared their ribbons for the hand-fasting ceremony the next morning.
If you have children, either your own or are forming a wonderful blended family, you may consider including your whole family in the hand-fasting ceremony. If you like, each can choose their own ribbon colour, which makes it even more meaningful as the values the colours represented are bound into the marriage and family unit. The hands are stacked like you would when you are making a pact and then ceremoniously tied together as the family members make their promises to each other and then head off into the future as one unit.
You can also include your family and friends, asking your guests to tie their own ribbons or choose a special person to tie the hand-fasting band for you. Please feel free to call me, your marriage celebrant in South Perth, to discuss even more options.
Kristina and Steffen were looking for a marriage celebrant in Perth and I was the lucky one they contacted. They had been married at a registry in Germany and wanted to renew their vows on a beach in Perth. They had dreamt of a romantic beach ceremony, all alone, but both missed their family and friends! My suggestion was a Hand-fasting ceremony with a sash embellished with love and best wishes from all of their family and friends, it was perfect.
If you think a Hand-fasting ceremony could be the ritual you would like to include in your wedding ceremony, commitment ceremony or vow-renewal, please contact me and let’s find the right Hand-fasting version for you.