Couples are seeking more meaningful and symbolic rituals to add to their nuptials. The ancient Irish tradition of handfasting is an old tradition that can provide all you seek. What is handfasting and why is it catching a wave with modern wedding trends? Let’s explore handfasting and how to do it. Tying the knot might have more meaning than you ever realized.
History of Handfasting
Let’s roll back the calendar to 7,000 B.C. to a time when ancient Celts officially joined in the bonds of matrimony by handfasting. The couple was met with a feast to celebrate their engagement. During an engagement ceremony, a priest bound their hands together with a braided chord. The engagement lasted for a period of one year. During that time, they would reside together and test their relationship. After one year, the couple would return to the priest to either marry or dissolve their hand fast and choose another. The handfasting ritual was later adopted by Christian Irish as the exclusive method of marriage. Handfasting is still recognized as a legal marriage in some villages in Ireland and Scotland.
The handfasting chord is traditionally a braided rope; however, it can be made of silky ribbons or other fabrics. The length of the chord is important. Make sure it is long enough to wrap the hands of the couple three times and tie a knot. One and a half yards in length is usually more than sufficient. The chord can be embellished with embroidery stitching or charm decorations, such as shamrocks or a horseshoe to represent luck. Many couples choose to coordinate the colors of the handfasting chord with wedding colors.
The Handfasting Ceremony
While the handfasting ceremony began as an engagement ceremony prior to the actual wedding, it evolved into a method of marriage. Handfasting is increasingly common during modern wedding ceremonies. Today, the wedding officiant binds the hands of the couple just as the priests did in ancient Celtic times, by wrapping the couple’s hands with a chord and tying a knot. The couple holds hands while facing each other. The officiant wraps the chord three times around their hands while announcing an explanation of the symbolism and meaning behind the ritual. There are many variations to the words spoken during the handfasting ceremony, and couples can create their own vows. Regardless of the words chosen, the central theme of the vows should be deeply related to the idea that the couple is being bound together as one.
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