Handfasting Ceremony

Handfasting is a rural folkloric and neopagan ceremonial spiritual custom, gaining in popularity as modern couples seek to incorporate ancient traditions in their ceremony.  Iinitially found in Ireland, Scotland and western European countries, the handfasting is a ceremony in which a couple hold a commitment ceremony by tying the hands with woven or braided chord.

The handfasting ceremony was believed by many to be firstly conducted as an engagement ceremony,  a temporary binding of one year and a day.   If after this time the couple wished to stay together, the handfasting was repeated a second time as a marriage ceremony, and the couple were married for seven years.

If the couple wished to stay together after this time, the handfasting was repeated for another seven years or as a permanent marriage, depending on the couple’s wishes.  Hence the term “seven year itch”.

Officiant in Traditional Celtic Ceremonial Dress

In ancient times, the handfasting ceremony was conducted according to the local traditions.  In modern times, a handfasting ceremony is part of a traditional wedding ceremony, and is written to suit the requirements of the couple.

There are unlimited variations in the ceremony wording, from the short, modern format lasting about 3-4 minutes, to the longer traditation format lasting anything from 10 minutes or longer.

If I am conducting your ceremony and you would like to make your own handfasting chord, I can give you creative ideas and explain some simple methods of making various styles.

Pictured are two of the many braided handfasting chords I have personally handmade.  If you are unable to make or purchase your own handfasting chord I am happy to make you a handfasting chord in your choice of colors.

Officiant in Celtic Medieval dress

In the first example, each of the 5 strands of the braided chord are individually twisted to make the separate chords before being tied and braided together in a 5-part braided chord.  Each end of the chord is then wrapped to form a tassle at each end.  Each custom-made braided chord takes approx. 4 hours to make by hand.

Retail price of the 5-part braided handfasting chord as pictured above (top) is €69.50 (or approx. €20 materials only price if I am conducting your ceremony) which includes your very own choice of 5 colors, the symbolic meanings of your chosen colors for reciting in your ceremony, organza bag and postage anywhere within Ireland (if I am not conducting your ceremony).

In the second example, twisted chords of varying thickness are wrapped together and stitched in place, tassles made for the ends and sewn in for a very effective look.  This type of chord takes about 3 hours to make and costs around €15 in materials.

Sample Ceremony Words (Short Version)

Carl and Aoife have chosen to incorporate the ancient tradition of Hand-fasting in your ceremony here today.
The Hand-fasting hails from the ancient tradition where the hands of the couple were tied together with braided cords as part of a traditional ceremony.
The terms “tying the knot”, “hands in marriage” and “bonds of matrimony” all hail from this ancient tradition.

Carl and Aoife have chosen five special colors for their handfasting chord which have been braided together in a traditional method:

• Red to symbolise love,
• Green to symbolise security, and
• White to symbolise the purity of their love, along with
• Silver to ensure that every cloud will always have a silver lining, and
• Gold for abundance in all things good

[Officiant ties the Handfasting chords slowly to music]

Address, Continued

Carl and Aoife, as your hands are bound together, so too your lives and spirits are joined in a union of love and trust.

The bond is not formed by these cords, but rather by the vows which you have made to each other.

For always you hold in your own hands the fate of this union.

Above you are stars and below you is earth.

Like stars your love should be a constant source of light, and like the earth, a firm foundation from which to grow.

Blessing of the Hands – (The Hands of the Couple, Traditional Handfasting Prayer, unknown)

May these hands be blessed this day.

May they always hold each other.

May they have the strength to hang on during the storms of stress and the dark of disillusionment.

May they remain tender and gentle as they nurture each other in their wondrous love.

May they build a relationship founded in love, and rich in caring.

May these hands be healer, protector, shelter, and guide for each other.