The term Handfasting comes from the custom of shaking hands over a contract. The Handfasting gesture is said to also come from the ancient Indo-European images of conjunction, the infinity sign -whose twin circles represent the Sun & Moon. A Handfasting was the equivalent of today’s common-law marriage, a couple simply clasped hands & declared themselves married.
Perhaps you have wondered where the expression, “tying the knot,” came from? It refers to this traditional early Celtic marriage ritual. The couple’s hands were bound together with a cord that was tied in a “love knot,” signifying the joining of their lives in a sacred union.
Today, Handfasting is a symbolic ceremony to honor a couple’s desire for commitment to each other, & to acknowledge that their lives & their destinies are now bound together. It may mean a non-state registered wedding, or one in which a marriage license is filed. For some it is a trail period that lasts “a year & a day”, renewable “so long as love shall last”, & for others a commitment to be together through many lives.
There are probably as many rituals for the Handfasting Ceremony as there are people who have been joined together.
Often in Handfasting there is a part of the ceremony where the couple symbolize their bonds by having a ceremonial cord wrapped around their joined hands. The fibers of the cord are often chosen by the couple, with colors that are significant to them, the gods that are being invoked or which match the wedding scheme. The length should be of an appropriate length to wrap around the couple’s hands a few times. The number of strands can be whatever is wished: a single stranded cord, a regular three-strand braid, or a complex braided cording. Patterns or knots may be woven into the cord as desired.
Jumping a broom has had a long history in Handfasting. Frequently a symbol of the home, many feel the significance of this gesture is that the couple jump from their regular separate lives into their new life together. The broom can be a regular household broom, or one that has been specially crafted for the ceremony. Often the broom is decorated with ribbons or cording that matches the Handfasting cord. It should be long enough that two persons can hold the two ends, suspending the broom a few inches from the ground, so that the couple can jump over it at the same time. Brides should make sure that their dress will allow this action if they wish this to be part of the ceremony! Some couples also choose to jump a cauldron, another symbol of the home and fertility.
The wording of the vows in Handfasting can vary, depending on what is wished by the couple. For a betrothal, the vow was often for a year & a day, with a full wedding coming at the end of that period. Other couples renew the vows at the end of the stated time period. When a Handfasting is used as the permanent commitment, the vows are often worded so that the binding stands for as long as love exists between the two partners.
There is also a complementary divorce rite called Handparting!
In creating the Ceremony we would work together to make it unique to you & your beloved. I have many sample wordings & variations on the ritual aspects, to choose from; poems, & suggestions for readings that can be added, so your friends & family can be part of the ceremony if you like.