Handfasting is an ancient custom found in many cultures that dates back to the ancient Celts in Western Europe. Originally it was a declaration of intent, a public statement to live together as a couple. It was like a trial marriage. A special rope was used to bind the couple together but could they still use their hands. Think about that, bound together for everything they did! As the practice became more widespread in Britain, it gave rise to the term ‘tying the knot’. Different cultures used it in different ways. In Scotland, lovers used to be bound together for a year and day. After that they were considered to be man and wife. Of course, if they were incompatible – and there were no children – then they could part.
These days the ritual may be enriched in many ways. Rope, cord or ribbons are available and the symbolic colour can be used to express special meaning. Pledges or vows add an extra layer to declare the framework of the marriage. Handfasting can be very useful in engaging children into the ceremony which can be used to bring the family together both figuratively and physically. I’ve worked with couples to involve children from both their previous marriages to build a fulfilling ceremony and bind together their new family.
The ceremony itself can be a large or as small as you like. You can involve as many people as you want or as few you need. All that matters is that you make it unique for you and your partner. What colours would you like for your handfasting?
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