Hand-fasting is an ancient Celtic marriage tradition, from which we get the expression TYING THE KNOT. As Celtic culture spread from Ireland and Scotland through Britain and into western Europe, hand-fasting evolved to the point that it was incorporated into the religious marriage ceremonies. In some remote areas, hand-fasting became a form of temporary marriage until it was followed up by a real wedding.
The traditional hand-fasting “chord” was made of rope or dyed cloth; it was a status symbol to have an embroidered chord. It was approximately a yard long, and was wrapped about the hands to mimic the Celtic knot, which symbolized unity and everlasting.
When performing a hand-fasting ceremony, I allow the couple to choose between two variations. One is a non-religious version that involves 4 ribbons, and a blessing of their marriage with gifts from the north, south, east and west.
The other is a Christian version, that uses 3 ribbons, representing the Trinity. This is a variation of a traditional ceremony, in which the priest will wrap his stole around the couple’s hands “Those whom God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” William and Kate were handfasted at their wedding by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The colour of the ribbons is up to you. Some brides like to choose their wedding colours. Others prefer the traditional hand-fasting colours of white for purity, red for passion, and blue for loyalty. Some couple prefer silk cord, which can be found in craft stores. Many add tassels or charms. Use your creativity!
For both versions, I do a blessing of the hands:
These are the hands of your best friend, full of love for you, that are holding yours on your wedding day, as you promise to love each other today, tomorrow and forever. These are the hands that will work alongside yours, as together you build your future. These are the hands that will passionately love you and cherish you through the years, and with the slightest touch, will comfort you like no other. These are the hands that will hold you when fear or sadness fills you. These are the hands that will wipe the tears from your eyes; both tears of sorrow and tears of joy. These are the hands that will give you strength when you need it. And these are the hands that, even when wrinkled and aged, will still be reaching for yours, still giving the you same unspoken tenderness with just a touch.