What is the Handfasting Ritual in a Wedding Ceremony

I have seen so many beautiful Wedding Ceremonies and so many meaningful rituals over the years, including the handfasting ritual. I have seen this ritual performed many times, yet each time unique in some way.

The Tradition behind the Handfasting Ritual

The handfasting ritual is a Celtic tradition and an old pagan ritual that dates back over 2000 years. The term itself is said to come from the ritual of shaking hands over a contract. And, some say that this is where the term ‘tying the knot’ came from! The ritual was also used to symbolise an engagement, or a commitment to marry.

The ritual came back into popularity in the early 2000’s. It is now seen across all types of ceremonies as a ritual symbolising unity, love and commitment. Have you seen the movie Braveheart? In particular, the scene where William Wallace marries Murron. They were joined in union through a handfasting ceremony.

Handfasting ritual
Photo Credit: Elaine Barker Photography

What is a Handfasting Ceremony

During the ceremony, the couple face each other and the celebrant guides them through the ritual. The celebrant will begin by explaining the ritual to guests and providing some background. Your celebrant will ask you to face each other, and hold hands. As your hands are bound, words of unity, commitment and love are spoken.

I have seen the ritual performed in many ways; holding right hands, left and right hands, holding arms, with all hands in. It really doesn’t matter how it is done, it is the symbolic meaning for you that is important. Often there is soft music playing as these words are spoken. You can also invite family members to help wrap the material around your hands. Some might say their vows to each other during this time, or you can leave the vows until a later part in the ceremony.

handfasting ceremony
Photo Credit: Elaine Barker Photography

The Handfasting Cord

The handfasting cord can be ribbons, cord, old material or any long piece of fabric that is significant to you. The cord length should be approximately 1.5 – 2 meters each as they will be wrapped around your hands multiple times. You can buy the handfasting cord online, or you can put it together yourself. A previous couple getting married in Ireland used their dogs lead so that he could be involved in some way!

Below is a photo of Justin and Ricardo at their stunning outdoor ceremony at Virginia Park Lodge. This piece of material used was sourced in Peru. This was Ricardo’s home-place. The material came from a friend and held a lot of importance.

handfasting ritual at ceremony in virginia park lodge
handfasting cord
Photo Credit: Annie Kheffache and Kevin Kheffache

Katie-May and Marc are pictured below in this stunning ceremony at Cashel Palace. You can see the beautiful handfasting cord that the Mother of the Groom made.

Photo Credit: Christina Brosnan

As a Destination Wedding Planner in Ireland, I can assist my couples in choosing meaningful rituals for their ceremony. Read more about my Wedding Planning Packages here. I can guide you through the process and provide pointers for your ceremony, as well as assist with the legalities. What I love most, is seeing it all come to life on the day, and seeing the personal touches that we have put together.