The multiple coloured Handfasting Ceremony is one of the best wedding rituals to use if you
want to include family and friends in your wedding ceremony in a meaningful way. It
includes up to 14 coloured ribbons that all represent the significant qualities you are
bringing into your marriage relationship and your dedication to these important values.
The verb to handfast in the sense of “to formally promise, to make a contract” is recorded
for Late Old English, The term was presumably loaned into English from Old
Norse handfesta “to strike a bargain by joining hands”; there are also comparanda from
the North Sea Germanic sphere, Old Frisian hondfestinge and Middle Low
During this wedding ritual the bride and groom’s hands are tied with several ribbons, prior
to them saying their vows. The knot is fastened – the origins of ‘tying the knot’ – after which
the ribbon is removed from their hands and placed in a keepsake box. Like their love, the
knot will stay tied forever. Nominated family members and friends can each take a ribbon
and tie a half-knot and finally all the ribbons are tied together in a full-knot.
I am a bilingual, German speaking marriage celebrant, and this ceremony is often included
in wedding ceremonies where many of the family members come from overseas. Many
times ribbons are sent from family and friends who cannot attend in person but their love
and best wishes are represented in their ribbon. The tied ribbons make a lovely keepsake
after the wedding ceremony.
A single sash, ribbon or rope can also be used and while the ribbon is being tied, usually by
the marriage celebrant, various questions are asked of the couple. This is a lovely simple,
but very meaningful, ceremony.
The Hand-Fasting Ceremony gained renewed popularity when Kate and William included it
in their wedding ceremony. It’s one of my favourites too.