The Handfasting Ceremony

April 12, 2016 by Delwyn0

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.

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