Wedding Traditions: Handfasting

Photo credit: One Oak Photo

Whilst handfasting is definitely not a new wedding tradition it is one that I was unaware of until recently. More and more in both wedding magazines and wedding blogs I see posts being shared about couples opting for this type of ceremony. As I knew nothing much about the concept (apart from that scene in Braveheart) I thought it would be a great place to start our series of posts about 'Wedding Traditions: Old and New'!

What is handfasting?
Handfasting a pagan tradition that can be traced back to the early Celts. Originally handfasting was more of a trial period than it was a marriage as such, similar to taking a car for a spin before purchasing it. The couple would declare a binding union for a year and a day and when 366 days passed they could split or commit and enter into a permanent marriage.

Handfasting has been embraced by Wiccans and Pagans and is commonly practiced in each of these types of marriage ceremony.  Handfasting today is more literal with couples binding their hands with cords/ribbons during the wedding ceremony (typically around the time vows are recited) depicting a couples eternal connection and devotion to each another. You don't have to be Wiccan or Pagan to introduce the practice of handfasting into your own wedding! The versatility of the ritual means that more and more couples are choosing to include it in their own secular or religious wedding ceremonies.

Is handfasting a legal marriage?
A handfasting can be several things, depending on your own choices/wishes, including a legal marriage; a commitment ceremony (such as a civil law partnership); a trial marriage much like it was for the Celts; or a formalisation of your engagement. Handfasting can be tailored to suit each individual couple.

Just as the exchange of rings may be incorporated into any wedding ceremony, so too can handfasting. The choice to include handfasting in your ceremony does not in itself determine the legality of your marriage. However, if you do choose this method of marriage and wish to ensure your marriage is recognised by the state/government you'll need to take the proper steps and do your research, laws vary from location to location so be sure to look into your local laws. You'll usually find that there may have to be an ordained officiant as well as having to fill out the proper paperwork prior to your ceremony. Perfect Handfasting has some great tips on ensuring the legality of your handfasting within the UK - check it out here.

What do you think about handfasting? Would you literally 'tie the knot'?

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