Handfasting: A Favorite Unity Ritual

One of my favorite unity rituals is handfasting.  The handfasting custom can be traced to a number of different ethnic groups including Africans, Celts, and the Spanish, as well as to Pagan traditions.  It is equally wonderful in a small elopement ceremony or a larger more formal wedding.

For my weddings, I often include the handfasting after the exchange of rings, inviting the couple to clasp each other’s newly banded left hand.   The ribbon remains during the following “vow of community support.”  I discretely slip the ribbons off for the remainder of the ceremony.

I generally describe the ritual along these lines:  Our couple has chosen to participate in the ancient tradition of handfasting.  This is a visual representation of the “tying of the knot.”  These individual ribbons represent the lives that you’ve created, before this marriage, and the unique attributes you bring to this union.  The ribbons are now woven together symbolizing the inter-connected nature of your lives.  Imbued in the ribbon are the hopes and dreams and aspirations you have as individuals and as a couple, as well as the good wishes of those who join you in celebrating this marriage.    There are numerous options of wordings to accompany the tying including religious and secular blessings.

I often help my couples in providing the cord or ribbon for the ceremony.  Typically, I will braid a long ribbon (perhaps six to eight feet in total length) in colors that blend with those of the wedding.  There are ample opportunities to customize the cord by sewing charms or mementoes to represent things that are significant to the couple—be it their initials, representations of where they are from or where they got engaged, or hobbies, to name a few.   Likewise, I’ve had couples that use fabric with their “clan’s” tartan or lace, ribbon or fabric from a relative’s wedding. 

Finally, this unity ritual can be done by the Celebrant or might include one or more honored guests to help with the simple wrapping of the wrists.

It is a beautiful ritual, rooted in history, that is easily accessible by the guests, making for extraordinary photographs of the wedding day.