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Handfasting ~ A Wedding Ritual

Updated on October 22, 2014

What Is Handfasting?

The term Handfasting is taken from Old Norse "hand-festa" meaning "to strike a bargain by joining hands". Handfasting is the tradition of lightly binding the hands of a couple together using a cord, rope, ribbons, a scarf, tartan or strips of fabric. It is meant to signify a couples coming together as "One". (or perhaps to keep the Groom from running away!) Whatever it's original intention, it has become a popular new tradition for today's couples seeking new and Spiritual ways to honour their love.


Origins Of Handfasting

Handfasting was originally practiced by the Greeks and Romans. The Romans created a garland made of magnolia, elder and roses. It was then wrapped around the couple's wrists to signify love and fidelity. In ancient legends, lovers were united together as they "tied the knot" in the tradition of Celtic handfasting. The ceremony was especially common in Ireland and Scotland. It was commonly the way that couples were "officially" married before the church became involved in Wedding ceremonies. Variations on the theme have since been used in other countries as well. Handfasting has seen a modern day resurgence owing in part to the movie Braveheart,in which William Wallace and his girlfriend Murron are joined together with a handfasting ceremony. This has especially been true in Scotland where the movie is based.

Photo: Handfasting during a civil ceremony in Ukraine. The cloth is a ceremonial rushnyk decorated with traditional Ukrainian embroidery.

handfasting ribbons
handfasting ribbons

The Colours Of Handfasting

In the traditions of Celtic handfasting the couple's wrists are bound together using ribbons of thirteen different colours. Each colour has it's own special meaning:

Red: passion, strength, lust, fertility

Orange: encouragement, attraction, kindness, plenty

Yellow: charm, confidence, joy, balance

Green: finances, fertility, charity, prosperity, health

Blue: tranquility, patience, devotion, sincerity

Purple: Power, piety, sanctity, sentimentality

Black: strength, wisdom, vision, success

White: purity, concentration, meditation, peace

Gray: neutrality, canceling, balance

Pink: unity, honor, truth, romance, happiness

Brown: earth, grounding, talent, telepathy, home

Silver: treasure, values, creativity, inspiration

Gold: energy, wealth, intelligence, longevity

Colour list provided by the Reverend David James of Mt. Kisco, NY.

Article source: My Spiritual Wedding


Pagan Handfasting

Handfasting is non religion specific, in other words, it is not Pagan or Christian, however it has become a favoured Wedding ceremony for Wiccans and Pagan groups. Wiccan or Pagan ceremonies may involve different rituals such as forming a circle with stones, flowers or crystals. A ritual used in some Pagan, Wiccan and also Christian ceremonies, has the couple jumping over a broom. Jumping over the broom represents crossing over a threshold into a new life together.

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    • profile image

      Airabella_ 3 years ago

      I've been reading about handfasting for a while now..

      &; My boyfriend and I are getting handfasted on April 30th!


      Blessed be!


    • SylviaRolfe profile image

      SylviaRolfe 4 years ago

      I love this lens. Blessed be.

    • Loretta L profile image

      Loretta Livingstone 4 years ago from Chilterns, UK.

      I had heard of handfasting but wasn't sure what it was. Now I know.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Very informative lens, fantastic!

    • lkamom profile image

      Heather McGlaughlin 5 years ago from Marryland

      I have never heard of handfasting till now. Very well done lens.

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 5 years ago

      Beautifully crafted lens and wonderful information about a great subject. Blessed and have a wonderful, happy and safe holiday season and extra great 2013. Hugs

    • Deadicated LM profile image

      Deadicated LM 5 years ago

      Cool Lens!

    • HolisticHealthC profile image

      HolisticHealthC 5 years ago

      Handfasting - the origin of marriage. No one ever questions their beliefs and/or customs to find out where they come from. It is now the time for awareness of these types of things. Nice lens!

    • GreenfireWiseWo profile image

      GreenfireWiseWo 5 years ago

      Great ideas - I like your suggested readings. I have to marry my friends in September. Thank you.

    • wedpittsburgh lm profile image

      wedpittsburgh lm 5 years ago

      I love this lens! Great job.

    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 5 years ago from Ljubljana

      I have seen handfasting only on TV. thanks for so detailed and interesting explanation.

    • PastorCher profile image

      Pastor Cher 5 years ago from United States

      I have actually performed this, but didn't know it had become so popular. I do not use ribbons, but a white silk scarf. We use it to "bind" the couple, as to signify they are bound in marriage by God and their own vows.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I've been creating pagan holiday cards for years, but last year was the first time someone requested I create a Pagan handfasting card. I still only have the one in my shop but found some beautiful pagan handfasting cards at Zazzle to share in my lens on them.

    • Auntiekatkat profile image

      Auntiekatkat 6 years ago

      THank you for letting us now the history of this tradition

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 6 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Very interesting. I never heard of this before. Nice lens.

    • profile image

      grannysage 6 years ago

      This is just really, really nice. As a pagan, I love that you have included such a variety of handfasting ribbon sets. Makes me want to get handfasted again, to the same man of course!

    • ShareBeez profile image

      ShareBeez 6 years ago

      This is so cool. I never heard of handfasting before. It's such a beautiful ritual! Thanks for sharing!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Sure was neat to browse upon your lens tonight! If you like to browse lens as I do, mine has a great educational topic with poll questions for my readers to enjoy.

    • profile image

      inspirationz 6 years ago

      lovely lens! Thanks for educating us about this interesting cultural ceremony

    • nuestraherencia profile image

      nuestraherencia 6 years ago

      I had never heard of this...what a great and informative lens! I love all these traditions that can be incorporated into weddings.

    • blessedmomto7 profile image

      blessedmomto7 6 years ago

      I never heard of handfasting before. Interesting.

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 6 years ago

      It's a beautiful ritual

    • profile image

      moonlitta 6 years ago

      One never stops learning...especially on Squidoo:)

    • ArtformTheHeart profile image

      ArtformTheHeart 6 years ago

      Super lens, well done indeed.

    • profile image

      scar4 7 years ago

      I've given it a big thumbs-up for the fantastic topic and content!

    • Pnorway profile image

      Pnorway 7 years ago

      nice lens

    • joanv334 profile image

      joanv334 7 years ago

      Hello, thanks for sharing!

    • PromptWriter profile image

      Moe Wood 7 years ago from Eastern Ontario

      I agree, lovely lens. Last year I got to see a handfasting via pictures when an online friend got married. Very cool.

    • hlkljgk profile image

      hlkljgk 7 years ago from Western Mass

      we looked into a handfasting ceremony for our own wedding. lovely lens.

    • SelfAndSource profile image

      SelfAndSource 7 years ago

      Thank you. I've seen Pagan Handfasting Ceremony, but did not know the origin of the Handfasting. I enjoyed your lens.

    • JenOfChicago LM profile image

      JenOfChicago LM 8 years ago

      You explained this very well - I had wondered about the origins of this tradition.

    • blue22d profile image

      blue22d 8 years ago

      Fascinating subject and very nice lens. It is fun to learn about different cultures and their rituals. ***** to you.

    • ParthenaB profile image

      ParthenaB 8 years ago

      This is an excellent lens, well written and researched and beautifully done. I've featured it on my new lens, Is Marriage Outdated?

      It's in the Related Lenses section. Stop by and add your insight if you have some time.

      My husband passed away in 2005 from cystic fibrosis. Our handfasting ribbon was a natural fabric scarf that I handpainted with runes.

    • WG-Tiaras profile image

      WG-Tiaras 8 years ago

      Thanks for submitting your lens in to the Wedding Planning Group, we only accept wedding related lenses of a high standard into the group, so we wanted to say congratulations and welcome. Feel free to submit any other wedding related lens you may own. The Wedding Planning Group is sponsered by Wedding And Gems Tiaras and Jewellery.