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* Planning a Celtic Handfasting

Updated on March 15, 2013

Do you take this man?

Many people are opting for non-traditional weddings, something that expresses the couples commitment in a new way, something that is as individual as the people involved, or something just a little different. If you are one of these people a Celtic Handfasting may be for you.

We did not choose a handfasting as any form of religious expression, but rather as a way to make our ceremony memorable, and to find something that had more meaning for us personally than a traditional wedding could provide.

There is a great deal of symbolism in a handfasting, reminders of the promises you have made to one another beyond the traditional love, honor, and cherish. With each promise comes an object that represents that commitment.

A handfasting is fully customizable to the needs of the couple, and is the perfect ceremony for those who want to make a special statement.

What follows are the vows that we chose to use, they were taken from various ceremonies and pieced together into our own unique ceremony. With each a bit of history that goes into the handfasting ceremony, why symbols were chosen and what they mean.

There is no "right" way to have a wedding, traditions differ from one culture to another, from one family to the next, and even from generation to generation. Weddings are a very individual process. Just remember it is your wedding and should mean something special to you and your intended.

You only get one wedding, so make it something you will remember fondly for the rest of your life.

Though this song is based on a Wiccan love spell, neither of us is Wiccan. We actually chose it because of the simplistic beauty of the words. It is one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard, and is very special to both of us.

We also used part of it in our wedding invitations.

With a kiss of pure steel I pierce the skin

With a wish it sinks within

With the red of your blood and the red of mine

Its flesh shall stain as wine

Our love is greater than we two

And stronger than our lives

And though our bodies may decay

Our love will survive

With threads of pure silk and scarlet in hue

I join, in love, we two

Your life you have offered freely to me

And mine I give to thee

The Earth shall hold our lovers' wish

And keep it from the day

And as the soil grows richer now

My Love, it shall stay


With whom do you come,

and whose blessings accompany you?

The old custom of giving away the bride comes from a time when the bride was exchanged for a dowry.

For modern women it symbolizes the transfer of the bride from her childhood family to her new husband. It is usually done by the father.

If for some reason the brides father is not an option, other family members can give the bride away. I never really knew my father so I chose two of my closest family members to hand me over, my "baby" cousin and my grandmother.

It doesn't matter whom you chose as long as you are comfortable with the decision.

With full awareness, know that you are not only declaring your promise to be joined before your friends and family, but you speak that promise also to God.

Marriage is a bond to be entered into only after considerable thought and reflection. Like life, it has it ups and downs, it's trials and triumphs.

As you seek to enter this state of matrimony you should strive to make real, the ideals which give meaning to both this ceremony and the institution of marriage.

You can insert your own beliefs, you can paint it with your own religious views, you can modernize it, and personalize it all you wish but marriage is and always be at its heart a commitment. Two people promise to join their lives as one, marriage is a promise and promises are meant to be honored. .

There will be trials and triumphs, there will be good and bad. There will be times when the commitment is harder than others. The reflection on commitment as part of our vows was important to us for many reasons. A reminder that this wasn't just about the wedding itself, but about the marriage that would follow.

Reflect and share...

Official: Is it your wish to be bound to this woman?

Groom: It is my wish.

Official: Then please repeat after me.


Before God, our friends and our family,

by the life that courses within my blood

and the love that resides within my heart,

take thee to my hand,

my heart,

and my spirit,

to be my chosen one.

To desire thee

and be desired by thee,

to possess thee

and be possessed by thee.

I promise to love thee wholly

and completely

without restraint,

in sickness and in health,

in plenty and in poverty,

in life and beyond.

I shall not seek to change thee.

I shall respect thee, and thy ways

as I respect myself.

Official: You may offer the ring.

*Begin to place the ring on brides finger*

Official: Is it your wish to be bound to this man?

Bride: It is my wish.

*Vows are repeated by bride, ring is accepted*

Depending on your background he ring can mean many things.

The exchange of a ring predates the Christian era going back nearly 5000 years to the Egyptians. With the Romans the ring became a legally binding agreement in which the ring showed that the woman was no longer available. It has been used in man cultures to symbolize the marriage commitment.

The traditional wedding ring was a simple round band with no beginning and no end, to symbolize the eternal nature of love. In early cultures it might have been made of hemp or ivory, now it is usually a precious metal.

Though most people opt for diamonds, they aren't a requirement for a wedding ring by any means, that tradition was actually started as a marketing ploy. My ring is a simple heart shaped black sapphire with small diamond chips, it isn't expensive by any means but I love it.

Rings are often a very personal part of the ceremony, each person has their own preferences. Sometimes both parties wear rings, others only one does. Our vows only contained a single ring, this ritual can easily be changed to a double ring ceremony with a few changes in wording.

Tying the knot did not start out being an abstract term;

The lovers' knot that binds two hands together represents an indissoluble union and the tying of a knot is a symbol of love, affection, faith, friendship, and duty.

The hand fasting is an ancient Celtic custom that symbolized the binding of two hearts for eternity.

Today the couple has asked that their family members perform this binding, and by doing so give their blessing to this marriage.

At this point we would like to ask the families to come forward.

The most powerful symbolism in a handfasting ceremony comes from binding.

The rope, ribbon, or string is draped over the hands of the joining couple and as each promise is made it is sealed by wrapping the cord around the couples clasped hands.

We chose to have six family members perform the binding for us, three from his family and three from mine. They each asked us questions, and each performed a single wrap.

While traditional vows cover the basics, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part... we wanted vows with a little more power behind them.

Official to Groom: Will you cause her pain?

Groom: I May

Official to Groom: Is that your intent?

Groom: No

Official to Bride: Will you cause him pain?

Bride: I may

Official to Bride: Is that your intent?

Bride: No

Official to Both: Will you share each other's pain and seek to ease it?

Both: Yes

*The cord is draped across the bride and grooms hands and the blessing is given by the family member*

Nobody can promise perfection, we are all bound to fail now and then. Pain will come in any marriage, but even the worst pain can be used to strengthen a bond between two people.

We did not promise one another a pain free marriage, but we did promise to share one another's pain, and to ease it as much as possible. In the last six years we have tested this promise to its fullest, physically, emotionally, and even spiritually.

Some things have been harder to deal with that others to be certain, but we always have our vows to remind us of the ultimate goal. To use it to strengthen our union.

Official to Bride: Will you share his laughter?

Bride: Yes

Official to Groom: Will you share her laughter?

Groom: Yes

Official to Both: Will both of you look for the brightness in life and the positive in each other?

Both: Yes

*First wrap is made*

It's hard to survive marriage without a good sense of humor. Laughter ensures that you take neither yourself nor the situation too seriously.

Things like discovering your wedding dress is a bit too sheer in daylight, just as you are walking down the aisle. *oops*

These things happen in life, sometimes things get better, and others they get worse, but they are a lot easier to survive if you can laugh about it later. (I can only hope our guests can laugh about it too!)




Official to Groom: Will you burden her?

Groom: I may

Official to Groom: Is that your intent?

Groom: No

Official to Bride: Will you burden him?

Bride: I may

Official to Bride: Is that your intent?

Bride: No

Official to Both: Will you share the burdens of each so that your spirits may grow in this union?

Both: Yes

*Second wrap is made*

Burdens too are a part of any relationship, things happen that we never expected. Illness, injury, financial burden, loss of loved ones.

Even joyous occasions such as the birth of a child, the purchase of a home, remodeling, and moving to a better place can become burdens when they are handled alone.

A burden shared is a burden lightened.

While we cannot promise one another a burden free marriage, we can promise that our partner will never have to bear their burdens alone.

Official to Bride: Will you share his dreams?

Bride: Yes

Official to Groom: Will you share her dreams?

Groom: Yes

Official to Both: Will you dream together to create new realities and hopes?

Both: Yes

*Third wrap is made and blessing is given*

We all have dreams, dreams for ourselves and our future, dreams for our marriage, dreams for our lives. Dreams are an important part of life and should never be taken lightly.

Especially the dreams of those we love. When you take away a persons dreams, you take away a little part of who they are, and if you take enough away from them they will be lost to you entirely.

Our dreams are important to us, no matter how silly they might be to another person, they are a part of us.

We felt that dreams were important enough to be a part of our ceremony, something that must be remembered in the days and years to come.

Official to Groom: Will you cause her anger?

Groom: I may

Official to Groom: Is that your intent?

Groom: No

Official to Bride: Will you cause him anger?

Bride: I may

Official to Bride: Is that your intent?

Bride: No

Official to Both: Will you take the heat of anger and use it to temper the strength of this union?

Both: We Will

*Fourth wrap is made and blessing is given*

Anger can and will destroy relationships if not handled with care.

Nobody can avoid anger totally, when we try it usually means stuffing that anger deep inside until it finally explodes.

Respect was important to both of us. We believe it is important to admit our anger as soon as possible after it happens, but to do so in a way that leaves both partners dignity intact.

Official to Bride: Will you honor him?

Bride: I will

Official to Groom: Will you honor her?

Groom: I will

Official to Both: Will you seek to never give cause to break that honor?

Both: We shall never do so

*Last wrap is made and blessing is given, Official then ties cords loosely together*

To love, honor, and cherish... only on a deeper level.

As each vow was made, a wrap was made around our hands until we were bound by our promises.

Your vows can contain any aspects of partnership that you find important, you can have the official handle the entire binding, your best man and maid-of-honor, or come up with your own ideas.

The reason we chose the vows we did were personal, they meant something special to us. There are no hard fast rules when it comes to a handfasting, as long as it means something to both of you!

Official: Love made fast by tying together.

Official: The knots of this binding are not formed by these cords but instead by your vows, the cords are only a reminder of the promises made here today.

*Cords are removed and placed inside a wooden chest*

The chest was a very important part of our ceremony. It was made of wood and tarnished metal, I liked it because it had a very earthy element to it.

It was included as a part of our ceremony and placed on an alter next to the arch. It was handled much like the candle lighting is included in a traditional wedding. After the binding the cords were placed in this wooden chest.

The chest can be left out of the ceremony entirely, but for us it was a physical reminder of the ceremony. It always holds a place of honor in our home, and now and then we open it up and go through the contents to remind ourselves once again of the commitment we made that day.

They are but a promise to be built upon, these promises will surely be added to, but should never be taken away, today what else have each of you brought to this union?

Groom (coins) "to provide for our home"

Bride (cloth) "to provide for our home

Groom (dagger) to protect our home

Bride (bible) to protect our home

Groom (white rose) To remind us of our promise

Bride (red rose) To remind us of our love

The promises made today and the ties that are bound here greatly strengthen your union; they will cross the years and lives of each soul's growth. In this chest you have placed symbols of your vows, but they are just symbols, they mean nothing without your commitment, your strength, and your will. When troubles come as I promise you they will I urge you to return to this day, and remember the promises you have made here.

The cords were placed into the box first, followed by 5 gold coins, a piece of handwoven cloth, a dagger, a bible, a white rose, and a red rose as each promise was made. On top of this was placed a copy of our vows as a keepsake.

It is a lovely tradition to open the box on each anniversary and discuss each of the items once again, to in effect renew those vows once again.

I bid you look into each others eyes, As you join hands with your beloved and listen to that which I am about to say. Above you are the stars, below you are the stones, as time does pass, remember... Like a stone should your love be firm like a star should your love be constant.

Let the Lord guide you in your marriage, let the strength of your wills bind you together, let the power of love and desire make you happy, and the strength of your dedication make you inseparable.

Be close, but not too close. Possess one another, yet be understanding. Have patience with one another, for storms will come, but they will pass quickly. Be free in giving affection and warmth.

Have no fear and let not the ways of the world give you unease, for God is with you always

You may now kiss your new bride...

Your wedding is one of the most important days in your life, you will remember it always.

Since I am a big believer in symbolism and making sure that life has meaning I found a Celtic handfasting ceremony to be the perfect ceremony for us.

We chose to get married just before sunset, I know another couple who did theirs at sunrise. When you are focusing on symbols instead of tradition even the time of day you hold your wedding can have special meaning.

Whether you chose to use just a few ideas, or none at all, just make sure that your wedding belongs to you, that every part of it means something special to you and your partner.

Not everyone will understand or approve of the decision to use a ceremony that is traditionally Pagan, a few of my more religious family members protested but if it is done well it can be both beautiful and memorable.


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