Handfasting Ceremony and Handfasting Ribbons

 The Handfasting Ceremony is an ancient Celtic tradition symbolizing the joining of two people in marriage. There are many versions of this gesture illustrating the union of husband and wife and is the origin of the phrase “tying the knot”.

 Whether you’re Irish or not, you may want to include Handfasting Ribbons in your ceremony as a meaningful ritual.

In the Celtic tradition, the Handfasting Ceremony includes 13 ribbons, each with its own meaning.

Handfasting is an ancient roman and Celtic wedding tradition which involves tying the bride and Groom’s hands together to symbolize coming together and remaining together. During the Roman Empire, the couple’s hands were tied together with grape vines and rope which explains the origination of the phrase “tying the knot.”

Handfasting was also later used as a form of marriage in the British Isles during the early Christian era. The couple’s hands were tied together with a cord in front of friends and family and were then considered legally married. They would have a formal wedding ceremony later when a priest was available to officiate.


Handfasting has seen a modern day resurgence especially in Ireland and Scotland following in part to the royal wedding in London with Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding ceremony.


How to incorporate handfasting into your wedding


Handfasting can be added to any wedding ceremony regardless of religion, as “tying the knot” is a universal wedding theme. The handfasting ceremony is highly customizable and can be the perfect way to incorporate special themes into your wedding day.




Many couples choose to incorporate colors in their handfasting ceremony to symbolize words of commitment to each other.


Red – will, love, strength, fertility, courage, health, vigor, passion


Orange – encouragement, adaptability, stimulation, attraction, plenty, kindness.


Yellow – attraction, charm, confidence, balance, harmony


Green – fertility, luck, prosperity, nurturing, beauty, health, love


Dark Blue -for a safe journey, longevity & strength


Light Blue – tranquility, understanding, patience, health


Purple – healing, health, strength, power, progress


Black – strength, empowerment, wisdom/vision, success, pure love

White – spiritual purity, truth, peace, serenity and devotion

Gray – balance, neutrality

Pink – love, unity, honor, truth, romance, happiness

Brown – for healing , skills & talent, nurturing, home & hearth, the earth.

Silver – for creativity, inspiration & vision, and protection.

Gold – for unity, longevity, prosperity, strength.

Involving your Guests in your Handfasting Ceremony:

Some hand fasting ceremonies involve the couple’s friends and families writing well wishes or bits of advice onto ribbons. These ribbons are then used to bind the couple’s hands together.

Every one of the ribbons used in the ceremony has a well wish or bit of advice from friends and family written on it.

Handfasting Materials

A wide variety of materials can be used in the handfasting ceremony, making it even more customizable. Here are some commonly used items for handfasting:

 Grape Vines



 Rope (yacht lines for nautical weddings or a lasso for cowboys/cowgirls)

 Monogrammed or embroidered cloths

 Scottish Tartans

Cherokee wedding beads:

Handfasting charms, memorial tiles can be added to the fringes of the handfasting ribbons or cloth.

 A Simple Handfasting Ceremony:

Officient Stands in front of the couple while they clasp each other’s hands.

Bride – Insert Your Name and Groom – Insert Your Name have chosen to use a hand fasting in their wedding ceremony to emphasize their eternal bond and reinforce the feeling that they never wish to be parted from one another.

Hand fasting is an ancient tradition symbolizing the binding together of two people in love. Tying the Knot. This cord was created with the ribbons, on which are written the thoughts, hopes, well wishes, and blessings of friends and family for Groom and Bride as they begin their union as husband and wife. It will bind Groom and Bride together with the strong bonds of love.

With the entwining of this knot, I tie all the desires, dreams, love, prayers and happiness wished here in this place to your lives.

Here is a reading for adding a Handfasting to your wedding ceremony that may be modified to fit into your own ceremony:

 First, the officiant asks the couple to hold hands or place them side by side, then places the handfasting ribbons around the hands and wrists to “join” the couple.

Officiant:“These are the hands of your best friend, young and strong and full of love for you, that are holding yours on your wedding day, as you promise to love each other today, tomorrow, and forever.

 These are the hands that will work alongside yours, as together you build your future. These are the hands that will passionately love you and cherish you through the years, and with the slightest touch, will comfort you like no other.

 These are the hands that will hold you when fear or grief fills your mind. These are the hands that will countless times wipe the tears form your eyes; tears of sorrow, and tears of joy.

 These are the hands that will tenderly hold your children. These are the hands that will help you to hold your family as one.

These are the hands that will give you strength when you need it. And lastly, these are the hands that even when wrinkled and aged, will still be reaching for yours, still giving you the same unspoken tenderness with just a touch.

 Short version of Handfasting Ceremony or conclusion for the above:

 With this cord, I bind [name] and [name] to the vows they make to each other. (Wrap wrists with the ribbons)

 The knots of this binding are not formed by this cord, but by your vows. You hold in your hands and hearts the making or breaking of this union. May your marriage be blessed with patience and dedication, forgiveness and respect, love and understanding. (Officiant Unties the ribbons)

Handfasting Ribbons have roots in Celtic tradition but they are a meaningful way to               incorporate a message of unity and togetherness into any ceremony.                                                                                                                                                                                             

Handfasting Wedding Ceremony

4 Responses to “Handfasting”

  1. Jan TuesdayJuly 14, 2015 at 7:14 pm #

    Thank you for the beautiful suggestion for the handfasting ceremony. What usually becomes of the ribbons/rope after it is untied? It seems that it has become a sacred symbol, so now I am wondering.

  2. admin SundayJuly 19, 2015 at 1:41 pm #

    Hi Jan,

    I match the ribbons or cords to the colors you are using and give them to you as a keepsake. They are a beatiful symbol and you could create so many things with them. For example, if you are having a Sand Ceremony, they can be tied around the keepsake bottle, they can be placed inside a framed photo of your wedding day, you can purchase a shadow box and place everything from your wedding inside such as the invitation, a favorite photo, things from your reception so that you have memories from the day that you can see everyday reminding you of those special moments captured on your wedding day.

    Warmest Regards,


  3. Wendy ThursdayAugust 6, 2015 at 2:37 pm #

    The ribbon is tied loose enough for you to slip your hands out of. You don’t untie them.

  4. Brianne MondayAugust 31, 2015 at 2:08 am #

    I love this idea, after the handfasting ceremony is over do you leave the bride and grooms hands bound with the ribbons? Or do you take them off? It seems almost counter intuitive to wrap them and then immediately unwrap. So how does that logistically work. Thanks so much

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