Including a Scottish Handfasting in your wedding ceremony

Incorporating a Handfasting ritual into your Marriage or Vow Renewal is a beautiful opportunity to add personal details to your ceremony. There are so many unique ways that a Handfasting ritual can add meaningful connection to you both.

Handfasting is a symbolic ritual that has its roots in ancient Celtic tradition. By binding your hands together, you are declaring your love and intention to share your lives together. A Handfasting binding represents the coming together of two individuals and two families. 

Take a moment to reflect on your loving connection. Feel the warmth, respect and love that you have for each other fill your heart, as you hold each other’s hands. 

As these ribbons are tied together, your lives – your pasts, presents and futures – become intertwined in thought, word and action. In binding your hands together, you are declaring your wish and intention to leave this place today with your lives bound together as one. After today, the two paths of your lives will come together as one, and two sets of hopes and desires for the future will be joined in commitment and intention.

Kris Soul Photography

It is up to you when you choose to include a Handfasting ritual in your ceremony. For some, the tying of the knot becomes an intention-setting declaration at the start of the ceremony, gathering loved ones into the space. Each person is invited to gift a ribbon with symbolic qualities or elements that you might wish to weave into your vows. This is also a lovely way to involve children.

The first four ribbons represent the four elements of Fire, Earth, Air and Water, which Ali and Ori believe are present in all of nature and in all of us, and whose energy determine and shape so much of our lives. 

The next four ribbons represent Joy, Partnership, Communication and Trust – values and qualities which they hold particularly dear.

The ninth ribbon represents their past; their ancestors and their own personal histories, everything which has brought them to this place and this moment. 

The tenth ribbon stands for all their friends and family, and the important role each one of you plays in their lives. 

The eleventh ribbon stands for the unknown; the mystery and hidden secrets of life. And the final ribbon stands simply for love.

An extract from Aliya and Ori’s Marriage ceremony
We Are Elopers

For others, a Handfasting can be an affirmation of shared promises midway through the ceremony. If you wish, you could warm your wedding bands between your joined hands while making your shared promises, ready to exchange rings when you make your legally binding Marriage vows.

Do you promise to give each other the freedom you need to grow as individuals, to be inspired and to seize life?

“We will!” 

Rachel and Tonie Photography

Traditionally, a Handfasting would take place when you make your legally binding Marriage Vows to one another (when you say your “I do!” or repeat-after-me vows), thereby symbolically ‘tying the knot’. If you choose this option, you might have exchanged rings earlier in the ceremony, perhaps when you make your personal vows to one another or after sharing some loving words with each other. The Handfasting ribbons – and the knots you tie – then become a symbolic keepsake of your Marriage declarations.

“As I give you my hand, so I give you my heart.”

There are so many options for tying the knot! There are loose knots and gift knots, eternity knots and wrap knots. There are knots where the celebrant (or a friend or family member) can tie the ribbons for you, or knots where you can tie your own dramatic knot.

Jonnie + Garrett

Handfasting bindings can be made of tartan or lace, ribbons or cords. They can be handmade or shop bought, intricate or simple. They can be anything you wish them to be.

In one ceremony, the couple chose a ship’s rope as their Handfasting bindings to honour their love of the sea.

In another ceremony, the couple made Handfasting ribbons out of their festival gig wristbands to celebrate their love of music and gigging. 

Siobhan Stewart Photography

The words shared during a Handfasting ritual can be sculpted and shaped to reflect the personalities and interests of the two people exchanging promises. Some couples choose to include traditional Handfasting wording, even if they are not binding their hands with ribbons or cords.

Know that, as you have done throughout the time you have been together, so you will love each other from this day forward. Know that these will be the hands that you hold tomorrow, and the next day, and into the next decade.

These are the hands that will work alongside yours as you build your life together, the hands that will touch you with love and tenderness through the years, and the hands that will comfort you like no others’ can.

These are the hands that will hold you through grief, fear and hardship.

These are the hands that will wipe tears of joy and sorrow from your eyes, and will tenderly hold your children.

These are the hands that will hold your family together, and that will give you strength when you need it.

These are the hands that, when life slows and the gift of old age comes upon you, will still be reaching for yours. 

Ian Linton Photography

If you would like a Handfasting ritual in your ceremony, I will gladly help you decide what will work best for you. The type of Handfasting you choose and the words that we weave will always be a reflection of your personalities and your own loving connection. 

Thank you to all the couples and photographers who generously gifted their photos for this post about Handfasting. I am so grateful to be able to share these gorgeous details with couples planning their own ceremonies. Thank you!

Raini Rowell Photography

Slideshow images:

Paul Maguire Photography (blue and white ribbons draped over joined hands)

Raini Rowell Photography (intricate plaited ribbons and cords bound around joined hands)

Rachel and Tonie Photography (embroidered pastel coloured ribbons)

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