Have you ever wondered where the expression “to tie the knot” comes from? It has its origins in the ancient Celtic ritual of handfasting.
As an independent celebrant, more and more of my clients wish to include handfasting as part of their ceremony rituals. It’s a beautiful yet simple symbolism and is as old as the first couple who ever ‘tied the knot’, and as recent as the one I’m officiating. It symbolises marriage vows, and can be done instead of, or as well as, the exchange of wedding rings.
Handfasting represents the commitment of an intimate partnership.
From Old Norse: hand-festa, which means to strike a bargain by joining hands. The notion of a handshake comes from the old tradition of hand fasting; and even today, let’s shake on it, can represent a vow of sorts.
When I bind a couple’s hands together, I remind them their lives and spirits are held by the symbol of a knot.
They may choose to make the cord themselves, or with the help of family and friends, or if they prefer, I can make it for them from their favourite colours or in colours to match the theme of the wedding. Because the cord is as unique as the couple it can be made from pretty much anything. It can be from the most luxurious of ribbons or from farmer’s baling twine. Whatever it’s made from, it is the intent that’s important. Regardless of what it’s made from, it contains all the hopes and wishes of the friends and family who have gathered to witness the marriage.
Some couples choose to have the knot in place just for the ceremony, while others like to keep the knot in the cord permanently and simply slip their hands out of it near the end of the ceremony.
Either way, I finish with the words: “May this knot remain tied for as long as love shall last.”
Some couples like to have this traditional handfasting prayer included in their ceremony. It’s called The Hands of the Couple.
“Above you are stars, and below you is earth. Like stars, your love should be a constant source of light, and like the earth, a firm foundation from which to grow.
May these hands be blessed this day.
May this cord draw your hands together in love, never to be used in anger.
May the vows you have spoken never grow bitter in your mouths.
May they build a relationship founded in love, and rich in caring. May these hands be healer, protector, shelter, and guide for each other”.
Veronika Robinson is an independent celebrant who is available to officiate wedding ceremonies throughout Cumbria. She adores watching couples come together before friends and family to declare their love, and has been officiating ceremonies since 1995. www.veronikarobinson.com/celebrant