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Tying the Knot: Handfastings in Cumbria

Have you ever wondered where the expression “to tie the knot” comes from? It has its origins in the ancient Celtic ritual of handfasting.

“Marian and Dave’s handfasting in Cumbria”

 

 

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.

 

 

“My celebrant basket with handfasting cord, candles, bells, Celtic love knot, feathers, moss, water, ceremony script”

 

 

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.

 

“Sara and Michael tying the knot”

 

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.

 

“Officiating Dave and Marian’s beautiful wedding ceremony in a meadow by a babbling brook” #Cumbrianweddings

 

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 

 

“Michael and Sara flew from Australia to Cumbria for their destination wedding which I had the honour of officiating.”

WHY are you getting married?

 

I wonder how often a bride and groom ask themselves: why am I getting married?
Yes, the obvious answer is because you love each other and want to make a formal commitment to your relationship. So, why then, do so few couples give much thought to the actual ceremony and its content when getting married? Thousands of pounds (or dollars) are typically spent on weddings: the dress, hair & make-up, tuxedos, bridesmaids’ dresses and shoes, flowers, cake, venue, catering, music & entertainment, invitations, rings, photographer or videographer… Actually, the list can be endless.

Last Sunday I was at a wedding fayre to promote my business as an independent celebrant in Cumbria: Ceremonies from the Heart.

 

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During the afternoon, the local marriage registrar came up to me and said “I just wanted to come and meet the competition.” If she’d said it jokingly or with humour, I probably wouldn’t be writing this blog today. I was quick to point out that I was not competition of any description. But, even if I was, surely the world is big enough for everyone’s dreams and talents?

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I did wonder: is that really how the majority of registrars in England see independent celebrants? I’m baffled as to why. We’re not competition on any level. If someone is planning to become married they either need to have a church wedding or go to the registrar for it to be considered ‘legal’. A celebrant is not a ‘necessity’ to getting married. Some may even think it’s a waste of time and money.

Here is why I feel an independent celebrant is the most important investment you can make in your wedding day. It comes back to the question I asked earlier: why are you getting married?

 

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Last year my husband and I renewed our vows in honour of our twenty years together. Although I wrote the ceremony myself, when choosing the celebrant I was clear about three things: I wanted someone with a lovely speaking voice; someone who was comfortable speaking in front of people; and most importantly of all (for me), I wanted someone who believed in love and was a living example of a positive and happy marriage. Talk about narrow down the choices! However, on an energetic level, this felt vital to the celebration.

 

celebrant

 

As we planned our day, the heart of the celebration at all times rested on the actual ceremony: the words and their meaning, the readings our friends would share, the songs which would be sung, the rituals to be included, and the witnessing of our vows by friends and family. There’s no question that the celebration afterwards was wonderful, but what we took away was that small window of time when we shared our love with those people who are closest to us.

On our wedding day, we were blessed to have our ceremony officiated by the lady who trained me to be a celebrant a year earlier.

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Long Meg Druids’ Circle

 

 

Having an independent celebrant allows you to create the ceremony of your dreams: one which represents your relationship, your love and your hopes. A church wedding, while it can be beautiful, is based on a script focussed on religion rather than the couple’s love. Why can’t it include both? Celebrant-led ceremonies can be infused with your love for the divine and your love for a human.

 

A blustery day: Green Bay, Auckland, New Zealand.

A blustery day: Green Bay, Auckland, New Zealand.

 

 

A registrar’s service is not religious, but at the same time it allows no room for those who would like to include what is meaningful to them, whether that is religious, spiritual, holistic, humorous or other.

When I work with clients, I listen to their stories and create a ceremony based on what is important to them individually and as a couple. There is complete freedom in terms of the length of the ceremony, the location, the readings, the music, the vows, the rituals and symbols, and of course, the script I write forms the foundation of their ceremony.

THIS is what

friends and family

who witness your ceremony

will remember.

 

In their hearts, what they’ll take away from a wedding day is how they felt when they were included in what can be a truly beautiful, personal and intimate ceremony. I believe a wedding day is, first and foremost, about the couple, but it’s also an opportunity for everyone involved to have their heart opened a little more. Hearts are opened when we can resonate with the beauty and meaning we feel within the carefully chosen words.

On a personal level, one of my core values in life is: beauty. When I look around this world, I choose to see beauty.

 

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On a professional level, as a celebrant, my goal is to infuse beauty into each ceremony I write. This is my gift. This is my passion. That I have loved a man so deeply and profoundly for more than twenty years means that I understand what it is to enter into a lifelong commitment, and what it takes to walk that path. And I hope, as your wedding dress goes back onto the coat hanger after your wedding day, and those gorgeous flowers eventually wither away, that the ceremony of love that was created from my heart, to honour the two hearts of the couple I’ve married, lives on and on and on.

Veronika Robinson has been a marriage celebrant since 1995. She was trained through Unity Church, Auckland, New Zealand, and was registered to perform legal ceremonies in New Zealand with New Thought Ministries. She is available throughout Cumbria to create, write and officiate weddings, handfastings, same-sex unions, vow renewals, funerals & memorials, blessingways, namings and other rites of passage. She is a registered member of the Association of Independent Celebrants, and a preferred supplier on Easy Weddings. www.veronikarobinson.com/celebrant

 

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