Guides and Insights

Handfasting - A History

By Sophie

Handfasting is becoming a popular part of modern wedding ceremonies, especially those who wish to celebrate their Scottish roots. The act of tying together a couples' hands in a symbolic gesture, that represents the joining of families and the union of the couple, Handfasting is seen as a highlight of many modern wedding ceremonies.

The official definition of Handfasting, from the Oxford English Dictionary, is 'To make a contract of marriage between (parties) by the joining of hands; to betroth (two persons, or one person to another'.

Modern Handfastings are purely ceremonial, and usually take place on the same day, sometimes at the same time, as a legal marriage registration. Some Handfastings, however, are now legally recognised in Scotland. In 2004, celebrants from the Pagan Federation of Scotland gained authorisation from the General Register Office for Scotland to legally perform weddings. This meant that a Handfasting could be incorporated, into a wedding, as the main focus of the ceremony, and normally take place outside, with a close association with nature.

In medieval times, Handfasting is referred to meaning the betrothal, or engagement, of a couple, rather than the actual marriage. In the late 18th century, they believed that Handfasting involved the trial marriage of a couple, which would last for a year and a day. At this point they could decide whether to officially marry or whether they'd rather part ways.

If you would like to incorporate hand fasting into your wedding ceremony, take a look at our Handfasting ribbons here: https://clan.com/gifts/wedding-accessories/hand-fa...

Our Pack of Five Tartan Hand Fasting Ribbons are perfect for adding Scottish tradition to your wedding ceremony. Have the celebrant wrap the ribbon around you and your partner's hands during the ceremony to signify the joining of families. Pass down the other ribbons to family members and watch the tradition grow. Or use the other ribbons as decorative binds for your, and your bridesmaids' bouquets.

Made from lightweight pure new wool, with a hemmed edge, this tartan hand fasting ribbon is made in Scotland, and stays neat so you can cherish it for years to come.

Available in a large variety of tartans, take a look for your clan today.