The Binding of the Hands
A symbolic binding of the hands is often a primary feature at the heart of a wedding ceremony, before or after a bride and groom make their vows to one another; sometimes it’s used as a ritual with the exchange of vows and rings, and sometimes as a 'stand alone' ritual leading up to the pronouncement of marriage.
For a Year and a Day or for Life?
In the past a binding of the hands was associated with couples making a commitment to one another for a year and a day. Some modern day couples like to use this idea and make their future wedding anniversaries an opportunity to review their relationship and the past year, and renew their vows and commitments.
A Hand Tying Ritual
You have different options to include a hand tying ritual. Would you like a hand tying ritual within a personal ceremony or a full handfasting ceremony?
A personal ceremony with a hand tying ritual is just as it sounds. A full Handfasting Ceremony is a less personal ceremony which includes a binding of the hands alongside other ritual.
We have lots of ideas to guide and inspire you, beginning with some photos and information below.
A Full Handfasting
In a full Pagan Handfasting Ceremony the union or marriage of two people is considered to be the union or marriage of the masculine and feminine, the God and Goddess, within. This is very much the kind of language and symbology used in a full Handfasting Ceremony – God and Goddess, Lord and Lady, Man and Woman.
Whilst we will work with you to ensure that the terms and symbology used in your ceremony feel comfortable and fitting for you, and we use the terms and symbology of your choice, if you don’t follow a particular path or tradition you may prefer to have a binding of the hands within a more personal ceremony.
Detailed below are suggestions of the elements which could be included in a full Handfasting Ceremony.
An introduction / setting the scene / explaining symbolism
Welcoming family and friends / being inclusive
Setting an intention and/or a prayer
Honouring the Divine
Sharing of a 'meal' (Cakes & Ale / Bread & Wine / Cake & Wine)
Exchange of vows
Exchange of rings or other gifts
The presentation of the sword ritual
Binding of the hands
Jumping the besom
Whether you call it a Celtic Handfasting or a Handfasting may depend on whether you feel most akin to the Pagan, Druid or Wiccan traditions, and also whether you have Scottish, Irish or Welsh blood in you.
It’s also possible to take ideas from a full Handfasting Ceremony structure and content, then to draw from the essence of whichever tradition if you feel most akin to – for example we have woven elements of Christianity, Native American, Shamanism and Buddhism into Handfastings.
Here is a small extract from one version of a Handfasting Ceremony that we use, which illustrates the kind of language and symbology often used.
We invoke Divine Presence that as it is above, so it is below, as it is within, so it is without. We offer this invocation to connect Angela and William to the masculine and feminine, the God and Goddess, within themselves and in each other; and within all of creation. As they prepare to step into marriage as a sacred spiritual union we remind them that it is their higher selves and the best that they have to give, that they offer to one another.
- A Spiritual Handfasting Ritual
There are many, many ancient and modern spiritual, moral and philosophical teachings available to us in our times, not necessarily all well known or famous, so to us it makes perfect sense that you might take an ancient ritual and make it uniquely yours by coupling it with wisdom or blessings from a particular spiritual path or belief which influences how you think and live your life.
- A Creative Handfasting Ritual
It’s possible to incorporate anything into a binding of the hands, and we have lots of ideas we can share with you. Some couples involve their children, some their parents, some all guests, some just the groom and bridal parties, some incorporate blessings or values – what would be meaningful to you?
- A Celtic Handfasting Ritual
According to our Druid Priest and fellow Interfaith Minister Paul Sandford, Handfastings generally have their roots in Wiccan tradition, whereas Celtic Handfastings are usually rooted in Druidic tradition.
- A Simple Handfasting Ritual
Whether you stand side by side or facing each other, quite simply you join your hands or clasp your forearms, and your arms or hands are bound. There doesn’t have to be a knot or tying, if you prefer something to be wound around your hands, and then unwound. There doesn’t need to be specific words said – only what you choose - and we can make suggestions.
- Having Your Hands Tied
For so many couples it’s the binding of the hands idea that appeals the most of all the ritual ideas. Big screen drama and adventures have inspired and continue to inspire, with handfasting ceremonies taking place in Game of Thrones, Braveheart and Outlander.
- Outlander Handfasting
Diana Gabaldon has inspired a generation with her Outlander series featuring the lives and times of Claire and Jamie Fraser. After their traditional church wedding vows, their hands were tied and they made a blood oath whilst repeating the following words.
“Ye are Blood of my Blood, and Bone of my Bone
I give ye my Body, that we Two might be One
I give ye my Spirit, til our Life shall be Done"
- Braveheart Tartan & Thistle Handfasting
The handfasting between William Wallace and Murron in the film Braveheart was very simple and moving. Standing side by side, she placed the palm of her left hand on the back of his right hand, and the priest wound a piece of tartan around their hands, then she laid an embroidered handkerchief over their hands – there was no knot.
“I will love you my whole life – you and no other”
“And I you – you and no other – forever”
- Game of Thrones Handfasting
Even though The Red Wedding in Game of Thrones didn’t end well, still the words Robb and Talisa said to one another have proved very popular. Talisa laid her left hand on Robb’s right hand and the priest bound their hands together.
“I hereby seal these two souls, binding them as one, for eternity”
“Father, Smith, Warrior, Mother, Maiden, Crone, Stranger
I am his/hers and he/she is mine
from this day until the end of my days”
- Highlander Handfasting
We can imagine Connor and Heather MacLeod would have had a handfasting, even though we don’t see their wedding take place in the film Highlander, and we can further imagine they might have said something like this Celtic wedding vow.
“You cannot possess me for I belong to myself.
You cannot command me, for I am a free person.
But I pledge to you that yours will be the name I cry aloud
in the night and the eyes into which I smile in the morning.”
- Robbie Burns Inspiration
Create your own version of a handfasting using your ancestors’ clan tartan or something meaningful created just for you, beautiful poetry from Robbie Burns, and whatever other words your hearts inspire you to share.
“As fair art thou, my bonie lass so deep in luve am I,
And I will luve thee still my dear till a’ the seas gang dry”
- Having A Legal Handfasting
Particular timings apply to your application to legally handfast and marry, and if you choose us to hold your ceremony for you we will send you a full overview of the timings and legal aspect. We can confirm that as of today, depending on who you choose to marry you, and subject to you giving sufficient notice to lodge your intent to marry, you have the option of a legally binding ceremony of handfasting.
We are fully authorized celebrants and ministers and so you only need the one ceremony held by us to be legally married, however all legal marriages are recorded by the Registry Offices of Births, Deaths and Marriages, so the Registrar is involved but in a purely administrative role.
Your legal marriage is subject to you fulfilling the advance and post ceremony legal requirements, as well as on the day.
- Scottish Marriage Advance Legal Requirements
In advance - depending on your nationality you must apply for Marriage Visas or CONIs (Certificates of No Impediment) if entering the UK to be married here in Scotland.
In advance - you must each make an application to be legally married which includes the filling in of an M10 form each, and the provision of personal documents. These must be received by the Registrar who covers the location where you plan to hold your ceremony. Particular timings apply.
In advance – you must collect the legal paperwork, the ‘Marriage Schedule’, which needs to be signed during your ceremony. Particular timings apply.
- Scottish Marriage Legal Requirements On The Day
During your ceremony – you must indicate that it is your intent to marry and take each other as husband and wife (or wife and wife, or husband and husband).
During your ceremony – your officiant must declare you to be married, or husband and wife, or wives, or husbands.
During your ceremony – after you have been pronounced married, you and your officiant and your two legal witnesses must sign the Marriage Schedule.
- Scottish Marriage Post Ceremony Legal Requirements
After your ceremony – you must return your signed Marriage Schedule to the Registrar – they will then record your marriage and issue your marriage certificate.