We have all heard the expressions "tied the knot" or "giving one's hand in marriage". But have you ever wondered where those sayings came from?

It's in reference to the ancient tradition of hand-fasting ritual (or hand binding ritual).


What Is Handfasting?


The short answer to this question is: a hand-fasting is a component of a wedding ceremony which entails gently wrapping cords around the couples clasped hands and tying a knot, symbolically (and physically) binding them together in their declaration of unity.

The term Hand-fasting is taken from Old Norse "hand-festa" meaning "to strike a bargain by joining hands". Hand-fasting is the tradition of lightly binding the hands of a couple together using a cord, rope, ribbons, a scarf, tartan or strips of fabric. It is meant to signify a couples coming together as "One".

 Whatever its original intention, it has become a popular new tradition for today's couples seeking new ways to honour their love.


Origins Of Hand-Fasting


It is difficult to pin-point the exact origin of many rituals, so this section is open to interpretation.  But, it is believed that hand-fasting could have originally been practiced by the Greeks and Romans. The Romans created a garland made of magnolia, elder and roses. It was then wrapped around the couple's wrists to signify love and fidelity.


In ancient legends, lovers were united together as they "tied the knot" in the tradition of Celtic hand-fasting.

The ceremony was especially common in Ireland and Scotland before, again, travelling across Europe and becoming popular again in more Eastern countries.

It was commonly used as the way that couples were "officially" married, before it became a legally binding union in the mid 1700’s and only persons of notability (mainly priests or persons in a position of power) were allowed to perform the legal ceremony.

Variations on the theme have since been used in other countries as well.


Modern examples


Many people have seen a hand-fasting..you just might not know it!  If you have watched a movie called “Braveheart”, you may know of the scene where William Wallace (Mel Gibson) and Murron  (Catherine McCormack) secretly marry in a short ceremony in the woods.  During this, they wrap a strip of Wallace’s tartan around their wrists whilst a blessing is taking place.

Another recent movie example, was in The Doors; where Jim Morrison (Val Kilmer) and his suggested partner, Patricia Kennealy-Morrison (Kathleen Quinlan) performed an alternative Pagan-style hand-fasting.


And in a “real-life” example – when Prince William married Catherine Middleton, a length of the Windsor tartan was wrapped around their hands.



Although there are some very “alternative” styles of hand-fastings. The ritual is very versatile and many couples use it as part of their “Intent” questions (the I DO bits) or as their Vows. 


Customarily there would be seven Promises said in the ritual. 

You can choose which-ever Promise examples you would like to have for your own ritual. They do not need to be in any particular order, and you can have as many or as few as you like.  Though, we would recommend somewhere between four & eight is normally sufficient


You are more than welcome to make changes to wording, to suit. Or, if you like, you can write your own!

The “answer” to each Promise, can be; “Yes”, “I will/do”.  or, “We will/do”.  Whatever feels most comfortable for you both.


You can also choose to include your family & friends in participating in this ritual; it is a lovely way for them to be a part of your ceremony, and they can assist by placing the material on your hands (especially easy when individual lengths of ribbon are used), or you might like one or two special helpers to “tie the knot” at the end of the ritual.   Helpers can also participate by saying some of the words of the ritual – eg; a short line on the meaning of a colour, or by saying a blessing.


Depending on how many Promises you choose, and how many people you might like to include – please ask us as to how helpers can participate in the ritual.


Equipment Needed;


This is a very simple ritual to plan for – as it is mainly spoken – with the main pieces of “equipment” required are some kind of material.  Most commonly used would be ribbons, cord or a traditional belt – a Crios.


Ribbons:  They are plentiful in colour, so look great.  You can choose colours which suit your “theme” for your ceremony.

A Beautiful Ceremony (ltd) can provide ribbons for your ritual – we have all sorts of colours available, and prepare them to length.  You then keep the ribbons, knotted, at the end of the ceremony!

Cost;  €1.50 per ribbon length


Crios:  A hand-woven, traditional belt.  The Crios makes a beautiful and colourful hand-fasting cord.  It can be specially & personally made for you & your ceremony.  If you would like more information and prices for the Crios, please see; www.niamhtrua.com


Other material:   You can choose to have any type of material for the binding within the ritual.  Some couples in the past have used silk, wool, lace, twine, leather,  rope, or personal pieces of material like cuttings of clothes.  If you are DIY inclined, you could knit, weave or plat material to create your own cord.


The length of the cord for the bind should be between 1.5-2m



In some research, it is said that individual colour has its own special meaning:

Red: passion, strength, lust, fertility
Orange: encouragement, attraction, kindness, plenty
Yellow: charm, confidence, joy, balance
Green: finances, fertility, charity, prosperity, health
Blue: tranquillity, patience, devotion, sincerity
Purple: Power, piety, sanctity, sentimentality
Black: strength, wisdom, vision, success
White: purity, concentration, meditation, peace
Gray: neutrality, balance
Pink: unity, honour, truth, romance, happiness
Brown: earth, grounding, talent, telepathy, home
Silver: treasure, values, creativity, inspiration
Gold: energy, wealth, intelligence, longevity



The below sections are actual text examples of what we would normally use to introduce and start the Hand-Fasting ritual within your ceremony.

As with all rituals – we would have a short explanation of what your family & friends are about to witness, then proceed with the wording.

The "PROMISES" section are where the questions of the ritual are added.  At the bottom of the page are all the examples of the Promises which we have for you to use.  Of course, you are more than welcome to create your own Promises too!  We often have couples who write more personal or humerous Promises to be added.  This is all about personalisation of your ceremony!!

Immediately after the Hand-Fasting Ritual, your own personal wedding Vows are then said to each other – followed by the Ring Exchange element.



Explanation Of Hand Fasting Tradition:

(Officiant):  (Name and Name) have chosen a traditional hand fasting ceremony.

In Europe, until the mid 1700’s, few unions were sanctified in a religious ceremony – rather they were celebrated by a simple hand fasting ritual in which the two partners joined hands in a village centre, in the fields or in a groves of trees.


As the couple stood together, they would join hands.  As they stated promises and pledges to each other, material would be wrapped around the hands.

At the end of the promises – the material would be tied and knotted. It is said that this ritual is the origin of the term “tying the knot”. 


Over the years traditions and customs change – today is no different.  Today, we build upon this tradition and (NAMES) are going to participate in their own Hand-Fasting ritual. 
(Name and Name), please join hands. 




            (Chosen Promises from below examples are inserted here)


Binding of the Promises;


(the material is tied together while saying)


(Officiant):  This binding is formed not only by these ribbons but also by your vows and promises which you have made to each other today.


It is all of our hope that this bond stays forever tied – as will your marriage and your love. 





Explanation of Hand-Fasting Ritual:


(Officiant):  In the Celtic tradition, there is a beautiful understanding of love and friendship. One of the fascinating ideas is the idea of soul-love; the old Gaelic term for this is “Anam Cara”. “Anam” is the Gaelic word for soul and “Cara” is the word for friend.  So “Anam Cara” in the Celtic world was the “Soul Friend”.


Through-out the Celtic Isles, up until the mid 1700’s, marriage ceremonies were performed by a very simple ritual when a couple could come together in a grove of trees, a village centre, or (like our surroundings today) a very significant building.   During the ritual, with their peers and families as their witnesses, they would make pledges and promises to each other to become Anam Cara.

As the couple stood together, joining hands, as a physical showing of their bond, their hands would be bound and tied together.  This ritual was, and is, known as a Hand Fasting.


Hand fastening is a very powerful declaration of intent, where bride and groom clearly state that they are marrying of their own free will.


Over the years traditions and customs change and modernize.  Today, (Names) are going to perform their own Hand-Fasting ritual.  We have (material) which will be used to bind their hands.  Once the material has been placed around the hands, it is tied to create the bond of unity.  It is said that this ritual is the origin of the term “tying the knot”.


(Names), please could you both also stand, face each other, and hold your hands together.


(Officiant):  Know now before you go further, that since your lives have crossed in this life you have formed ties between each other. As you seek to enter this state of matrimony you should strive to make real, the ideals which give meaning to both this ceremony and the institution of marriage. 

With full awareness, know that within this circle you are not only declaring your intent to be hand-fasted before your friends and family, but that the promises made today and the ties that are bound here will greatly strengthen your union; they will cross the years and lives of each soul's growth.


Do you still seek to enter this ceremony?



            (Chosen Promises from below examples are inserted here)

Binding of the Promises;


(Officiant):  This binding is formed not only by these ribbons but also by your vows and promises which you have made to each other today. It is all of our hope that this bond stays forever tied – as will your marriage and your love. 





Some couples choose to use the Hand-Fasting ritual as their Vows (not having separate/personal vows).

You might decide that you do not want to write or choose wedding vows to say to each other, and therefore use the Hand-Fasting ritual as your main element in your ceremony.  This is completely lovely and works well.


No binding – occasionally couples choose to include the Hand-Fasting ritual, but decide that they do not want to physically bind their hands together. 

This can work, but slight re-wording of the explanation is needed.. as it would not be called a “Fasting”


ADDING READINGS/BLESSINGS – a very popular option.  We can easily add in an opening or closing blessing into the ritual.  You might like for a family member/friend to say this for you.

The “Blessing of the Hands” reading (below) is one of the most popular additions.  This reading can even be used as the main body of wording in the ritual, instead of the Promises.

Like with the Promises, specific lines can be chosen &/or edited to suit.



End of Ritual Blessing;


May these hands always be held by one another through joy and happiness

May they have strength to hold on through the storms of stress or the darkness of sorrow.

May they be tender and gentle as they nurture each other in love.

May these hands build a marriage founded in gratitude, rich in caring, and reaching together to bring forth the very best in both.


Adapted Blessing


Handfasting for a year and a day,

Bound together for a lifetime

I will always hold your hand fast

And we shall have the time of our lives.


Irish Blessing for Hand-Fasting


May you always remain sweethearts, helpmates and friends.

May your life together be full of kindness, understanding, thoughtfulness and rejoicing.

May the years bring you happiness and contentment.

Into each other's joy with gladness,

Into each other's hope with faith and trust,

Into each other's need with the sure presence of love,

Into each other's lives with enthusiasm and embracing.


Blessing of the Hands


(Officiant):  (name) please hold (name’s) hands, palms up, so you may see the gift that they are to you. (the couple should be facing each other, partner 1’s upturned hands resting in partner 2’s hands.)


These are the hands, young and strong and vibrant with love, that are holding yours on your wedding day, as he/she promises to love you all the days of his/her life.

These are the hands that will passionately love you and cherish you through the years, for a lifetime of happiness.

These are the hands that will countless times wipe the tears from your eyes: tears of sorrow and tears of joy.

These are the hands that will tenderly lift your chin and brush your cheek as they raise your face to look into his/her eyes: eyes that are filled completely with his/her overwhelming love and desire for you.

These are the hands that will hold any child you may be blessed with, in tender love, soothing them through illness and hurts, supporting and encouraging them along the way, and knowing when it’s time to let go.

These are the hands that will hold you tight as you struggle through difficult times.

They are the hands that will comfort you when you are sick or console you when you are grieving.

These are the hands that will give you support as she/he encourages you to chase down your dreams. Together, as a team, everything you wish for can be realized.

(the blessing is repeated with the couples swapping positions of their hands)



This ritual is very versatile with what type of ceremony it can be used for.  We often include the ritual in Vow Renewal ceremonies.  It is a simple task of adjusting the Promises to suit;

For example:   Will you continue to be each other’s constant friend and one true love?



The example questions below can be used in any particular order and can be edited to suit.  They can be directed either at the individual person, or a combined question to the couple.

As mentioned above, the questions are answered with a simple “I do”, “We do”, “I will”, “We will” etc..


1. Will you share each others laughter and joy?


2. Will you look for the brightness and fun in life and the positive in each other? 


3. Do you promise to be there for each other when you need each other?


4. Do you promise to fill each other’s days with sunshine?


5. Do you promise to comfort each other


6. Do you promise to encourage each other?


7. Do you promise to help each other reach your goals?


8. Do you promise to be best friends forever?


9. Do you promise to love each other with all your hearts?


10. Will you bring peace and harmony into your every day ways of communicating?


11. If you falter, will you have the courage and commitment to remember these promises and take a step back towards one another with an open heart?


12. Are you willing now and always to make this commitment to each other? (We are)


13. Will you stand side by side for the rest of your days together?


14. Will you bring fun, laughter, joy and happiness to your relationship?


15. As the years pass and your hands become aged and wrinkled, will you reach out and be there for each other? 


16. Will you both dream together?


17. Do you vow to honour each other?


18. Do you promise to always respect each other?


19. Do you promise to be (Name’s) faithful partner for life?


20. Do you promise to be each other’s constant friend and one true love?


21. Do you promise to love (Name) without reservation? 

22. Will both of you promise to stand by one another in sickness and in health, in plenty and in want?


23. Will you always to be open and honest with (Name), for as long as you both shall live?

24. Will you both be true to one another, giving each other attention when asked, or space for reflection when needed? 

25. Will you both dream together to create new realities and hopes? 


26.  Do you vow to love and cherish each other keeping sacred above all else, the place your hearts hold for one another

27.  Do you promise to love, comfort & keep (Name) safe  from this time forward? 


28.  Do you promise to hold close and listen deeply when (Name) is sad or angry? 


29.  Do you both promise to stand by each other no matter what emotion may be expressed?

30.  Do you promise that you will learn compassion from (Name), never taking for granted and always giving thanks to your love? 


31.  Do you promise to love (Name)’s body, mind & spirit as he/she ages? 


32.  Do you pledge your heart and the unfolding of your life to (Name)?


33.  Do you both promise to give thanks to each other with a happy heart, taking this journey together hand in hand?

34.  Do you promise to be faithful and always express the truth in your heart & life?


35.  Do you both offer each other your trust, honesty, respect and understanding?


36.  Do you promise to be unwavering in your love for (Name)?


37.  Do you promise to be supportive in all that (Name) chooses to undertake in life?


38.  Do you both promise to stand by each others’ side at the turn of every corner, wherever it leads and whatever the outcome?


39. Do you enter this marriage believing that the love you share and your faith in each other will endure all things?


40.  Will you strive every day to make your relationship stronger?


41.  Will you be (Name) friend, love, partner, for the rest of your lives together?


42.  Do you promise to remain your awesome self through-out this amazing journey together?


43.  Do you promise to keep (Name) as your favourite person – to laugh with, go on adventures with, support through tough moments, be proud of, to grow old with and to find new reasons to love (him/her) every day?


44.  Do you promise to continue to live a life filled with hugs, kisses, laughter, fun, loyalty and most importantly, love?


45.  Do you absolutely promise to live life to the full, enjoy living in the present, learn – grow and mature together, and above all, accept yourself and (Name) to be the best that you can be?


46.  Will you share each other’s pain and seek to ease it?


47.  Will you share each other’s laughter, and look for the brightness in life and the positive in each other?


48.  Do you vow to be a trustworthy, loving, warm and generous life-long partner in marriage to the amazing person standing in front of you?


49.  Do you promise to do your very best each day, to create a loving, healthy and happy marriage?

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