Handfasting Tips

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The Meaning of Handfasting Ribbon Colors

During a handfasting ceremony, ribbons or cords are draped around the hands of the couple at the altar. Here is what each ribbon color means.

  • Blue represents a sense of sincerity between the couple, as well as peace, honest and open communication, the ability to express oneself, loyalty to the relationship, and patience between the couple.

  • Green represents financial health between the couple as well as physical health, signs of affection, compassionate feelings between the couple, and a sense of caring.

  • Orange represents the attraction between the couple, a sense of kindness, support and encouragement, keeping your heart open, fostering understanding, and being sensitive to each other's needs.

  • Gold represents intelligence, a sense of unity, plenty of energy, and religious blessings for the couple.

  • Red represents passion between the couple, healthy fertility, a sense of strength, bravery, and a long life for the marriage.

  • Yellow represents equality between the couple, confidence for each partner, a sense of balance, joy and charm, a sense of spontaneity, and plenty of enthusiasm for the marriage.

  • Purple represents harmony and tranquility in the marriage, power between the couple, a sense of sentimentality, and intelligence and wisdom.


What is a Handfasting?

A handfasting is a commitment ceremony in which two people pledge a relationship to one another. The practice of handfasting, which originated in pre-Christian Celtic times, has been in use for several hundreds of years. Today, a handfasting can be used by people of any religious denomination - some use it as an alternative to a wedding, and other couples incorporate it into their wedding ceremony as a symbolic gesture.

Handfasting does not always indicate that the couple are becoming legally married. In some cultures, such as in the Scottish Highlands, it was used like a "trial period" for the couple; if they found they were incompatible at the end of the year and a day, then they were free to part without moral or religious repercussion. Otherwise, they would remain together and the marriage would be an official lifelong bond. Some modern couples choose to have a handfasting a year and a day before the day that they plan to legally or officially marry.

During the simple, but beautiful ceremony, the couple will typically have their hands bound with colored cords, ribbons, or cloth to represent their own new bond to one another. As a matter of fact, this thought to be where the modern expression "tying the knot" originated. The cords are loosely tied over the hands in an infinity symbol, or simply draped, while the couple speak their vows or a third person (priest, priestess, or officiant) recites poetry, passages from religious texts, or sings. Some couples choose this time to take a moment of silent reflection.

There are as many variations on the handfasting ceremony as there are couples who choose to undergo it. Each is unique and tailored to the needs and wants of the two people pledging their commitment to one another.


Creating a Handfasting Ceremony for the Modern Couple

A handfasting ceremony is a type of marriage tradition that evolved from Scottish Highlands culture. It involves a unique arrangement in which a couple stays together for a year and one day and then decides if they are truly compatible at the end of that time. Of course, if the couple had children then they could not separate. However, if at the end of the year, the couple decided to stay together of their own desires, then they would become a legally recognized married couple.

If you want to perform your own handfasting ceremony, you can. You just need a few different elements, such as these five:

  • A priest or priestess – Only someone with ministerial ability can perform such a ceremony. Therefore, someone who you know can take the time to become a priest or a priestess, or you can visit your local congregation and ask someone to perform the ceremony for you.

  • Scripts – The priest or priestess who performs the ceremony needs to know the various scripts that must be uttered over the course of the ceremony. These include greetings and an opening statement, a declaration of intent, an exchange of vows, a blessing of the rings, and closing words.

  • Ribbons – During the course of the ceremony, the couple uses variously colored ribbons that each signify positive qualities that the partners want for each other and their union. The couple should read up on the meaning of the colors and choose applicable ones.

  • Rings – Just like with a traditional wedding, a handfasting ceremony involves rings as well. These can be as lavish or as simple as you and your partner prefer. You may want to start with a simpler design for the handfasting ceremony and then upgrade when you become legally wed.

  • A shared meal – After the ceremony, the couple celebrates with a meal that should include, according to the script, cake and ale. The priest will read the script and the couple should share this food with each other.


Sample Vows for a Handfasting

These sample vows are just a jumping-off point for the husband and wife to be. Feel free to customize, add and subtract to fit your personalities and needs. Handfastings are meant to be as individual as the couple, after all!

I, [bride], take thee, [groom],

to be my beloved husband and partner

to share our days in love from this moment forward.

I shall give to you now

in the presence of Goddess, God, and our loved ones

an oath to remain by your side as your faithful wife,

devoted to you in sickness and in health,

through good times and bad.

I will love you without reservation,

I will comfort you in times of sadness,

and laugh in times of joy with you as well.

I shall grow with you in mind, body and spirit

as we experience our life on Gaia together,

and beyond when we travel to the Summerland.

On this day, I [bride] give to you, my beloved [groom],

a vow of love, honesty, and respect.

I shall walk beside you and grow with you in love always.

I shall cherish our time together,

and honor your soul and body each day that passes.

My true love, in the presence of the Goddess and our family,

please take this vow

as the deepest pledge of my commitment to you and our marriage.

I give to thee, [groom], my troth:

I vow to honor you both in words and action.

I promise to listen and not just hear…

to speak with and not at you…

to ask and never assume.

I vow to respect the time that we have on our Mother Earth,

and to cherish each day that we are gifted with each other's presence.

My life's love, I promise these things from this blessed day forth.

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Shirley Tan