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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.
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.
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:
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.