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  • Writer's pictureRuth

Ceremony Enchancements: History of Handfasting & 5 Reasons To Include It In Your Wedding Ceremony

Updated: Jun 6, 2023


Over the next couple of months, I’m going to dedicate some blogs to the subject of ceremony enhancements. Some will cover weddings and vow renewals, while others will be devoted to naming ceremonies. Of course, the truth is, you can ‘enhance’ your ceremony however you like, be it with a specially commissioned piece of music or poem, a blessing from a loved one and so on. However, most people like guidance on available options. Some enhancements have fallen back into fashion over the last couple of years, including the exquisite handfasting ceremony.


History & Symbolism:

Incredibly, handfasting dates back to the time of the Celts in ancient Ireland, so approximately 5,000-7,000BC. A recently betrothed couple would literally have their hands bound together (handfasted) with rope, silk or some other material and would have to stay this way for a year and a day. If a couple still wanted to be together after this time they would then make their union permanent through marriage. Charmingly, this is where the term ‘tying the knot’ comes from.


Today, the symbolism of this ancient ceremony has been adopted to modern ceremonies. There are different ways to perform it, but my favourite way involves having those present, the couple’s friends and family, be involved.


Ribbons and Colours:

The amount of ribbons and colour choice is completely dependent on you.

You might simply opt for one ribbon to symbolise ‘tying the knot’. Or, you might want to add specific colours that are meaningful to you, for example, your county colours, or the favourite colour of someone who has passed. The third option is to have a variety of colours, each one demonstrating the values that you want to bring to your marriage.


As a guide, some of the colours and their associated meanings include:

Red: Determination, Nurture, Love

Orange: Warmth, Joy, Creativity, Happiness, Fun

Yellow: Energy, Creativity

Green: Renewal, Growth

Pink: Feminine, Charming

Blue:, Loyalty, Trust, Strength

Purple: Royalty, Nobility


Then you can decide who fastens the ribbons to your clasped hands. I, as your celebrant, can intertwine (pardon the pun) elements of the personalities of the people you choose with the ribbon colour. In fact, I performed a ceremony earlier this year where the two Mums brought up the red ribbon (love and nurture) while the Dads brought up the blue ribbon (ambition and strength). It was one of the most moving parts of the ceremony.



If you’re not convinced, here are five reasons to have a Handfasting Ceremony at your wedding/Vow Renewal ceremony


  1. The colours can be personalised to represent your values.

  2. It’s an opportunity to include lots of family (and children if you are already parents) and friends in the ceremony, especially those who are too shy to read but would love to have a role in your big day.

  3. It’s very emotional, and it will prepare your mind for the exchange of rings.

  4. It’s a cultural nod to our past.

  5. It looks incredible in pictures.


If you have any questions, please feel free to drop me a line and ask me.




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