Pearls of Wisdom

Handfasting Cords

Handfasting Cords Handfasting Cords
by Barbara van Look, Content Development Group, Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®

Getting married is called "tying the knot" for a reason: there was a knot getting tied!

It's called handfasting--and it's reemerging as a popular wedding choice.

The (Mostly Celtic) History of Handfasting

Originally, handfasting was seen as a betrothal, rather than a formal marriage, and was valid only for a year and a day. It had to take place in front of witnesses (marriages did not always require that), and was considered the public acknowledgement that the two were a couple.

The word "handfasting" comes from the action of tying the bride's and groom's hands and wrists together during the ceremony. (Some traditions involved not untying their hands until the relationship had been consummated.)

Drawing from this Celtic background, handfasting is often used to celebrate the bride's or groom's family heritage or their membership in Wicca and similar faiths.

What Occurs at a Handfasting

Handfasting often occurs within a circle. It can be a circle of stones, trees, pillars, décor items--even the ceremony's witnesses!

The couple's hands are clasped together and then bound with a cord or ribbon. Some ceremonies have them simply clasp right hand to right hand, while others have all four hands clasped together. The cord is gently wrapped around their wrists and hands by the officiant, by their mothers, by friends or other members of their chosen family, depending on the couple's beliefs and preferences. The two ends of the cord are knotted together, with the remaining length left dangling below.
Handfasting Cords

The officiant speaks a blessing over the bound hands, and then the couple's hands are released. Some traditions say the cord must be removed without untying the knot, because that would undo the connection just formed in the ceremony. The cord is often kept after the ceremony, sometimes preserved along with the bride's bouquet and wedding dress.

Then it's time to celebrate!

Handfasting Cord or Ribbon

The handfasting cord can be as rich with symbolic meaning as any other element of a wedding. It's all up to the couple.
  • Colors Handfasting cords can be any shade: a range of creams and whites, the couple's wedding colors, spiritually significant colors (such as chakra colors) and others.
  • Materials Popular choices include cord (cotton or satin), ribbon (silk, organza or velvet), lengths of lace, strings of beads or pearls--even colorful cupchain! These are often braided together to keep the loose ends from tangling.
  • Embellishment Braids don't have to be boring! Some brides braid satin cord, lace, cupchain and other materials together for their handfasting cords. Others weave colorful bands and decorate the ends using ribbon ends, where they dangle the couple's birthstones or sparkling Swarovski crystal drops. Some brides turn the ends into tassels with seed beads on the bottom of each thread!

Handfasting is a beautiful expression of love and connection that's returning as a powerful expression of commitment in weddings. Consider it for yours!

Design with ... Additional Resources ... If you have a question or feedback on this Pearls of Wisdom article, or would like to share your own wedding project idea, please contact us here.
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