There’s an awful lot of information about the Handfasting ceremony. Libraries carry books on the subject, specialty shops sell special ribbons and cords for the ceremony itself, and you’ll even find boxes and porringers designed for holding those ribbons.

And yet, some of the logistics make the Handfasting ceremony something of a challenge. How do you handle all those cords or ribbons before, during and after the ceremony? If you’ve thought about the Handfasting ceremony but decided you know too little about it to go ahead, here’s the practical information you need to make it all happen smoothly and naturally.

Ten Tips for a Stress-Free Ceremony

1. Cords are easier to handle, so go for those rather than ribbons. However, if you’re only going to have one, it could be anything from a ribbon to an exotic piece of material.

2. If you don’t want your attendants to carry the cords in a container, place them on the table with the rest of the ceremonial paraphernalia — either hanging across the table, or in a box or bowl.

3. Decide whether you want to use just one cord, or half a dozen.

4. If using ribbons, you can have them tied, or wrapped around your wrist. If using cords, you can have a slip knot which slides up like a noose.

5. Decide who will tie them — the celebrant or your attendants. If using a number of cords, you could have a different attendant tie each one — male and female, alternating.

6. While your attendants or celebrant tie the cords, have your celebrant speak, explaining what each cord stands for. Or leave a card for each of your attendants involved in the handfasting. Each attendant can simply pick up the cord and read the words from the card.

7. Rehearse it! Rehearse the entire handfasting. Start where the celebrant calls the attendants by name. Go through the process where the attendant picks up the cord, returns to the altar, ties the couples’ hands and returns to his or her place in the bridal party. The attendant should practice taking it slowly and ceremoniously. Help your attendants place themselves cueing up appropriate background music.

8. Inevitably, the cords need come off before you sign the register. But here’s a thought. Although normally hands are tied cross-wise — the bride’s right hand in groom’s right hand — consider tying your inside hands instead. That is, if the groom is on the bride’s right arm, tie her right hand to his left. If you take this route, you can probably actually sign the register with your hands still tied. Which makes for great photos!

9. After the signing (in British weddings), you’ll return to where the ceremony began to be introduced as husband and wife. Before that happens, consider making an event out of the untying, as you did with the tying. Again, proceed slowly. Perhaps the celebrant can say a few words here, just as s/he did during the tying.

10. As the attendant unties each cord, s/he’ll return it to where it came from originally (such as the ceremonial table). When the whole wedding party’s back in their places, the celebrant greets the couple, and invites everyone to come up and offer best wishes.

Vlady Peters is an Australian Civil Marriage Celebrant authorized to perform marriage in Australia. She also performs general ceremonies such as Baby Naming, Renewal of Vows and Commitment Ceremonies. To learn more about Vlady, visit her at
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17 Responses

  1. Marsha

    Hey my fiance and I are from NC and we are planning a wedding and we want to incorporate handfasting into the ceremony but we are having a difficult time finding an officiant who performs them close by! Any tips?

    Reply
  2. Frances

    Good information on what to use for the ceremony but the whole point of the knot in the cords is to symbolise unity of two people, hense the saying: “we’re tying the knot”so it is not meant to be broken. 😉

    Reply
  3. Heather

    My Fiance and I are wanting to incorporate a handfasting into our ceremony – we are having issues with finding clergy to perform the ceremony in our area. any suggestions?
    our wedding is September 26, 2010

    Reply
    • Betsy

      lots of clergy are tentative about adding “pagan” rites to a ceremony. it is often easier to convince clergy to add handfasting, unity candles, broom jumping, etc. when they learn that it is not only a symbolic gesture but has a historic or cultural role in your cermony.

      Reply
    • Rev. Nancy McNeely

      Hi, Congratulations on your upcoming wedding. You might want to look for an interfaith minister to perform the hand fasting. I am an ordained interfaith minister in Massachusetts. All my fellow interfaith ministers agree they would be happy to perform the hand fasting. Good Luck.

      Reply
  4. Michelle

    My fiance and I love the symbolism of a handfasting ceremony but I did have a couple of concerns: We plan on getting legally married a day or two before our wedding. My best friend and his best friend (neither of which are ordained or anything) were going to officiate the small ceremony for our friends and family. I was wondering how we could work a handfasting ceremony with two officiants (plus two attendants). We really excited about doing this since this ceremony really suits us. Please help!! 😕

    Reply
  5. Kris

    We are planning a handtying wedding. The way we have set ours up is that we have a union of equals vow for the exchanging of rings followed by the register signing and then the binding of the hands with a separate vow. This way there are no awkward untying moments and it symbolizes the union of our souls followed by the binding together of our lives from that moment forward.

    Reply
  6. Lee

    my partner and i are performing the ceremony tonight, at midnight going into the summer solstice. just the 2 of us, 2 souls who reunited after years of being apart, from tonight we shall never be seperated again xxx love you michelle xxx

    Reply
    • Barb

      I found your note very touching. I am now seeing my first husband and we are considering this ceremony. We have been apart since 1975 and started seeing each other again in March of 2008.

      Reply
  7. Teri Lee

    Hi.. would you be able to tell me if according to the wiccan or pagan handfasting ritual if it is considered good luck to be married on the day of a new moon.

    Reply
      • Lulu

        The new moon is a great time to do it,as the new moon signals new beginnings and all that.

      • sonja

        Handfasting is personal. But personally speaking, I must agree that Handfasting should take place during a waxing moon.

  8. Brenda

    Hi! I was told that the handfasting cord should remain tied when the bride and groom release each other and then put into a bag of some sort to keep the “knot tied” and put somewhere special to both parties. How would you recommend going about this?

    Reply
    • Sara St. Hilaire

      Hello,
      Originally the knot remained tied until the marriage was consummated. Only then could it be untied.
      Although I do like the symbolism of keeping it tied in a memento box.

      Reply
    • keir

      I just saw this site…

      I am Wiccan and this is how we deal with the cord.

      We tie the Knot, then remove the Handfasting cords so that the knot stays tied. It can then be added to as the years past, on each anniversary a charm can be added. It is kept on a wall or above the marriage bed.

      If there is a parting of the ways, the cord is brought back to the Priestess that performed the ceremony and the cord is cut, each half given to each partner.

      Blessed be

      Reply

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