Designing a hand fasting ceremony

The history of hand fasting ceremonies

In today’s civil ceremonies, couples can choose from many rituals that date back to ancient times and are rich with symbolism of love, marriage and commitment.
The hand fasting ceremony can be included in a legal marriage ceremony, provided that all the legal requirements are also included.
The hand fasting ceremony dates back to the ancient Celts and was used as a trial period in which the couple were literally tied together. This is where the expression “tying the knot” is thought to have originated. After the end of the trial period, the couple could agree to a more permanent arrangement. 

Including hand fasting in your ceremony

There are many ways that the hand fasting ceremony can be included in the ceremony.
The ribbons can be tied and looped by a family member and I have performed ceremonies where the couple have chosen their parents to take part in this ritual.
The words spoken by the couple express their love and relationship and are normally said before the legal vows. The couple then stay with their hands bound until they are ready to exchange rings.
The ribbons or cords are tied lightly so that they can be easily removed but still stay tied in a knot. I then place these on the marriage register as this makes a wonderful photo opportunity when it comes time to sign the register.
When I perform the hand fasting, I explain to your friends and family the symbolism and history of this ritual, as people really do like to know what is happening.
You may have just one cord or ribbon or sometimes as many as six can be used.

An example of a hand fasting ceremony

John and Jamie, do you come here voluntarily to enter this marriage ceremony? (Yes, we do).
John and Jamie, would you please cross hands and look into each other’s eyes.
John and Jamie, will you honour and respect one another? (We will).

The first cord is draped over the couples’ hands.
Will you support and assist each other in times of pain and sorrow? (We will).

The second cord is draped over the couple’s hands.
Will you be present in the difficult and challenging times so that you may grow strong in this union? (We will).

The third cord is draped over the couples’ hands.
Will you share each other’s laughter and joy, and look for the brightness and fun in life, and the positive in each other? (We will).

The fourth cord is draped over the couples’ hands.
Is it your intention to bring peace and harmony into your everyday ways of communicating? (Yes).

The fifth cord is draped over the couples’ hands.
And when you falter, will you have the courage and commitment to remember these promises and take a step back towards one another with an open heart? (We will).

The sixth cord is draped over the couples’ hands.

Alternative questions could include :

  • Are you willing now and always to make this commitment to each other?
  • Will you stand side by side for the rest of your days together?

With your hands still bound, you can then say your legal vows after which the cords can be removed in readiness for your ring exchange.

The colours

You may wish to consider symbolic energy colours for the ribbons or use colours to match your wedding theme.

  • Traditionally, red was for strength, courage, health, prosperity and longevity.
  • Orange was for loving hearts, sensitivity and understanding. Yellow for enthusiasm, spontaneity and equality.
  • Green for compassion, affection and caring.
  • Light blue for sincerity, expression and communication.
  • Purple for clear vision and wisdom, peach and harmony.
  • Gold for unity and blessing.

After the ribbons are tied, I will say words that reflect your relationship such as ‘Your union is symbolised by the trying of these ribbons into a sacred knot.  Your union is formed by your love and your commitment to each other and to the vows you have made and will be enriched as your marriage develops and deepens. You hold in your hands and hearts the ability to keep this union strong and while the ribbons will be removed, they will stay tied symbolising your two lives now becoming united in marriage.’

It is wonderful to have quite long ribbons for the fasting as they look fantastic in photos and also can be seen by your family and friends. It is also a great idea to have a special bag or box to place the ribbons in after the signing of the marriage documents as the ceremony concludes.

Copyright Helen Hutton 2014