Handfasting: A Legal Wedding or a Unity Ceremony Within a Wedding

Handfasting cords or ribbons? Your own vows or use these examples?

Call or text 860-543-2334 for free help or advice.

About the photo: Bernadette and Kirill had their wedding at Bill Miller’s Castle in Branford, CT. They had a handfasting ceremony as part of their wedding. Please be sure to ask me how their ceremony was positively unique!

There are several types of handfastings:

Some couples choose handfastings instead of exchanging rings.

In the old days, a couple could choose a “Year-and-a-day” handfasting as a trial marriage.

It is from handfasting that we get the expressions “tying the knot” and “the bonds of matrimony.”

Handfasting is sometimes called “Hand Tying” because the couple's hands are tied together.

Handfasting with custom cords hand-made by the couple for their wedding.
Closeup of handfasting with custom cords (ask me about the details!)
Arna and Greg asked their guests bring colored ribbons, several brought red
Preparing to tie the handfasting knot at the House of 1833 in Old Mystic, CT.
Tying the knot at a garden wedding in Old Mystic, Connecticut.
Camera-shy couple being handfasted at their home wedding

“Should we use cords or ribbons for our handfasting?”

You should use whatever you prefer.

Some couples use cords for symbolic strength, other people use ribbons for delicacy.

There’s no rules about what you use to be handfasted. You might decide to use neither cords nor ribbons. Some couples have been handfasted with pretty scarves, others with an ivy vine or grape vine.

You could use real plants or imitations. What you use should be flexible enough to wrap around your hands and to be tied into a knot.

Ideally, cords should be no smaller than the diameter of your little finger, and no bigger than your thumb. There are exceptions, of course.

“How many ribbons or cords should we have?”

You can be handfasted with just one cord or with as many as six to eight ribbons.

For handfasting cords, six cords is about the maximum you’ll feel comfortable with.

For handfasting ribbons, one consideration is how long it will take to tie the knots. Please see ... have your guests tie ..., below.

“What color or colors should our handfasting ribbons or cords be?”

“What do the handfasting colors mean?”

You can use all the same color cords, or you can use as many ribbon colors as you’d like (a maximum of six is strongly suggested).

You should use colors that have personal meanings to you. There are no right or wrong colors! The meaning or symbolism of each color is what you want it to be.

There are some handfasting color suggestions below.

“How long should our handfasting ribbons or cords be?”

For ribbons, at least a yard (three feet) long, but not much longer.

For handfasting cords, your cords (or very soft rope) should be thirty-six inches long.

Important: if you are going to braid your ribbons or cords, the lengths should be a yard / three feet / thirty-six inches after braiding!

Joann Fabric is one good choice because they have both ribbons and cords in many colors. Or you could suggest that a half-dozen friends bring colored ribbons of their choice, each a yard long. (No more than six cords or ribbons, please.)

“Who ties our handfasting?”

“Do we tie our own knots?”

It would be very difficult for you to literally tie the knots yourselves.

You can have your officiant tie the knots or have special people in your lives do the tying. It’s not hard to tie a handfasting knot; I’d be happy to show you!

Would you like to have your guests tie your handfasting knots?

You can have your guests do your actual handfasting if you have a relatively small number of guests; ten, for example. The amount of time your handfasting takes would depend on how quickly your guests could form an orderly line and tie the knots.

One advantage of having your guests handfast you is that when you invite a small number of people, you could ask that each person (or couple) bring a yard of ribbon with them. You could ask all your guests to bring a specific color, or you could ask each guest to bring a yard of their favorite color. You might end up with all white or all red ribbons, or with a ribbon rainbow.

Some suggested handfasting colors and their possible symbolic meanings

Please keep in mind that it’s your choice what your colors mean to you! Nobody can tell you you’re wrong!

Passion, strong romance
Light blue: Clear skies; no limits on your happiness
Dark blue: True-blue (loyal) friends; First prize winner gets the blue ribbon
Sun, sunny days, warmth, happiness
Charity and generosity, growth
Depth, especially depth of feelings and strength
Purity of spirit and intentions
Tender romance, relaxation, delicacy, cleansing, and spiritual healing
Royalty, that you will receive and give respect
Wisdom as well as wealth
Warmth, social energy

If you’d like more suggestions about handfasting colors or anything else about your handfasting, please Contact Us!

Call or text 860-543-2334 for free help or advice.

version 2.31 — 19 April 2023     Copyright © 2023 Ernest Adams – all rights reserved.