How Weddings Work: Handfasting

As mentioned in the I Do’s/Intent section, an ancient alternative that is regaining popularity is a Handfasting. Some religions see a Handfasting as a temporary and/or private ceremony, not a true wedding in the legal and religious sense. However, if the wording is crafted correctly, it can replace traditional I Do’s and still be legal.

If you’ve never heard of a Handfasting, it is a ritual that includes a rope or ribbon which is wrapped around your clasped hands, and then tied (thus the phrase, “Tie the Knot”). The officiant asks both partners “I Do” (or “We Do”) questions to both partners at the same time. Each time a positive response is heard, the officiant wraps the ribbon around your hands. Depending on your religion or your preferences, the number of questions can be as few as three, or as many as five.

Each officiant has their preferred method of creating a Handfasting Ribbon. If you choose this beautiful ritual, your officiant can explain how to make your ribbon so that part goes smoothly. Honestly, I love a Handfasting ritual, because most guests are unfamiliar with it, and makes them eager and curious as to what is happening. It is only when the officiant says, “…and the knot is tied!” that the lightbulbs go off above guests’ heads and they understand what just happened.

Keep in mind that though the wrapping and tying is more symbolic than literal (you won’t need help getting your hands untied!), the order of a ceremony has to be switched around a little. If your hands are “bound,” you can’t exchange rings, for example. So, after the Charge, you skip to the Vows and Ring Exchange before the Handfasting (I Do’s). That way, you can keep your hands “fasted” together for the remainder of the ceremony and Recess down the aisle with the ribbon still tied.

– Reverend Meghan Gurley