Handfasting – A History Lesson

If you are reading this and you are confused…  that’s because you should be reading this post about our friends Katie and Brent’s wedding first.  If you already read that post and are still confused, well then, I can’t help you…

Handfasting was common in the middle ages – a ceremony performed by binding the couple’s hands together with rope or ribbon.  The binding together of hands signified that the couple was now bound to each other and making a commitment.  Depending on where and when the handfasting was performed, it might be a betrothal of a year and a day, renewable “so long as the love shall last”, or some other period of time (7 years was common), or it could be a commitment until death.  In medieval England, it was typically the precursor to a religious wedding – taking place anywhere from a month to a year after the handfasting ceremony.  In Scotland, handfasting was considered a legally binding form of marriage until 1939, when a law was passed requiring a civil ceremony be performed.

Today, handfasting is performed most often by couples who are Pagans or Wiccan, but it does occur in Christian marriages as well.  It can be a spiritual commitment to one another that is not legally binding, and can signify a commitment of varying lengths as discussed above, or it can be performed along with a civil marriage ceremony.  The right hands of the couple, or both hands, are tied while vows are spoken.  Usually it is witnessed, although I believe this isn’t a requirement in states with common law marriage laws.

3 thoughts on “Handfasting – A History Lesson

  1. Pingback: The Best Wedding! | Wine and History Visited

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