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Celtic Hand-fasting

An ancient Tradition for your Irish Wedding Ceremony
05.26.24

What is Hand-fasting?

Handfasting is an ancient Celtic symbolic unity ritual that dates as far back as 7000 B.C. In the old Irish tradition when two people chose to be married, they were brought together to have a braided cord or ribbon tied around their hands in the presence of a druid priest. It was considered a public declaration of intent to marry, an engagement that would typically last a year.

Today, the tradition is often incorporated into wedding ceremonies to symbolise the binding together of separate lives and the commitment a couple is making together. It is a lovely way to add an extra layer of meaning before exchanging rings and vows.

Hand Fasting Ceremony Tips
  • 01

    Make The Cord Personal To You

    A hand-fasting cord is a ribbon, or long piece of fabric used to bind your hands. It can be made using a family heirloom, or gifted by a family member. It can include colours and patterns that have a special meaning. It can incporporate something old and something blue. You can also add charms to the end like seashells or beads.  One of my past couples used a natural garland of vines and flowers woven together by their florist. It was stunning and looked incredible in the photographs.

  • 02

    There Are No Hard or Fast Rules

    You can chose to bind with one hand each or two, use one ribbon or several. Many couples cross their arms, with their left hand linking the other’s right, to look like an infinity knot from above. You could choose to use a separate cord for each vow, or twist or braid together a few cords and wrap them as one around your hands.

  • 03

    Ask Your Celebrant or a Family Member to Perform the Fasting

    Some couples will even invite all their guests to place a ribbon over their hands so everyone takes part. You can really do it any way you like.

  • 04

    Don’t Tie It Too Tight

    You will want to be able to pull yours hands loose afterwards. There are so many different and beautiful way to tie to cord , from a simple knot to an elaborate wrapping of the wrists to create an infinity knot. Check out this video for ideas.  With creativity and planning, the knot can become a beautiful wedding day keepsake and family heirloom.

  • 05

    Explain the Meaning Behind It

    Tell your guests why you’ve chosen a hand fasting ritual for your wedding. Most couples will ask their officiant to introduce the ritual and talk about it.

Hand-fasting is a beautiful tradition, seeped in Irish history, and a truly wonderful way to make your dream Irish wedding or elopement extra meaningful. For more ideas on how to plan your Elopement in Ireland check out my ultimate Ireland Elopement Guide.

Planning a wedding in Ireland?

If you feel a connection with my photography style and would like me to photograph your Irish wedding story then I would love to hear from you – get in touch to tell me all about your plans!

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