What is Handfasting?
Whatever it’s original intention it has now become a popular new tradition for today’s couples seeking a new and spiritual way to honour their love.
- Handfasting can be part of a traditional Wedding Ceremony, following the legal vows and exchange of rings, or at the start of the evening celebrations before the first dance.
- Alternatively it can be carried out at a later date when family and friends gather to further celebrate your union in marriage.
- Handfasting can be performed regardless of whether the couple are married or not as a standalone ceremony to demonstrate their commitment to each other.
- Modern Handfasting can be performed for same-sex or opposite-sex couples.
During Handfasting a couple are symbolically bound together to demonstrate their commitment to one another.
Handfasting traditionally takes place at the engagement celebration or wedding ceremony but can be performed at any time for any couple, married or not. The couple make poignant and meaningful pledges or vows to one another, following ancient traditions.
It is neither pagan nor Christian but has its roots in Celtic history.
Prince William and his bride Kate were Handfasted together in St. Pauls Cathedral.
See my article on The Celebrant Directory on the art of handfasting.
History of Handfasting
The term Handfasting is taken from Old Norse “hand-festa” meaning “to strike a bargain by joining hands”. Handfasting was commonly the way that couples were “officially” married in ancient Britain before the church became involved in wedding ceremonies and is mentioned in ancient Celtic legends. It was originally practiced by the Greeks and Romans. The Romans created a garland made of magnolia, elder and roses which was then wrapped around the couple’s wrists to signify love and fidelity. Variations on the theme have since been used in other countries as well. . Handfasting rituals in ancient Europe symbolised the betrothal of a couple (temporary or permanent) and involved the lightly tying together of the couple’s hands with a cord, ribbon or vine.
The ceremony was especially common in Ireland and Scotland. Handfasting has seen a modern day resurgence owing in part to the movie Braveheart, in which William Wallace and his girlfriend Murron are joined together with a handfasting ceremony.
Recognition of Handfasting in Marriage
- Only a couple can seal the promise of a marriage to each other and only a couple can bind it. No power vested in a Celebrant or the church or registry office can declare what is felt and known to be in the hearts of two people in love. Only those two hearts can make that declaration and only those two souls can bring substance to the pledges and vows made in a Handfasting ceremony.
- Marriage demonstrates a commitment made in the hearts of two people- a declaration of true love. So, when a couple are joined in a Handfasting ceremony (whether married or not) I will announce the truths that are already written in their hearts and which have been witnessed in the presence of their family and friends! In this way we will ALL share in the couple’s joy and happiness.
The 1753 Marriage Act, ended the Handfasting custom in England thus suppressing clandestine marriages with more stringent conditions for validity.
Handfasting has no legality in law in the UK where proof of legal marriage is by the signing and witnessing of a Marriage Certificate.
As an Independent Celebrant I will Handfast anyone and do not require proof of legal marriage.
The Handfasting marriage vows taken may be for “a year and a day,” “a lifetime”, “for all of eternity” or “for as long as love shall last.”
The ceremony is NOT LEGAL. It is a private spiritual commitment between the couple, who may choose to make it legal by also having a civil ceremony.
GLENDA IS ONCE AGAIN ATTENDING GLASTONBURY MUSIC FESTIVAL 2019
Each year Glenda attends the Glastonbury Festival by invitation on a Staff/ Performers ticket with “Celebrant” printed on the ticket!
A beautiful outdoor space where ceremonies are conducted can be found in the tranquil Green Fields site.
Glenda, who is also an Energy Healer, can be found in the Healing Fields. She does energy healing in the mornings and conducts Handfastings Ceremonies for in the afternoons, prior to the start of the music.
The popularity of these Handfastings mean Glenda is kept very busy and it is proving essential to pre-book ceremonies.
GLENDA ALREADY HAS HANDFASTINGS BOOKED FOR GLASTONBURY MUSIC FESTIVAL 2019
Watch this to get a flavour of festival Handfasting Ceremony
GLENDA HAD AN AMAZING TIME AT GLASTONBURY MUSIC FESTIVAL 2016
read some snippets from her guest book HERE
2016 will go down as the wettest Glastonbury festival!
See what the Daily Mail had to say
Arriving on the Sunday before the start of the festival cloud9ceremonies were able to set up in the dry but only just!
During the festival the ceremony space was marked by a large white rope.The area inside the rope became a ‘no wellies’ zone and everybody respected this. By the end of the festival the rope was muddy but the grass was still standing.
It poured with rain all Sunday night. At the end of the festival all ‘workers’ in the fields were requested to delay their departure due to the intense mud slowing the exit of revellers.
On the Tuesday morning the sun shone and the ground dried on the hill .The huge van that came to collect all the items that had created such a beautiful space was able to drive onto the field. The van was loaded in the dry! It then started to spit with rain and then poured. We were ‘home and dry’ complete with dry yurt and ceremony tent!
2017 the BEST YEAR YET!
2017 will go down as the busiest Glastonbury Festival for Handfastings!
A record number of couples were Handfasted this year in an unprecedented demand for cloud9ceremonies Handfasting Ceremonies in the Healing Fields. Those booking early enjoyed the fun and romance of a personalised Handfasting which also included a Cake and Ale ritual and jumping the Broom.Glenda had her first booking immediately after the previous years festival and started a waiting list in January.The waiting list was closed when numbers reached 22 and a disappointed coupes list reached over 45 couples.
A FEW LUCKY COUPLES ENJOYING A HANDFASTING IN 2017
Handfastings at Herstmonceux Castle
MEDIEVAL FESTIVAL AT HERSTMONCEUX CASTLE
Englands Medieval Festival
The Herstmonceux Medieval Festival is the largest Medieval Festival in England. It attracts visitors from all over the world to its three days August Bank Holiday festivities.
Glenda attended for the first time in 2017 and is invited back in 2018.Her attendance conducting Handfastings is in great demand. She had a beautiful ceremony area set up in the main Tournament Field, where Handfastings are conducted under a decorated pole arbour. Handfastings can also take place in other areas of the Castle and grounds.
Medieval Handfastings will be available this year and future years at England’s biggest Medieval Festival. Herstmonceux Castle have invited cloud9ceremonies to create a Handfasting ceremony space in the Tournament Field again in 2018, during the festival weekend.
Couples may pre-book directly with cloud9ceremonies for a Festival Handfasting or book a Handfasting on the day (subject to availability) while at the festival.
- A Full Medieval Handfastings will include a Handfasting with ribbons or cords and be followed by a cake and ale ceremony, ending in the couple jumping the broom.
- A simple Medieval Handfastings will not include the cake and ale or jumping the broom.
Other Medieval Ceremonies have been created for festival goers that include:-
- Ring exchange and blessing. This is for engaged couples or those couples celebrating a key miles stone of their lives. A bracelet or gift may also be exchanged.
- The Tying the Knot ceremony where a couple Tye the Knot of matrimony in a simple ritual that remembers their marriage and union. Its where the expression ‘Tied the Knot’ comes from.
- Oathing Stone. This ceremony is for anyone wishing to seal a pledge or promise one to the other. They may wish to make a promise to another and by stating it while holding an Oathing Stone their clear statement of intent or purpose will bind them to the oath. Hence the expression to ‘set it in stone’.
- Sword and Chalice ceremony for a Medieval betrothal. This ceremony will suit the more theatrical couples seeking something rather different and memorable as an engagement ceremony.
All ceremonies can be done secretly and romantically with just one partner planning and organising the Handfasting.
Cloud9ceremonies specialises in single-sex couples and Glenda is happy to make suggestions for a memorable Handfasting Ceremony.
CEREMONIES BOOKED AT THE FESTIVAL WILL BE CREATED TOGETHER WITH GLENDA.
Included in all the ceremonies will be a reading, words of endearment and special pledges and vows.
Not included in the ceremonies will be your personal choice of ribbons or cords. These can be selected and purchased from Glenda who will have a selection to choose from in a variety of colours types and prices.
HANDFASTINGS OUTSIDE OF FESTIVAL TIMES
Glenda is available through Herstmonceux Castle to conduct ceremonies at other times of the year to suit your requirements. These ceremonies can be conducted in the Magic Garden, Rose garden or Log Circle by prior arrangement. All planning of your day will be handled by the Castle but the ceremony will be created with you in the weeks and months after booking directly with Glenda.
Fees for private ceremonies will be considerably more and should be discussed with the Castle and confirmed with Glenda depending on your requirements.
Questions and Answers
Do we have to pre-book our Handfasting Ceremony at the Medieval Festival?
Yes. Ideally your ceremony is best pre-booked to avoid disappointment. It also permits you the advantage of discussing your requirements in advance.
Handfastings at Stonehenge
Stonehenge is a World Heritage site on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire Southern England.
Many couples look on a Handfasting within the inner circle at Stonehenge as the ultimate venue for their Handfasting.
Tourists to the site are not permitted to enter the inner circle of the ancient stones. However at dusk and dawn when the general public is not allowed entry access is permitted to small groups of people.
Cloud9ceremonies is able with sufficient notice to support you in applying for pre-booked advance tickets.
Handfastings at Avebury Circle
Avebury Circle together with Stonehenge, is a World Heritage Site near Marlborough, Wiltshire.
However it is an open site and free to enter. If Stonehenge ticket availability does not coincide with your planned Handfasting date then Avebury or the Rollright stones could be an alternative option for you.
The site is very large and even when busy you will be sure to find a suitable ‘stone ‘that appeals to you.
The Rollright stones are in the Cotswolds on the Oxfordshire/Warwickshire border in England.
There is no doubting that the Rollright Stone Circle, in common with many other ancient sites, is a place of mysterious beauty and subtle energies.
It seems highly likely that Neolithic men and women “not only shared these experiences, but had an understanding of how to find such places”.
This site is small and easily missed as you drive by but a wonderful place for a Handfasting!