I find there is a great deal of confusion about Handfasting rituals. A couples understanding of Handfasting is varied and mixed. I trust these question will help you realizes the diversity and adaptions that can be made by an Independent Celebrant making 21st century interpretations of ancient rituals.
Who am I?
My name is Glenda PROCTER and I am a qualified Independent Celebrant experienced in conducting hundreds of registration office and corporate weddings over many years. I am now retired and am fulfilling my ambition of bridging the gap between church and state to provide meaningful spiritual and loving bespoke Handfasting ceremonies for my couples.
What do I do?
I conduct Handfasting Ceremonies in a wide variety of locations both traditional and modern. I also conduct more traditional and quirky ceremonies for couples seeking a rustic and outdoor BoHo celebration. I also conduct naming ceremonies for babies and children; which could reflect ancient rituals. In truth I will do most ceremony types and seldom say no to a request.
What is Handfasting?
Handfasting was the ancient way of joining a couple in matrimony. It was commonly the way that couples were “officially” married before the church or state became involved in love.
Who chooses to become Handfasted today?
Couples who prefer the loving, caring and meaningful words of a Handfasting ceremony and want a unique, bespoke ceremony to celebrate their love with one another.
What type of Handfasting do you conduct?
I conduct Celtic and Medieval style ceremonies. As well as being able to mix and match elements of an ancient ceremony into a modern celebration.
Where do you conduct Handfastings?
Anywhere you choose! Mainly Glastonbury Festival, England’s MEDIEVAL Festival, Stonehenge Inner Circle, Avebury Stone Circle.
Can a Handfasting be done in luxury surroundings?
Absolutely. I have conducted Handfastings at 5* venues, that include stately homes and castles. In the UK and overseas.
Do you attend any Festivals?
I attend Glastonbury Festival every June and England’s biggest Medieval Festival in August.
Do you conduct ceremonies within Stone Circles?
I conduct private ceremonies anywhere, anytime, for couples seeking this meaningful union. I am able to arrange ceremonies at Avebury Stone Circle and the Rollright Stones, as well as by arrangement in the inner circle at Stonehenge at dusk or dawn, subject to seasonal openings.
Where did the term originate?
The term ‘-festais’ originally from Norse and was a term used to “to strike a bargain by joining hands.”
In Germany “Hände fest halten” was an expression to hold hands firmly and fixedly.
When was Handfasting commonly practised in England?
Handfasting was practised in pre-Medieval England as a way to unite couples wishing to live together. Handfasting remained an acceptable way of marrying in England throughout the Middle Ages, but declined in the early modern period when priests and clergy of the church became involved!
At what point in a relationship do couples become Handfast?
When was the earliest recording of Handfastings?
The Romans created a garland made of magnolia, elder and roses. It was then wrapped around the couple’s wrists to signify love and fidelity.
What was traditionally used to tie the Handfasting?
Traditionally in Europe coloured cords or ribbons. However many couples used cloth torn from sentimental garments and robes.
Was Handfasting practised in England?
Yes…but the ceremony was especially common in Celtic Ireland and Scotland.
Was Handfasting practised in other countries?
Yes. There are variations and adaptations to the ceremony which have been practised in other countries. Customs may vary widely.
How long do the pledges made by couples in a Handfasting last?
In the past Handfastings were traditionally for a period of up to seven years or alternatively for a year and a day or ‘as long as love shall last’. At the end of this period of time, the participants could chose to recommit to the relationship or break it.
Where did the practise of 'a Year and a day' ORIGINATE ?
The Scottish Hebrides have records that show a ‘Handfast” or “left-handed” marriage taking place as recently as the late 1600s.
A Gaelic scholar, Martin Martin, notes “It was an ancient custom in the Isles that a man take a maid as his wife and keep her for the space of a year without marrying her; and if she pleased him all the while, he married her at the end of the year and legitimatised her children; but if he did not love her, he returned her to her parents.”
What does legend say about Handfasting?
In ancient legends, lovers were united together as they “tied the knot” in the tradition of Celtic Handfasting.
What is the reason and tradition of Handfasting?
The Handfasting tradition was not based upon ownership or property. Men and women both have the right to own property. There is no shame implied or applied to either party should a Handfasting not be renewed.
Why is Handfasting becoming more practised AND POPULAR?
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. This has especially been true in Scotland, where the movie is based. Also TV shows such as Game of Thrones and Vikings have highlighted Handfasting.
How has religious faith influenced Handfasting?
Today in the UK only 3% of the population attend regular worship at a church, there are many couples seeking a more meaningful spiritual way to make their commitment to each other, without attending and becoming involved with the church.
Why do couples with no faith choose this type of ceremony?
It can also act as a very public demonstration of a couples commitment to each other, in front of one’s friends and relatives, without involving the church or established religion. The basis of Handfasting is trust and faith in a partner.
When did legal Scottish Handfasting cease?
As recently as 1939…
By the 18th century, the Kirk of Scotland no longer recognized marriages formed by mutual consent and Handfasting and subsequent sexual intercourse, even though the Scottish civil authorities did. This situation persisted until 1939, when Scottish marriage laws were reformed by the Marriage (Scotland) Act 1939 and Handfasting was no longer legal.
Is a Handfasting in England legally binding today?
No. it has no legal status. However, it is often all that a couple require to make their union special and formal in their own and their families eyes. Many do not see the need for a legal document (certificate) to prove their love and commitment towards each other.
Is Handfasting practised today?
YES, most definitely. Many couples choose to have a Handfasting to cement and seal their love and commitment to one another, without ownership, or the involvement of the government or church in affairs of the heart.
What types of couples partake in Handfasting?
Any couples. Young and old alike, partake to celebrate their love for one another. I have Handfasted couples from all walks of life, age, social backgrounds, cultures and sexual orientation.
HANDFASTING IN MODERN TIMES
Who conducts Handfastings?
Handfastings can be conducted by anyone, but in practice they are usually conducted by celebrants who have the experience and depth of empathy necessary to make what is a deeply spiritual ceremony, meaningful and loving.
At summer festivals, it has now become possible in recent years, to find independent, experienced Celebrants, who are able to conduct such Handfastings.
Is Handfasting a pagan ceremony?
No it is not.
If you were a practicing pagan, you might choose to have a Handfasting conducted by your coven priestess, to include a full elemental blessing, but I am not pagan nor a priestess and Handfasting is not exclusively pagan.
What do the couples who Handfast share in common?
They share a commitment to declare their love to each other through the declarations, pledges and vows made with sincerity and love. They know that the vows they make to each other are made in their hearts. They feel no requirement to have the church or government involved in their love affair.
Why do people Handfast?
To share their love for one another in a commitment, an engagement, marriage or to celebrate a special anniversary. The Handfasting is an opportunity for them to confirm their love to each other.
What other reasons do couples have to Handfast?
Some couples celebrate with a Handfasting following a period of trauma or ill health in their lives. Others celebrate following a reconciliation or period of difficult times together.
What is the simplest Handfasting?
This would include just the saying of vows and pledges between the couple and the tying of cords or ribbons, to bind each other at the wrists. I call this a simple Handtying.
What additions can be added to the ceremony?
- An exchange of Rings with blessing.
- Cake and Ale ceremony – drinking from a Loving Cup and Eating Cake
- Jumping the Besom Broom.
What happens when rings are exchanged?
Rings symbolize a couple’s commitment to each other.
Many couples look upon the Handfasting as their true marriage and often choose not to exchange rings at their legal ceremony- in registry office or church. The Handfasting ceremony then includes a ring exchange, where the rings can be presented on a wand, and special words said. A short ‘story’ of the rings can be included if they have special meaning.
Many couples choose rings that reflect their spiritual and cultural traditions, while others choose more conventional wedding rings.
What is the Loving Cup Ceremony?
It is a symbolic gesture of sharing drink and toasting the future together. I offer my couples to drink from a traditional pewter Celtic Loving Cup as part of the Handfasting. The one I use is a two-handled shallow cup, which the couple both offer each other and drink from, while special words are said. In Scotland a two handled quaich is traditionally used.
What do couples choose to drink?
They may choose to drink whatever they like or more importantly whatever they can find to drink at a festival! I have had couples drink champagne, wine, beer, lager, cider, mead, water or even cold tea!
What do couples eat in the Cake and Ale Ceremony?
Traditionally couples drank ale and ate cake, but today couples eat and drink what they like. One of my last Handfasting couples ate traditional wedding fruit cake, one couple brought a very large sponge cake to share with all those witnessing the ceremony. Couples also shared flapjacks, brownies, shortbread, strawberries, biscuits and jelly babies! – whatever they could find to eat at the festival.
What is Jumping the Broom Ceremony?
Traditionally this symbolises the sweeping away of the old and making a new start in life. With words and explanation the couple get over the broom jumping together or one being carried! This is normally the finale to the ceremony.
A PRACTICAL MATTER!
How do couples hold or clasp hands?
Any way they feel comfortable and prefer! However if they choose to remained ‘tyed together till midnight’ as in medieval tradition; then the practical way would be to hold hands to enable them to walk side by side!
What is the difference between Handfasting with ribbons and that of using cords?
None at all it is purely a practical choice.
Why do some couples have lots of ribbons and three cords and others only one?
Once again this is a personal choice they have made
What is the significance of three cords or ribbons?
Three cords or ribbons allow plaiting to take place and this is an extra little ritual that a couple can perform together linking their lives to one another.
How many ribbons or cords can be used?
There is no limit! I have had couples choose a colour for themselves and then one for each of their children!
How long do we need to be tied together?
As long as you like! Practically till the end of the ceremony unless you choose to walk around together to show off your Handfasting!
At the end of the Handfasting Ceremony I will ask the couple whether they would like me to remove the Handfasting! It is then up to them to say yes or no!
WHAT COLOURS DO THE RIBBONS OR CORDS HAVE TO BE?
The choice of colour is purely personal and each colour represents a different virtue or quality. You may just choose colours that match your ceremony colour-scheme or which are your favorites. It does not matter.
What are the meanings of the colours?
Orange: encouragement, attraction, kindness, plenty
Red: passion, strength, lust, fertility
Pink: unity, honour, truth, romance, happiness
Yellow: charm, confidence, joy, balance
Purple: Power, piety, sanctity, sentimentality
Black: strength, wisdom, vision, success
Blue: tranquillity, patience, devotion, sincerity
White: purity, concentration, meditation, peace
Grey: neutrality, cancelling, balance
Green: finances, fertility, charity, prosperity, health
Brown: earth, grounding, talent, telepathy, home
Silver: treasure, values, creativity, inspiration
Gold: energy, wealth, intelligence, longevity
DO YOU SUPPLY THE RIBBONS OR CORDS FOR THE CEREMONY?
I can provide either for you but would suggest that you both choose them yourselves thus making them personal and special.
HERSTMONCEUX CASTLE & MEDIEVAL FESTIVAL
CAN WE WEAR MEDIEVAL COSTUMES?
Yes. You can wear anything you like.
When should we make enquiries about having a Handfasting at the 2020 2021 HERSTMONCEUX Festival?
It is never too early or too late to make enquiries.
How do we book a ceremony with you in the tournament field?
This is simple. Merely email me and we can start the planning!
Just turn up on the day and hope I have availability for you.
Are we able to book a full Medieval experience, whereby we are invited into the royal box and attend the medieval banquet in the evening?
Yes. This is possible by contacting the Castle directly and arranging the details. You will then be contacted by me to arrange the details of your actual Handfasting ceremony.
Are all Handfastings conducted in the tournament Field?
No. By prior arrangement with the Herstmonceux Castle you can have your ceremony in the secret garden or a selected spot in the castle grounds.
WILL YOU BE PERFORMING HANDFASTINGS AT THE NEXT FESTIVAL?
When should we make enquiries about having a Handfasting at the 2020 Glastonbury Festival?
It is never too soon to email me! As soon as you know it is something you want to do then reach out to me via email.
Can you give us more details about having a Handfasting at the Glastonbury Festival in 2020?
Following your email I will send you some preliminary details to support you in knowing that the Handfasting Ceremony is truly what you seek.
Can we book in advance to secure a Handfasting?
The Glastonbury Festival organisers in the Healing Fields, have requested that no pre-bookings are made prior to the start of the festival.
Can we telephone you?
I encourage all my couples to call me so that I know a little about them prior to the Festival. It is then important that you stay in touch…
What do we need to bring with us for a Handfasting?
You just need to bring yourselves and all your love!
Can we prepare our own Handfasting cords or ribbons?
YES. I encourage all my couples to create and make their own set of Handfasting ribbons or cords. This ensures your energies and love are absorbed into them.
Can we purchase ribbons online?
YES. If you do this then I will ask you both to hold the Handfastings prior to the start of the ceremony, so that your love and energy is put into them.
Are we able to purchase ribbons or cords from you for our Handfasting?
Absolutely! I will come with a basket full of various cords and ribbons for you to choose from and make your selection.
Does it matter what colour we choose?
Every colour has a virtue and quality and I will have these for you to see…