Congratulations on your engagement and thanks for looking at my blog!

Congratulations on your engagement and thanks for looking at my blog!

How to use this blog

PLEASE NOTE THAT I AM NOW COMPLETELY RETIRED, SO I'M NO LONGER TAKING ANY WEDDING BOOKINGS. I'M LEAVING THIS BLOG ONLINE IN CASE IT'S OF ANY HELP TO YOU IN PLANNING YOUR WEDDING, BUT I WON'T BE MAINTAINING IT, SO APOLOGIES FOR BROKEN LINKS OR OUT OF DATE INFORMATION! This blog is structured as a series of questions and under each posting, I've provided what I hope will be helpful advice for you in planning your humanist wedding. All of the posts are on one page, but each one has been condensed in size, so to read the full details, just click on the post title or 'read more'. When you get to the end of the post, just click on 'home' to get back to the full page of posts or 'older post' to move on to the next post. If you're interested in a particular subject, you can also click on the list to the right or you can do your own search by using the box below.

I've started with a wee video, so happy viewing, happy reading and happy wedding planning!

Search This Blog

So what exactly is hand fasting?

Hand fasting is an ancient Celtic marriage ritual and it involves tying a piece of tartan (or cord or ribbon if you prefer) around your joined hands, as a symbolic way of representing your union as a married couple. It may well be where the expression 'tying the knot' came from! The 1995 film, 'Braveheart' shows William Wallace (Mel Gibson of course) and the love of his life, Murron, having a hand fasting ceremony. The original idea was that it was a kind of engagement - the couple would be betrothed for a year and a day before they then married. If you decide to have a hand fasting, I always make a point of saying that although that was the tradition, your hand fast will be for life! There are a few different ways for a hand fasting to be done and your Celebrant will be able to give you ideas. This video clip from lovely Lindsey and Adam's wedding shows how I usually do handfasting. I think it's important to exchange your vows in the handfast because that is symbolic of the fact that your vows are binding promises that you're making to each other: 

Here's a photo of Chris and Suzanne's hand fasting taken by Andrea Fletcher during their wedding in February at House for an Art Lover:

And another of Linsey and Allister at the Roman Camp Hotel in Callander taken by Trevor Wilson at Silver Photography:

Lisa Ann and Jonas (seen below during their 2005 wedding at the Dunkeld House Hotel) had a nice idea for their hand fasting - they sewed two pieces of tartan together to represent their respective family roots:

(Picture by Neil Fordyce)

You can either sew them together back to back  down the whole length of the tartan or cut each strip in half and sew them in the middle like this:

You don't necessarily need to sew them together at all and in fact, if they are different tartans, it's nice to see the individual colours anyway and the act of tying the knot is the thing that binds them together.

If you're going to use your own tartan, you need to get a length that is about 48-60 inches long (1 to 1.5 metres) and about 2-3 inches wide. You can either source it from a kiltmaker or buy it online. Lots of websites sell it and sites such as Scotchcorner stock a huge range. You could also try Scotland Shop (that's my hands in the picture by the way!). And you can also get nice sateen ones from: House of Tartan. Lightweight wool is usually better for handfasting than ribbon (it can be a bit slippery and lightweight, but it can still work if you can't get wool) - but the sateen ones are double faced, not too light and make a nice knot. By the way, if you buy tartan from a kiltmaker, make sure that you get a piece that's long enough, cut it to the right width and then have it hemmed because it often frays badly. Over the years, I've also collected extra tartans that couples haven't used and if I have your tartan, I'm very happy to give it to you free of charge! Consider it an anonymous gift from another couple to wish you well on your wedding day! Here's what I have at the moment:

By the way, if you don't have your own tartan but still like the idea of handfasting, I often use my own Wallace tartan, as shown here.

I will not only supply the tartan, but I'll also present you with your tied knot as a keepsake of your wedding! And by the way, never untie the knot that you tied on your wedding day! It'll be a wonderful and lasting memento of your special day....

You don't have to use tartan of course and you can personalise your handfasting material by choosing colours, fabrics or embellishments that have a particular meaning for you. Here are a few lovely examples:

(err.... yes, by the way, the one with the pale pink and blue ribbon does indeed have an embroidered guinea pig on it! Long story... ☺)

Think about who you want to keep the tartan (or handfasting ties) for you during the ceremony. It can of course be displayed on the signing table, or you could give it to the best man or a page boy. At one wedding recently, the tartans were both clan tartans of the bride and groom's respective mums - they each kept  their family tartan until I asked them to step forward with them and it was a nice way to involve the mums in the ceremony. 

(photo by professional photographer Nadin Dunnigan)

Hand fasting is a lovely gesture and one that seems to be becoming more popular. The tied knot is a nice keepsake of your big day and symbolic of the fact that you are bound, one to the other, in love.

(Picture by Ed Smith)

You can display your hand ties at home after the ceremony too - just to remind you of your big day every day!

To return to the full page of posts, click on 'home' below or to move on to the next post, click 'older post': 


Mary Wallace said...

Thank you - much appreciated!

mb16wall said...

I am a Wallace in NY and my fiancé and I will be having a hand fasting ceremony at our wedding next summer. We will likely do it symbolically as few handfasters in our area are the celtic type and we are having a unique ceremony anyway. Any special techniques or ceremony models you could add would be wonderful. Going from the internet, I have been mostly relegated to reading about mystic/non-celtic ceremonies that sound too fanciful and odd. Glad to see your blog!

Unknown said...

This is such a lovely wee read! Brightened up my day! Recently got married at 200 SVS, makes me sad that "big day" is all over now! 200 SVS

Unknown said...

Hi Mary

It's Keith (the piper).

How are you? I wondering if you would like to exchange links?