During the Handfasting ceremony, the couple’s hands are tied together with one or several colored cords or ribbons, symbolizing the desire of the couple to be united. The cord is often kept by the couple in a box or ornate bag as a reminder of their vows. Handfastings, done in the past as a commitment for a year and a day, can be combined with ring vows and a license to make it a legally binding contract.
All of the cord colors have meaning. The cords can either be several colors twisted into one cord and used for a single cord ceremony, or each color can be draped individually up to six cords.
Here are some of the meanings attached to the colors:
Perhaps you have wondered where the phrase, “tying the knot,” come from? The expression refers to the traditional early Celtic marriage ritual of Handfasting.
“Handfasting,” the ancient word for a wedding, was traditionally recognized as a binding contract of marriage between a man and a woman before weddings became a legal function of the government or a papal responsibility of the church. After the wedding vows and ring exchange, the couple’s hands were bound together with a cord that was tied in a “love knot,” signifying the joining of their lives in a sacred union. Today, handfasting is a symbolic ceremony to honor a couple’s desire for commitment to each other, and to acknowledge that their lives and their destinies are now bound together.
(The Officiant holds up the cord and addresses the couple with these words:
Please hold each other’s hands, palms up (her hands resting in his), so you may see the blessing they are to you.
(Groom) and (Bride), this cord is a symbol of the life you have chosen to live together. Up until this moment you have been separate in thought, word, and deed. But as this cord is tied together, so shall your lives become intertwined. with this cord, I bind you to the vows that you have made to one another. With this knot, I tie you heart to heart, together as one.
(The Officiant wraps the cord loosely around the Bride’s and Groom’s wrists to tie a “love knot”)
The knot of this binding is not bound by the cord, but rather, by your own vows of love. For, as always, you hold in your own hands the making or breaking of this union. May this “love knot” always be a reminder of the binding together of two hands, two hearts, and two souls into one. And so are you bound, each to the other, for all the days of your lives.
(Cord may then be removed and placed on the altar. Many couples choose to keep the “love knot” as a memento of their new union created that day.)