Handfasting

Handfasting is an ancient Celtic tradition, where the couples hands are bound with ribbons or an Irish Crios. This is revived as a popular enhancement.

A vibrant visual representation of the strength of your commitment to each other.

Handfasting Enhancement

Handfasting is a lovely tradition, deeply steeped in Irish history that could hold pride of place in your dream Irish wedding. A remarkably romantic enhancement. For those couples looking to incorporate something traditionally Irish and romantic, this is a lovely enhancement to consider for your wedding ceremony.

Handfasting Illustration

History

Dating back to ancient Celtic times, Handfasting was, in the simplest of terms, the official wedding of the ancient Celts. Dating back far beyond 7000 B.C. in ancient Ireland, two people who chose to be married were brought together, often on a feast day such as Beltane, and faced each other.

With arms extended, they clasped hands and a braided cord or ribbon was wrapped and tied around their hands.

The Druid priest proclaimed that the two persons as engaged to be married. This period of engagement was typically a full year, and a day, during which, the couple were encouraged to cohabitate together (and consummate the relationship). It was a public declaration of intent to marry, signaling to potential suitors that the woman was intended to be her betrothed. When the period of a year was over, the engaged couple returned to the priest and declared their intent to be married.

The wedding would follow, a short time later. If they decided they were not a good match, the couple were allowed to dissolve their hand-fast and be free to choose another suitor and bride.

Interweave a Handfasting ritual seamlessly into your ceremony.

Tabhair dom do lámh - Give me your hand.

Have you ever thought about how you, as a couple hold hands?
Can you describe it without actually holding hands?
Try it now! No cheating! (OK, you can hold hands now - there is so much power in that simple gesture).


Perhaps, it's with interlocked fingers, or one hand inside the others in a loose clasp. There are many ways to hold hands, and yours will be unique to you. Whatever hand holding style comes naturally to you, it is an expression of closeness and affection. When we hold the tiny hand of a child in ours, to guide and protect them, they trust us completely. Hand holding is an intimate gesture. When you and your loved one interlink your hands, it's a symbol of your connection, and an expression to the world that you are a team.

As you hold both of your hands with your beloved in preparation for your Handfasting ceremony, you are connecting with the hands of your best friend, your lover, the one you trust, the person you give your heart to be held in theirs for all of your days. Like a small child, you put your trust in the love you share, knowing that you will guide and support each other in the union of your marriage. All your energy and devotion to each other are symbolised by this simple act. You are literally giving your hand in marriage.

Music for your Handfasting ritual.

Of course, it is your decision whether to have music as part of your Handfasting, or not. We would like to share our favourite for this special bonding time, steeped in history and folklore, yet as meaningful today as it was centuries ago.

There is a beautiful tune attributed to an Irish harper, Ruairi Dall O Cahain, c.1570-1650. If you are interested in history or storytelling, you will enjoy this tale.

In the book "Carolan: The Life Times and Music of an Irish Harper" by Donal O’Sullivan (new edition, 2001, Ossian Publications Ltd., Cork Ireland). Arthur O’Neill tells this story about Rory Dall O Cathain (Blind Roger O’Keane).

"He [Rory Dall] took a fancy to visit Scotland, where there were great harpers. He took his retinue (or suite) with him. Amongst other visits in the style of an Irish chieftain he paid one to a Lady Eglinton, and she (not knowing his rank) in a peremptory manner demanded a tune, which he declined as he only came to play to amuse her, and in an irritable manner left the house. However, when she was informed of his consequence she eagerly contrived a reconciliation and made an apology, and the result was that he composed a tune for her ladyship, the handsome tune of ‘Da mihi manum’ (‘Give me your hand’), for which his fame reached through Scotland and came to the ears of the Gunpowder Plot prophet James the First of England (then the Sixth of Scotland).”

The tune was revived in the 1960’s in Ireland by the great Sean O Riada.

Listen here.


Another interpretation from the famous Irish musicians - The Chieftains.

Listen here.

The Wolfe Tones put lyrics to the tune:

Will you give me your hand, is tabhair dom do lámh
Just give me your hand and I'll walk with you
Through the streets of our land, through the mountains so grand
If you give me your hand
Just give me your hand and come along with me
Will you give me your hand and the world it can see
That we can be free in peace and harmony
From the north to the south, from the east to the west
Every mountain, every valley, every bush and bird's nest
By day and night throughout struggle and strife
I'm beside you to guide you forever my love
For love's not for one but for both of us to share
For this country so fair for our world and what's there
Just give me your hand, is tabhair dom do lámh
Will you give me your hand, for the world it is ours
All the sea and the land to destroy or command
If you give me your hand
Just give me your hand in a gesture of peace
Just give me your hand and all troubles will cease
The strong and the weak, both the rich and the poor
All peoples and creeds let's meet their needs
With a passion we can fashion a new world of love
By day and night throughout struggle and strife
I'm beside you to guide you forever my love
For love's not for one but for both of us to share
For this country so fair for our world and what's there


Listen here.

There are many more interpretations of this amazing tune, Tabhair dom do lámh. Find your favourite.

The cords that bind you in love.

It's common in Ireland that when a deal of any sort is made between two people, they “shake hands on it” - thereby giving their word to the arrangement. It may be that this custom came from the ancient Handfasting rituals, where the arrangement was between a couple to be bound together by the promises they made. There is a strong symbolic element to the binding of hands during your wedding ceremony. In the binding, and the tying of the binding ribbons or cord, you publicly demonstrate your commitment to your marriage. As your Reverend/celebrant, or family member ties the cords, there is a pause, when you feel the strength and warmth of your partner's hands, and a sense of deep security when both pairs of hands are as one. Your eyes gaze from the hands to the eyes of your beloved, and you see the spark of their love for you reflected therein.

Why don’t you try this out at home, and see if this feels right for you? It’s guaranteed to bring a smile!

Invocation or blessing - even an ancient lorica.

As the Handfasting ritual concludes you may choose to have a reading read aloud by your Reverend/celebrant or a guest, on behalf of your gathering. This can be any reading you choose or write yourself. We love this one, an excerpt from St. Patrick's breastplate.


An excerpt from St. Patrick's breastplate.
An excerpt from St. Patrick's breastplate.

May your marriage
be blessed with
the strength of the heavens
the light of the sun
the radiance of the moon
the splendour of fire
the speed of lightning
the swiftness of wind
the depth of the sea
the stability of the earth
and the firmness of rock,
for all of your days.

Choosing your cords:

Couples choose colours for Handfasting based on their preferred colours.

For some, a colour has an attached symbolism or special meaning to them. They may choose as many colours as they like. Couples love the visual representation that Handfasting provides. It is literally “tying the knot“ right in the company of your friends and family. Add your creative touch to the Handfasting cords, as a meaningful keepsake family heirloom.

Photographers are happy snappy taking those Handfasting shots too!

Below are the 13 colours used in Handfasting and their symbolism:

Handfasting Colours and Meanings

Let's plan your ceremony today.

From birth to death - and all in between - we're here to help you celebrate life's biggest moments.

Enquire now