Contemporary handfasting is a lovely return of a traditional wedding element from ancient Celtic culture. It involves taking cords and wrapping them around the couple's joined hands and wrists then tying a knot. This is being done by modern couples looking for a fresh symbolic unity gesture. It is no longer limited to couples of NeoPagan and Wicca faiths. In fact the vast majority of couples including hand-fasting are not of those faiths.
To start the couple should decide how many cords they would like. They can place a meaning to each cord. Couples can have as many smaller cords as they want. The term "cord" can mean ribbons, leather strips, or ropes. The couple should tell the officiant ahead of time so they can include this information in the ceremony.
These cords can be different colors. They can include one or two "charms" on the ends. The charms or metals can represent the couple’s family, heritage and spirituality, and can be reminders of the location or date of the wedding. However, couples can include whatever is meaningful to them. For example an engraved image of the mountain they hiked when they first dated.
If the couple is going with two cords only. Then this is called typing the knot. The two cords represent each of them. They can use whatever knot design they like. A "fisherman's" knot is common. If the couple mountain climbs or sails they can include a knot related to that.
If the couple is going to do hand-fasting - multiple cords, they can have the officiant place the cords or give the cords to different quests. The officiant then invites them up to place the cord a cross the couple's joined hands/wrist. The officiant can invite a last guests, usually someone important to the couple. This could be child or grandparent to make the knot with her guidance.
If the couple has children, this can be a nice way to include them in the ceremony. Once the knot is loosely formed, the couple pulls the cords while sliding out their hands, leaving only a knot.
After the ceremony, I recommend couples have a special box to hold their cherished marriage knot. Couples that have written their own vows will sometimes include the vows underneath the knot in the box.
If you are planning to marry in Vermont or New York, and would like to explore hand-fasting as a feature in your wedding, please contact me.