This is the first of several posts on wedding ceremonies that are well suited to outdoor, nature or rustic settings in the summer. (Or atleast dry weather!)
Picture a scene: ‘A hilltop overlooking the sea, bright sky, slight breeze. Late summer. Bride and groom facing each other, holding hands which are being bound with dazzling colourful ribbons. Each one colour chosen with care by the couple. They each speak their lovingly created personal vows as each ribbon is wrapped round their hands and wrists in a ‘figure of eight’ representing infinity, by their two chosen attendants. Surrounded in a circle by family and friends. A glowing feeling of community and love is powerfully present’.
A handfasting is really condusive to an outdoor wedding. There are a number of approaches to a handfasting ceremony. The key benefit to this ceremony is that as it is not specific to any religion, it can be adapted to suit your beliefs.
In centuries gone by, handfasting was a popular custom in the British Isles. The actual term “handfasting” comes from the tradition of the bride and groom crossing arms and joining hands — basically, creating the infinity symbol (a figure-eight) with the hands.
While some couples may choose to have their handfasting be a permanent bond, others might declare it to be valid for “a year and a day”, at which point they will re-evaluate the relationship. Handfasting can be used as the key focus of the wedding or as a part of the larger ceremony.
Couples will often choose to have a reading or statements read by the celebrant that relate to hands. I love this extract from the ‘Blessing of the Hands’ which is used often in handfastings:
‘These are the hands that will work alongside yours, as together you build your future. These are the hands that will passionately love you and cherish you through the years, and with the slightest touch, will comfort you like no other.
These are the hands that will hold you when fear or grief fills your mind. These are the hands that will countless times wipe the tears form your eyes; tears of sorrow, and tears of joy.’
Sometimes, after the ceremony, the newly-wedded couple jump over a broom (besom), leaping together into their new life as one!
There are plenty of options of ribbons and cords that can be used for handfastings. If you are keen to use natural and sustainable materials, then hemp is popular or a trailing vine from your garden. A vine has the added benefit of being easily composted at the end of the ceremony.
Some people choose ribbons for delicacy and others will choose cords for strength. Colour of cord and ribbon is significant and often chosen with the values shared by the couple in mind.
As for numbers of ribbons or cords, again the number can be personally significant. Three, six and thirteen are popular choices. (‘A three fold cord is not easily broken’!).
Celtic handfasting tends to have thirteen different coloured ribbons or cord. Each colour represents an important value. For example: red = passion and strength and green = finances, fertility and prosperity.
There are some beautiful options of handfasting ribbons and cords on etsy, ebay and other sites. Try http://www.etsy.com/search/handmade?search_submit=&q=handfasting+cords