Penelope Jayne- the tradition of handfasting

Today we talk to Penelope Jayne a Yorkshire based wedding celebrant on the beautiful tradition of handfasting. 

Handfasting is a wonderful symbolic part of traditional ceremonies, widely believed to be from Celtic origins. Dating back for thousands of years and long before the legal laws of marriage were introduced in1837. In fact, the common phrase Tying the Knot stems from the traditional handfasting ceremony.

The couple’s choice and their own beliefs will determine what style of hand fasting is performed. Couples can choose to have several cords or ribbons, even choosing them in specific colours to represent certain virtues of life, love and marriage.

  • Black: pure love, wisdom, success, strength
  • Blue: fidelity, longevity, strength, safe journey
  • Brown: Nurturing, home and hearth, healing
  • Gold: wisdom, prosperity, longevity
  • Gray: balance, neutrality
  • Green: fertility and growth, love, luck, prosperity, nurturing
  • Orange: kindness, encouragement, adaptability, attraction
  • Pink: love, happiness, unity, romance, honour, truth
  • Purple: spiritual strength, power, health, healing
  • Red: passion, love, courage, strength, health, vigour
  • Silver: protection, inspiration and vision, creativity
  • White: purity, serenity, peace, truth, devotion
  • Yellow: harmony, balance, attraction confidence



They can even be handmade from garments with significant meaning to the couple. From the train of the mothers wedding dress or a late father’s shirt for example. Making each cord represent something unique and totally meaningful to each couple.

Handfasting is a personal choice these days, whereas historically couples would bind their hands or wrists to symbolise their union. In modern day terms similar to public declarations, like wearing wedding bands. In the Scottish Celtic tradition, the binding would be for a year and a day and if after that they still wanted to stay together the handfasting was formally recognised as their wedding ceremony.


Imagine being bound to your other half, literally for a year and a day!

Handfasting is a beautiful loving gesture and offers a very visual addition to the ceremony with a physical reminder in the form of the bindings. Couples can choose to ask family members or even their own children to perform the fasting along with their chosen celebrant. Specific wording is said during the binding or some even have music played during this part of a ceremony. It is a very symbolic way to remember it and ‘ties the knot’, binding you in love to one another, in front of all of your loved ones.

The reason I love couples opting for a handfasting is because they want that traditional symbolic element but more often than not want to add something different to their ceremony. Independent celebrants offer total flexibility when it comes to what can be included in a wedding ceremony. Handfasting offers a physical element like no other. You can get some of the guests to partake in the actual binding, it’s a brilliant show stopping event for your guests. And all the photographers I know love how alternative rituals like hand fasting bring a ceremony to life. Coloured cords and ribbons also make your ceremony photos pop and stand out.

please check out Penelope Jayne on Instagram 

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