""Tying the Knot" - Celtic wedding tradition" Scotland Local Custom Tip by GillianMcLaughlin

Scotland Local Customs: 117 reviews and 163 photos

  Handfasting ceremony
by GillianMcLaughlin

Handfasting is the ancient ceremony that was widespread across the Celtic nations before the spread of Christianity. At one time it was the only ceremony to mark marrige across the British Isles, before the church moved in and took care of such rituals. It remained legal in Scotland until 1939, and today there are still practitioners who will guide couples through a handfasting ceremony.

The term "Handfasting" refers to the physical tying of hands or wrists of the couple while they make their vows to one another, and is apparently the source of the term "tying the knot". As with all matters of tradition in Scotland, there are disputes about the correct way of doing things. Personally I find such debates somewhat academic and for me the real attraction of such a ceremony these days is the substance of the vows and the atmosphere created.

In the past handfasting was used at various points during the betrothal, engagement and marriage phases, at times used to mark the start of the official engagement of a year and a day, at others as a symbol of unity as long as love lasts. I read recently that in Germany handfasting uniting left hands only signified that the woman was a mistress rather than a wife!

There is a considerable lobby in Scotland to reinstate the legal status of handfasting. Until this happens it remains a very memorable and touching moment during a wedding. Other aspects to traditional wedding ceremonies that are still practiced include jumping the broom (a practice that is also widely prevalent among Romany communities and certain African communities).

Website: http://www.earth-dancing.com/history_of_handfasting.htm

Review Helpfulness: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Written Dec 9, 2004
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