Everything You Need to Know to Write Your Own Handfasting Vows

bride and groom during handfasting ceremony

If you’ve been going to weddings for a while, you might have attended a Wiccan, Pagan, religious, or secular wedding that includes a tradition you don’t usually see: the handfasting. Handfastings, which date back to pre-Reformation Celtic communities, are experiencing a bit of a comeback. This is largely due to the increased interest in (and importance placed on) magic with intent within these communities—couples want to literally tie the knot, with a dash of something otherwordly thrown in.

Handfastings aren’t required to officially seal a marriage, and while the handfasting can take the place of the vow exchange, it doesn’t have to. Let’s dig into handfasting ceremonies—and into what goes into writing your own handfasting vows.

what is handfasting?

Simply put, a handfasting is an old Pagan custom that dates back to the time of the ancient Celts. It originated as more than an act during a wedding ceremony—in fact, the entire handfasting took place over a period of around a year and served as a trial marriage. In other words, if you couldn’t handle each other for 365 days, then you probably needed to check out. On the other hand, if at the end of the year you were still totally blissed out, you would get married.

Who has a handfasting?

Handfastings are commonly used in Wiccan and Pagan ceremonies. Today the handfasting is more literal: a couple will bind their hands together during the wedding ceremony (before, during, or after reciting their vows), often to symbolize their connection and devotion to one another.

Of course, you don’t have to be Wiccan or Pagan to incorporate the handfasting, and plenty of couples use handfastings in their religious or secular weddings all the time.

how do you include a handfasting in your wedding?

Both Wiccans and Pagans have different methods for determining what kind of cord to use and what it will look like. Sometimes a couple faces one another and bind both pairs of hands, sometimes only right hands are bound, and still others a right hand will be bound to a left. A couple can work with their High Priest/Priestess to determine what kind of cord and ceremony is right for them, and you can find someone who performs handfastings in your area right here.

sample handfasting vows

Note: This service incorporates passages from various authors’ works, including Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow LindberghYou can also find sample vows for a six-corded and four-corded ceremony here.

Opening

Officiant: Blake and Jessie, today you are surrounded by your family and friends, all of whom are gathered to witness your exchange of vows and to share in the joy of this occasion. Let this be a statement of what you mean to each other and the commitment of marriage you will make.

Address

Officiant: When you love someone, you do not love them all the time in exactly the same way, from moment to moment. It is an impossibility. It is even a lie to pretend to. And yet this is exactly what most of us demand. We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love and of relationships. We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in the terror of the ebb. We are afraid it will never return.

We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity, when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity, in freedom.

The only real security is not in owning or possessing, not in demanding or expecting, not in hoping, even. Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what was in nostalgia, not forward to what it might be in dread or anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now.

Relationships must be like islands, one must accept them for what they are here and now, within their limits—islands, surrounded and interrupted by the sea, and continually visited and abandoned by the tides of life. (Gift from the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh)

The Expression of Intent

Officiant: Blake and Jessie have chosen to incorporate the ancient Celtic ritual of handfasting in their wedding ceremony today. Handfasting is a declaration of intent where the couple clearly states that they are marrying on their own free will.

Jessie and Blake, know now before you go further that since your lives have crossed in this life, you have formed eternal bonds. As you seek to enter this state of matrimony you should strive to make real ideals that give meaning to this ceremony and to the sanctity of marriage. With full awareness, know that within this circle you are declaring your intent before your friends and family as witnesses.

The promises made today and the ties that are bound here greatly strengthen your union and will cross the years and lives of each soul’s growth. Do you seek to enter this ceremony?

Blake and Jessie: Yes.

Officiant: Blake and Jessie, please look into each other’s eyes.

Blake and Jessie: (Hold hands, one partner with his or her left hand and the other with his or her right hand.)

Handfasting Ceremony

Officiant: Jessie, will you share in Blake’s pain and seek to alleviate it?
Jessie: I will.
Officiant: Blake, will you share in Jessie’s pain and seek to alleviate it?
Blake: I will.
Officiant: And so the binding is made.

Officiant:
Jessie, will you share in Blake’s laughter and look for the brightness and the positive in her? (I will.)
Blake, will you share in Jessie’s laughter and look for the brightness and positive in him? (I will.)
And so the binding is made.

Officiant:
Jessie, will you share in Blake’s burdens so that your spirits may grow in this union? (I will.)
Blake, will you share in Jessie’s burdens so that your spirits may grow in this union? (I will.)
And so the binding is made.

Officiant:
Jessie, will you share in Blake’s dreams? (I will.)
Blake, will you share in Jessie’s dreams? (I will.)
And so the binding is made.

Officiant:
Jessie, will you take the heat of anger and use it to temper the strength of this union? (I will.)
Blake, will you take the heat of anger and use it to temper the strength of this union? (I will.)
And so the binding is made.

Officiant:
Jessie, will you honor Blake as an equal in this union? (I will.)
Blake, will you honor Jessie as an equal in this union? (I will.)
And so the binding is made.

Address, Continued

Blake and Jessie, as your hands are bound together now, so your lives and spirits are joined in a union of love and trust. The bond of marriage is not formed by these cords, but rather by the vows you have made. For always you hold in your own hands the fate of this union. Above you are stars and below you is earth. Like stars your love should be a constant source of light, and like the earth, a firm foundation from which to grow.

May these hands be blessed this day. May they always hold each other. May they have the strength to hang on during the storms of stress and the dark of disillusionment. May they remain tender and gentle as they nurture each other in their wondrous love. May they build a relationship founded in love, and rich in caring. May these hands be healer, protector, shelter, and guide for each other. (The Hands of the Couple, Traditional Handfasting Prayer, unknown)

Ceremony of the Rings

Officiant: I will now ask you to seal the vows you share with each other by the giving and receiving of rings. The perfect circle of the ring symbolizes eternity. The precious metal came from the ground as a rough ore and was heated and purified, shaped and polished. Something beautiful was made from raw elements. Love is like that. It comes from humble beginnings, made by imperfect beings. It is the process of making something beautiful where there was once nothing at all.

Officiant: Blake, please repeat after me:

{Blake’s vows here}

Officiant: Jessie, please repeat after me:

{Jessie’s vows here}

Related: How To Write Wedding Vows

Pronouncement and Kiss

Blake and Jessie, on behalf of all those present, and by the strength of your own love, I pronounce you married.

You may seal your vows with a kiss.

Excerpt from: Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow LindberghVintage, 1955.

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