Last weekend I performed a wedding and as part of the ceremony did a handfasting. The couple wanted a pagan ceremony but since their friends and family were traditional Christians they asked me to create a ceremony that would let everyone feel comfortable. As part of this, and because I knew that most of the audience wouldn't know what a handfasting was, I gave them a short history and explanation of the symbolism and I thought you might be interested too.
In modern times it isn't usually performed as a separate ceremony a year ahead of time, it is included as part of a wedding. After the vows are exchanged the couple's hands are tied together with a ribbon or a cord, symbolizing their commitment and binding them to their vows. (As I explained to the people who would be 'tying the knots' – you aren't tying them to a tree so they can't get away! Please tie the knots loosely!)
As I held up the cord I said:
Woven into this cord, into its very fiber, are all the hopes of your family and friends, and of yourselves, for your new life together.
Then as the knots were being tied:
These knots bind you to your vows and tie together all the dreams, love and happiness wished for you here today. They symbolize the the joining of two lives and two hearts
Then I did a blessing of the five directions
Blessed be this union with the gifts of the East, the dominion of Archangel Gabriel, here present: Communication of the heart, mind and body.
Blessed be this union with the gifts of the South, the dominion of Archangel Michael, here present: Warmth of hearth and home, the heat of passion, the light that banishes darkness.
Blessed be this union with the gifts of the West, the dominion of Archangel Raphael, here present: The passion of the ocean, the cleansing of the rain, the healing of the heart.
Blessed be this union with the gifts of the North, the dominion of Archangel Uriel, here present: A firm foundation on which to build, deep wisdom, and abundance.
Blessed be this union with the gifts of Spirit here present – invisible but powerful, always present within you. May the Lord Jesus Christ walk with you and guide your path.
After that I asked everyone to form a circle around us and hold hands. I said:
You are the family and witnesses to this ceremony of marriage. At this time we ask that you perform the final blessing.
Let all here present fill this circle with your love and prayers. Feel and see them filled with Divine Light, a light that will guide them on their new journey together. Amen.
Then I asked a family member, a Christian minister, if he would offer prayers for the marriage, which he did in more traditional language.
Then I held up the cord and said:
As this cord represents your union, we also recognize that you are two strong and independent people. Know that the cord is a symbol, your love is the real bond.
Then the moment everyone was waiting for:
By the authority of Love, here present, and the vows you have made, and by the power vested in me in this state, it is my honor to pronounce you husband and wife.
Big cheers all around and it was done!