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What is the Irish hand wrapping ceremony?

When it comes to wedding traditions, there are many to choose from. Different cultures have their own unique customs that make their special day truly memorable. One of the most interesting and romantic traditions, particularly in Irish culture, is the handfasting ceremony. It has become an increasingly popular addition to modern wedding ceremonies, and has a rich history that is worth exploring.

In this blog post, we will dive deeper into the Irish hand wrapping ceremony, exploring its origins and meanings. We will also discuss how it is incorporated into modern wedding ceremonies, and why it has become so popular in recent times.

The Origin of Handfasting

The handfasting tradition dates back hundreds of years, to a time when marriages were often arranged by parents and guardians. The couple would not have met until their wedding day, so the handfasting ceremony was a way for them to symbolize their union and the start of their life together.

The ceremony was conducted by a member of the clergy, or a respected community member, who would wrap a cord or ribbon around the couple’s hands as they made their vows to each other. This cord was often made of ribbon or wool, and was traditionally dyed in the couple’s family colors.

In Irish culture, the handfasting ceremony was particularly important, as it symbolized the joining of two families, as well as the joining of two individuals. The cord was wrapped around the couple’s hands in a figure-eight pattern, representing infinity and the eternal nature of love.

The Meaning of Handfasting

While the handfasting ceremony is often associated with Wiccan and Pagan traditions, it has no direct religious meaning. Instead, it is a symbol of the couple’s commitment to each other and their willingness to join their lives together. The wrapping of the hands represents the tying of the knot between two people.

The ribbon or cord used in the ceremony can also have different meanings, depending on the couple’s preference. Some may use a cord made from their family tartan, while others may opt for a vibrant silk ribbon that represents their love and passion for each other.

During the ceremony, the couple may recite their vows to each other, or work with the officiant to come up with a script that suits their personalities and relationship. The vows may be traditional or modern, and may reference specific cultural or personal traditions.

Handfasting in Modern Day Ceremonies

In recent years, handfasting has become an increasingly popular addition to modern wedding ceremonies. Its historical significance and romantic symbolism make it a perfect addition to traditional or non-traditional ceremonies.

Couples may choose to incorporate handfasting into their ceremony in a number of ways. Some may choose to have a separate handfasting ceremony, in which the officiant leads the couple through the process of wrapping the cord around their hands. Others may choose to have the handfasting ceremony as part of their vow exchange, with the officiant including the ritual in their script.

In addition to being a beautiful and meaningful ceremony, handfasting can also be a way for couples to pay homage to their Irish roots. By incorporating traditional Irish elements into their wedding, couples can create a unique and memorable ceremony that honors their heritage.


The Irish hand wrapping ceremony is a beautiful and meaningful tradition that has stood the test of time. While its origins lie in ancient Irish culture, its romantic symbolism and historical significance have made it a popular addition to modern wedding ceremonies. Whether you are looking to honor your Irish heritage, or simply want to incorporate a unique and meaningful element into your ceremony, the handfasting tradition is definitely worth exploring.


Is handfasting the same as marriage?

Handfasting is a term that has been used historically to describe two different concepts related to weddings or betrothals in Great Britain and Ireland. In the traditional sense, handfasting was a form of temporary marriage that was commonly practiced in Scotland and Ireland during the Middle Ages. It was a way for couples to test their compatibility and commitment to each other before making a permanent commitment to marriage. The couple would be bound together for a period of one year and one day, after which they would have the option to either go their separate ways or make their union permanent through marriage.

In modern times, the term handfasting has been adopted by the Neopagan community to describe a form of wedding ceremony that symbolizes a spiritual union between two people. In this context, handfasting is not considered to be the same as a legal marriage, but rather a commitment made between two individuals to love and support each other in a spiritual and emotional sense. While some Neopagan couples may choose to also legally marry, others may view their handfasting ceremony as sufficient for their needs.

It is important to note that the legality of handfasting ceremonies can vary by jurisdiction. In some areas, handfasting may be recognized as a legal wedding ceremony, while in others it may not be. Couples who are considering a handfasting ceremony should check with their local laws to determine whether they also need to obtain a legal marriage license.

The term handfasting has been used historically to describe a form of temporary marriage in Great Britain and Ireland, while in modern times it has been adopted by the Neopagan community to describe a spiritual wedding ceremony. While handfasting may be a meaningful way for couples to symbolize their commitment to each other, it is important to understand that it may not be recognized as a legal marriage in all jurisdictions.

What is the hand blessing at a wedding in Ireland?

In Ireland, the traditional wedding ceremony involves several symbolic rituals designed to bring good luck and blessings to the newlyweds. One of the most fascinating and beautiful rituals is the hand blessing, which dates back to the ancient Celtic tradition of hand-fasting.

During the hand-fasting ceremony, the couple’s hands were literally tied together to symbolize spiritual and physical unity as prayers and blessings were recited. The hand-fasting usually lasted for a year and a day, after which the couple could decide to either remain together or go their separate ways.

In modern Irish weddings, the hand blessing has evolved to become a symbolic gesture of unity and blessing. The couple typically holds hands, and a priest, minister, or celebrant recites a prayer or blessing over their hands. The priest or celebrant may also tie or wrap a ribbon or cord around the couple’s hands, symbolizing the binding of their hearts and souls.

The hand blessing is usually performed after the exchange of vows and rings, and before the couple is pronounced as married. It is a touching and emotional moment that symbolizes the couple’s commitment to each other, as well as their connection to their faith and heritage.

In any tradition, a hand blessing is a ritual that draws you closer to one another. It is a way of creating a deeper connection between you and your beloved, and of inviting blessings and good fortune into your relationship. Whether you are getting married in Ireland, or anywhere else in the world, a hand blessing can be a beautiful and meaningful way to celebrate your love for one another.

Is handfasting legal in the US?

Handfasting is an ancient Celtic tradition dating back to the Middle Ages. It is a ceremony where two people join hands and have them bound together with a ribbon or cord symbolizing their union. In the United States, there is no direct legal recognition of handfasting as a marriage ceremony, as the validity of a marriage is determined by state laws.

However, over the years, some states have recognized handfasting ceremonies as a form of marriage, while some have not. For instance, in some states, a couple may choose to have a legally binding marriage ceremony, followed by a separate handfasting ceremony with their friends and family. In those states, if the couple decides to use the handfasting ceremony as a form of pre-marriage agreement, then a prenuptial agreement is also recommended.

On the other hand, in states where handfasting is not recognized as a legal form of marriage, it is essential to perform a legal marriage ceremony in a registry office. Handfasting can then be performed as a symbolic ceremony, without any legal implications.

In some cases, people have used handfasting as a way to express their commitment to each other without getting legally married. This option is especially popular among couples who are not legally allowed to marry, such as same-sex couples. However, without a legal marriage certificate, the couple does not have any legal rights or benefits that come with marriage in the United States.

The legality of handfasting in the United States depends on the state where the couple resides. Couples who wish to incorporate handfasting into their wedding ceremony should research their state laws and understand the restrictions and requirements involved. It is always recommended to have a legal marriage before or after the handfasting ceremony to ensure that they are recognized as a family unit under the law.