"One ring to show our love
One ring to bind us
One ring to seal our love and forever
to entwine us"
"One ring to show our love
One ring to bind us
One ring to seal our love and forever
to entwine us"
When we are handfasted, as we term it, we are man and wife for a year and a day;
that space gone by, each may choose another mate, or, at their pleasure, may call
the priest to marry them for life; and this we call handfasting."
~Sir Walter Scott

Handfasting is today a Neopagan ceremony of (temporary or permanent) betrothal
or wedding in which the couple's clasped hands are tied together by a cord or
ribbon — hence the phrase "tying the knot".

The term is derived from the verb to handfast, used in Middle to Early Modern
English for the making of a contract of marriage.
In the present day, some Neopagans practice this ritual. The marriage vows taken
may be for "a year and a day", a lifetime, "for all of eternity" or "for as long as love
shall last". Whether the ceremony is legal, or a private spiritual commitment, is up
to the couple. Depending on the state where the handfasting is performed, and
whether or not the officiant is a legally recognized minister, the ceremony itself may
be legally binding, or couples may choose to make it legal by also having a civil
ceremony. The couple may conduct the ceremony themselves or may have an
officiant perform the ceremony. In some traditions, the couple may jump over a
broom at the end of the ceremony. Some may instead leap over a small fire
together. Today, some couples opt for a handfasting ceremony in place of, or
incorporated into, their public wedding. As summer is the traditional time for
handfastings, they are often held outdoors.
As with more conventional marriage ceremonies, couples often exchange rings
during a handfasting, symbolizing their commitment to each other. Many couples
choose rings that reflect their spiritual and cultural traditions, while others choose
plainer, more conventional wedding rings. The very word handfasting got it's origin
in the wedding custom of tying the bride and groom's hands (actually, wrists)
together. In some versions, this is only done for as long as the ceremony lasts, but
in others, the cord is not untied until the marriage is physically consummated.

Handfasting is the marriage rite used toady by many Heathens, neo-Pagans and
Wiccans. The term itself comes from the custom of shaking hands over a contract.
It is a custom steeped in old tradition.

In most Pagan traditions today it may mean a non-state registered wedding or one
in which a marriage license is filed. For some it is a year and a day, renewable "so
long as love shall last" and for others a commitment to be together through many

One custom is that while facing each other, the couple placed their right hands
together and then their left hands together to form an infinity symbol while a cord is
tied around their hands in a knot. Another custom is that the man and woman place
their right hands only together while a cord is used to tie a knot around their wrists.

The ritual itself might have been led by a respected non-church affiliate such as a
Chieftain, Leader, Priest, Priestess, Shaman, or Elder of the community while the
couple took turns reciting their vows of promise to be engaged for a year and a day
in front of witnesses. On the last day of “the year and a day promise” they would
then make a promise for infinity repeating their promise to each again. A cord is tied
in a knot around their hand while the ritual takes place. This is where the term “tie
the knot came from” when referring to getting engaged or married today.

In day of old, records were not kept who got engaged, married, had kids, and died.
Today the Sacraments of the church has the responsibility of taking care of these
things. Before the church took over these duties, these things were overseen by
the whole community and therefore were set in law by their witnessing what
happened between the couple making the promise.In some ways, a handfasting is
much like a typical marriage. The couple, a presider, friends and family are present.
The couple exchange vows and usually) rings. The couple usually has some
attendants to assist in the ceremony. The presider, and the handfasting party sign
the wedding license. Pictures are taken. Everybody smiles and hugs.

But in some ways a handfasting is quite different from the typical marriage
ceremony. Most couples designed a unique ritual which fits their needs. Some of
the following components may be present, in any order that the couple feels
comfortable with.

The date may be chosen to be near a full moon. Handfastings during the month of
May are rare because that is the month of the union of the Goddess and God. (Most
Wiccans are duotheistic: they believe in two deities, one female and the other male.)
The ceremony is often held outdoors; preferably in a wooded area; ideally at a
crossroads. A backup location is selected in the case of rain.
The bride will not be dressed in a traditional wedding gown. The couple will wear
attractive clothes for the ceremony. The bride often wears red.
A circle is formed on the ground with rocks, crystals or some other marker. It is
large enough to handle then entire wedding party, and guests, with plenty of empty
space. Candles will mark the four cardinal directions. An altar is located near the
center of the circle. It is large enough to support the marriage documents; a knife;
chalice; a cloth, rope or ribbon; a small silver box and a trowel! A broomstick is laid
beside the altar. Wildflowers may be spread inside the circle. The bridal couple
stands to the east of the circle.
The presider rings a bell three times to indicate the start of the ritual and to
demarcate divisions within the handfasting ceremony.
The couple approaches the circle from the east -- the direction of sunrise; this
symbolizes growth in their relationship. They walk once around the circle and enter
from the east.
The presider explains to the guests the significance of the ritual to be performed.
The circle is then cast. This usually involves a Wiccan priestess or priest walking
around the periphery of the circle four times, with elements representing earth, air,
fire and water. They will recite a statement at each of the four directions.
Answering a challenge from the presider, the couple each declares their intent to
join with the other so that they are one in the eyes of the God and Goddess, and of
family and friends present.  
The presider asks the traditional question whether anyone present is aware of any
reason why the couple should not be handfasted. Hopefully, nobody objects.
The couple recites a statement, saying that they have come of their own free will "in
perfect love and perfect trust" to seek the partnership of their future spouse. They
exchange rings. Each recites a prepared statement, such as: "I, [name], commit
myself to be with [name] in joy and adversity, in wholeness and brokenness, in
peace and turmoil, living with him/her faithfully all our days. May the Gods give me
the strength to keep these vows. So be it." 10
The presider challenges them to drink from the same cup. Each drinks separately.
Then each holds the cup so that the other may drink. This symbolizes the need for
a balance between apartness and togetherness in their future life together.
The couple will face each other, joining both their left and right hands together.
Their arms and bodies form a figure 8 when viewed from above The a double circle
is both the mathematical infinity symbol and an ancient religious symbol for the
union of a man and woman.
The presider will place a cord,  ribbon, or strip of cloth over the couple's hands. It
may be loosely tied; it might be red in color, symbolizing life. This symbolizes that
the handfasting is a commitment, but one that is not an onerous one. One year and
a day after being handfasted, the couple may return to the presider and repeat their
vows with the cord or cloth tightly knotted. This symbolizes the intent to have a
permanent relationship. This ritual is the source of the expression "to tie the knot."
The couple each reads a statement to the other, expressing their love and their
hopes for their future together. Since their hands are bound, the texts are held by
their assistants. The bonds are removed.
The couple uses a knife to cut off a lock of each other's hair. This is put in a silver
box. This symbolizes their future relationship, one as intimate as the mixing of their
The presider offers advise to the couple, perhaps saying: "Be understanding and
patient, each with the other. Be free in he giving of affection and warmth. Be
sensuous with one another. Have no fear and let not the ways of the
unenlightened give you unease, for the Gods are with you now and always." 10
The presider asks the assembled guests whether they will support the couple in
their new relationship together. Hopefully, they answer "I do." The presider then
pronounces the couple to be handfasted as husband and wife.
The couple kiss each other -- their first gift to each other as a handfasted couple.
The presider, married couple, and witnesses sign the marriage documents.
At the end of the ceremony, the handfasted couple join hands and jump over a
broomstick. This symbolizes the effort required to make a committed relationship
The priest or priestess who originally cast the circle now banishes it.
The presider states the handfasting is concluded: "The circle is open but unbroken.
May the peace of the Old Ones go in our hearts. Blessed be."
The bell is rung three times. The married couple then go clockwise around the
circle, greeting friends and family.
A feast traditionally follows. http://www.religioustolerance.org/mar_hand.htm