Your Handfasting Ceremony Explained

A handfasting is a Pagan wedding ceremony that dates from at least the Pictish and Viking times in Scotland, so it has a long and venerable history. The term originates from the Old Norse hand-festa (to join hands, to be betrothed). The ceremony usually involved the couple's clasped hands being lightly bound with cords or ribbon at a point in the proceedings. This symbolised their union. It also gave rise to the phrase to tie the knot. Another custom was for the bride and groom to exchange pieces of their family tartans. This can still be done even by those who are not of Scottish nationality, as many still have Scottish ancestry, though it is by no means necessary to have either to be handfasted in the old Highland style.


(Photo by Matt Statkiewicz ohccasions.co.uk)

Handfastings appeal to people from all walks of life and varied spiritual paths. Ceremonies can be tailored to comply with their own spiritual values. We have extensive experience of creating ceremonies for couples of mixed faith backgrounds. But even those who are not particularly religious or Pagan can have a Handfasting. Many people simply respect the spiritual power of Nature, which is why a lot of these weddings are performed outdoors in castle grounds, estates and woodlands or by beautiful features such as rivers and waterfalls. The ceremony can be Celtic, Norse, Highland or nature based, or a combination of these. As such weddings have no strict form, they provide the perfect choice for couples who wish to have a wedding with elements that suit them personally from start to finish. This allows couples to make the ceremony truly their own by adding details that suit their personal requirements, such as wording their own vows or adding a reading such as a poem or a passage from a book that has special meaning for them.


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Another aspect of a handfasting that can be included is jumping over a broomstick together at the end of the ceremony. The broom symbolises hearth and home. It also signifies making a clean sweep and embarking on a new life together.


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And as Handfastings are now fully valid under Scots Law, anyone visiting from the US, Canada, England, or indeed anywhere else, can be legally wedded in Scotland. They can then return to their home countries where their newly married state lawfully applies. For more information on getting married in Scotland please click on the link to the Scottish Government webpage in our Links section.




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Lighting the Unity Candle, Linlithgow Palace, June 2009


After the exchange of rings, Elie June 2010










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