Handfasting ceremonies in Scotland – All you need to know

Thinking of having a handfasting ceremony in Scotland? Having a handfasting has become one of the most popular symbolic ways of celebrating a marriage or vow renewal, and there are many ways to include this special binding of hands in your ceremony.

A handfasting – Where to start?

A handfasting is considered by many to be a very sacred, beautiful, and meaningful way of acknowledging your relationship and the commitment you are making to each other. There are dozens of ways you can weave this ancient ritual into your day, so how do you find the perfect way for you?

First of all, you need to find someone to hold the ceremony for you.  Reputable and experienced individuals and organisations who offer handfasting will have an online presence which is great so you can access lots of ideas, but it’s likely that any search will also turn up dozens of options, so how can you ensure you find the best fit for you and your needs?

Find someone who can embrace your vision

Celebrants experienced in holding handfasting ceremonies will have their own website and social media pages rather than just a section linked to a listing or directory, so note what online presence a Celebrant has and look at their testimonials and photos.  This will also usually reflect a Celebrant’s background, so if your beliefs are important to you, you can find someone who can embrace those with you.  Bear in mind that in Scotland anyone can call themselves a Celebrant so some of those you come across will consider their path to be a calling and a vocation and their passion is obvious, and others will consider their work primarily to be a business venture – it’s up to you to discern who will be the most helpful addition to your preparations.

You can view over a dozen different celebrants in Scotland who all offer  handfasting at www.scottishweddingceremony.co.uk.

handfasting service

Having a ceremony legally recognised

If you would like to be legally married as part of your ceremony of handfasting you have a choice of two legal paths in Scotland, but several avenues to consider.  All legal applications to marry are administrated by the Registrars whoever you choose to marry you on the day – once you have decided on the location where you will hold your ceremony, you can then contact the local Registrar and they will guide you with what to do when to be legally married.

You can choose from a ‘Civil’ marriage, or a ‘Faith and Belief’ marriage.  Registrars are the only officiants who can hold what is defined as a ‘Civil’ wedding, and they will include a hand binding ritual in a ceremony.  Under the banner of ‘Faith and Belief’ you will find all other religious and spiritual options such as Pagan and Interfaith and Humanist Celebrants, and specific religious leaders such as Rabbis, Vicars, Priests and Priestesses.

When you find and make contact with your preferred person, a good place to begin is to check that they are willing to include a handfasting ritual in your ceremony and if they are happy to help, ensure you know from the start if there are any restrictions with the version of the ritual they offer, or the words they are happy to say.

Choose without restriction

Individual Celebrants may offer particular styles of ritual according to their own faith and belief, but many will work with you to create the most meaningful ritual to you.  Again, this would be a good thing to check at the beginning of your conversations with them so that you are not disappointed along the way to find that they are unable or unwilling to create the version of the ritual you have in mind.  There are many, many different belief organisations operating across Scotland, and some will permit religious and spiritual content, and some won’t.

Traditionally a handfasting is held in nature

So taking time to consider who will perform the ritual for you is a good start, as along the way you will need to get clear about the form of the ritual i.e. how the ritual will be led and orchestrated on the day, what ritual items will be needed, who will be involved in the ritual, and what cultural, spiritual and historical context and wording you would like to use.  A full, traditional handfasting will be held outside in nature, in the round, and include particular religious language and wording, and ritual including a hand tying as well as jumping the broom.

A union of equals

You may have seen a handfasting on TV, or at a friend’s wedding, or maybe you don’t yet know anything about a handfasting yet, so what is considered to be the origin of a handfasting?  Again, there is a lot of information online, and some say that quite simply a handfasting is a Pagan wedding.  This may be how the ritual has grown in popularity, but in this modern age, many couples do not follow a Pagan path themselves, and yet the idea of a handfasting is still very appealing.  Some like the historical significance, some like the creative expression, and some like the principles of a handfasting.  Though we may not be able to say for sure when and where handfastings first took place, and we know that hand tying rituals are not exclusive to the Pagan tradition, a modern handfasting  is very much considered to be a union of equals with both parties sharing the responsibility to create a good marriage.

Bind your your hands your way

And what do you use to bind your hands together?  Whilst it’s been most usual in the past to use tartan fabric, modern day couples get very creative.  Chocolate lovers Susie and Phil used the ribbon from a special box of chocolates, sailing enthusiasts Jules and Mark used a length of rope from their boat, and Hugo and Maggie had five pieces of fabric including some of Hugo’s kilt tartan and some lace from the veil Maggie’s grandmother wore on her wedding day.  These kinds of personal touches can help to make your handfasting one of the more meaningful and unique parts of your day, and you’ll have whatever you use as a keepsake as you journey onwards into marriage together.

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