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Handfasting: a unique, ancient, Celtic ceremony on the rise

One couple wanted to use hay-baling string to tie the knot because they came from a farm.

Handfasting ceremony.
Handfasting ceremony.

“Handfasting,” says Donna Lynn, “is an ancient way to get married.”

My novia Diane and I are interested. We are engaged. We want to know if we can get married this way.

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“It is going back to literally ‘tying the knot,”’ says Donna. She is a licensed San Diego officiant, a person who makes a living, well, marrying people. “Handfasting is a unique, ancient, Celtic ceremony that modern couples often want to go back to. Every handfasting looks different: the cords or straps of material are never the same. But they are all ways to symbolize the binding of two people together. One couple wanted to use hay-baling string to tie the knot because they came from a farm. And the uniting symbol wasn’t always hand-binding. For years, it was a unity candle, and then it was ‘unity sand,’ where the couple picked out different-colored sand and symbolically mixed it together. I had one couple — he was from Michigan, she was from San Diego — and they brought sands from their hometowns and ceremoniously combined them. I like seeing that they put their combined sands in a phial, and gave it a place of honor in their home.”

Decorative cords to hand couple’s hands together.

Still, it’s hand binding that has become more and more popular in the last five years, says Donna. “I try to tell couples they don’t have to have a boring, heavy ceremony. It can be fun! This morning at Shelter Island, I did a beautiful ceremony, and afterwards, we did a hand-fasting with the couple as part of their ring ceremony. So the guests parted the circle for the bride, who came in in her traditional white gown, and we did the traditional ceremony, and they exchanged very beautiful vows. And after, they actually wrapped themselves in the cord and tied a knot together. They became bound. Then they pulled that knot through until it was symbolically tight at the very end, and everyone just applauded. It is a very emotional moment where the symbolism of what they were doing hit home.”

It turns out that handfasting has also been a special tradition with LGBTQIA couples in San Diego. “I was part of the LGBTQIA community back when we didn’t have marriage licenses, because the law didn’t allow us to marry,” says Donna. “So instead, I would perform commitment ceremonies like handfasting for community members who wanted to be formally united in some way. Then I became involved in our civil rights and marriage rights movement. And then once we won, and it became legal, I just went full-blow, marrying everybody I could. We had lots of stories of couples who had been together for decades, but had not been allowed to marry because the law forbade them. Suddenly, they could now easily marry. I just wanted to be part of that. And I have been performing commitment ceremonies for people in the community and marrying them ever since, and including the handfasting. Now: are you interested in a handfasting, or a full-on wedding as well?”

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Handfasting ceremony.
Handfasting ceremony.

“Handfasting,” says Donna Lynn, “is an ancient way to get married.”

My novia Diane and I are interested. We are engaged. We want to know if we can get married this way.

Sponsored
Sponsored

“It is going back to literally ‘tying the knot,”’ says Donna. She is a licensed San Diego officiant, a person who makes a living, well, marrying people. “Handfasting is a unique, ancient, Celtic ceremony that modern couples often want to go back to. Every handfasting looks different: the cords or straps of material are never the same. But they are all ways to symbolize the binding of two people together. One couple wanted to use hay-baling string to tie the knot because they came from a farm. And the uniting symbol wasn’t always hand-binding. For years, it was a unity candle, and then it was ‘unity sand,’ where the couple picked out different-colored sand and symbolically mixed it together. I had one couple — he was from Michigan, she was from San Diego — and they brought sands from their hometowns and ceremoniously combined them. I like seeing that they put their combined sands in a phial, and gave it a place of honor in their home.”

Decorative cords to hand couple’s hands together.

Still, it’s hand binding that has become more and more popular in the last five years, says Donna. “I try to tell couples they don’t have to have a boring, heavy ceremony. It can be fun! This morning at Shelter Island, I did a beautiful ceremony, and afterwards, we did a hand-fasting with the couple as part of their ring ceremony. So the guests parted the circle for the bride, who came in in her traditional white gown, and we did the traditional ceremony, and they exchanged very beautiful vows. And after, they actually wrapped themselves in the cord and tied a knot together. They became bound. Then they pulled that knot through until it was symbolically tight at the very end, and everyone just applauded. It is a very emotional moment where the symbolism of what they were doing hit home.”

It turns out that handfasting has also been a special tradition with LGBTQIA couples in San Diego. “I was part of the LGBTQIA community back when we didn’t have marriage licenses, because the law didn’t allow us to marry,” says Donna. “So instead, I would perform commitment ceremonies like handfasting for community members who wanted to be formally united in some way. Then I became involved in our civil rights and marriage rights movement. And then once we won, and it became legal, I just went full-blow, marrying everybody I could. We had lots of stories of couples who had been together for decades, but had not been allowed to marry because the law forbade them. Suddenly, they could now easily marry. I just wanted to be part of that. And I have been performing commitment ceremonies for people in the community and marrying them ever since, and including the handfasting. Now: are you interested in a handfasting, or a full-on wedding as well?”

Sponsored
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