Stay up to date with the latest wedding ceremony trends, script writing inspiration, tips and advice for first-time officiants, and news that matters to couples and wedding ministers.

How to Include a Handfasting in Your Wedding Ceremony or Vow Renewal

Published Wednesday, Jun. 7th, 2023

Este articulo en español

Close up photo shows a wedding officiant wearing a teal dress as she wraps a unity cord around the bride and grooms wrists during a handfasting ceremony

Everything you need to know to include a unique handfasting unity ceremony in your wedding!



Listen now:

AMM Audio Articles · How to Include a Handfasting in Your Wedding Ceremony or Vow Renewal




It’s easy to add a simple handfasting ritual to your wedding ceremony or vow renewal ceremony. All you’ll need is a ribbon or cord, a few sweet words, the right wedding officiant, and a little magic. 


Below, we answer common questions about what a handfasting ritual is, what it symbolizes, and how to add it to your wedding – including a sample handfasting script and tips on what to say and do during the ceremony. 


Make it easy with this Handfasting Gift Box! 


Need an Officiant? Ask a friend or relative to get ordained online with American Marriage Ministries to officiate. Get Ordained online here. 



Close up photo of a light blue handfasting cord and a small flower


The Basics: What is handfasting?


Handfasting is an ancient unity ritual in which two people pledge their commitment to each other by tying a ceremonial ribbon or cord around their wrists – literally ‘tying the knot’ as they vow to be married. 


This ritual is said to have originated centuries ago among Pagans living in the mystical fields and forests of the British Isles. At that time, tying a couple’s clasped hands cast a spell with powerful magic, and represented a spiritual union as well as a physical one. It was the most common way for people to marry, and the tradition spread throughout the lands of Ireland and Scotland, and beyond. 


Want to know more? Check out Handfasting, From Ancient Rituals to Modern Ceremonies


Today, handfasting is a popular wedding tradition for all types of couples. It’s also a common choice for commitment ceremonies and vow renewal ceremonies. 


Handfasting can be added to non-religious wedding ceremonies as a symbol of unity and love, or to spiritual or religious weddings to signify something more. Handfasting rituals show up in the weddings of couples with Irish or Celtic heritage, modern Pagans (including Wiccans and Druids), interfaith couples, humanists, non-religious couples, and many others. 


Handfasting Symbolism and Origins:


  • Unity and love
  • Commitment and marriage
  • Non-religious or spiritual in meaning, depending on the couple’s beliefs
  • Originated in ancient Ireland and Scotland
  • An ancient Pagan marriage rite



Close up photo of a couple's hands bound together by colorful handfasting ribbons during their wedding ceremony

Photo by Christelle Leboucq

A handfasting performed with colorful symbolic ribbons: Blue symbolizes loyalty, orange symbolizes creativity, compassion, and self-expression; and red is a color of love and passion.


What supplies do you need for a handfasting? 


Luckily, you don’t need many supplies for a beautiful handfasting ceremony. You’ll need a ribbon or cord, a wedding officiant, the perfect wording, and a little magic (aka, love!). 


Simple Handfasting Ingredients: 


  • Ribbon or cord*
  • Sweet wording
  • A great Wedding Officiant
  • A little magic 


*Get creative! Most couples use soft ribbon or fiber cord for their handfasting, but you can also use beaded cords or rosaries, woven or braided vines and flowers, and other materials that are symbolic of your relationship and love. 


When does a handfasting happen during a wedding ceremony? 


A handfasting ritual can be performed any time during a wedding or vow renewal, but the easiest time to add one is usually after the couple exchanges their vows and rings.


Of course, there are plenty of variations on this! Some couples choose to say their vows after the handfasting cord has been tied, while their hands are still bound. These are sometimes called ‘handfasting vows,’ and can be personal vows or guided by the Officiant. Some couples choose handfasting in place of a ring exchange (such as during a vow renewal ceremony or commitment ceremony). And some couples tie one hand together and then exchange rings with their other hand while still bound.


To summarize: The simplest way to include a handfasting in a wedding is to tie the cord after the vows and rings are exchanged, but there’s no right or wrong way to do this unity ritual.


How to perform the handfasting ritual (and how long to keep the knot tied)


Now that you understand the meaning of this ritual, let’s talk about how to actually do it. 


First, the Wedding Officiant will say a few words about the meaning of the handfasting ritual, so that guests know what’s about to happen and why. Something as simple as, “Max and Martha will now bind their hands and hearts in a symbolic handfasting ritual, to symbolize the promises they make here today…” Then, the Officiant will ask the couple to face each other and hold hands. 


Once the couple is in place, the Officiant will wrap the cord around their wrists, hands, or forearms (depending on how the couple wants to clasp hands), and tie a loose knot. Colorful ribbon(s) can also be used.


While the couple’s hands are tied, the Officiant might talk about their promise to be married and give wishes or blessings for the couple’s future. If the couple wants to exchange handfasting vows, they’ll do that now. This part of the ceremony can also be personalized to include a hand blessingpalm reading, prayer, or special reading. 



To close the ritual, the couple can gently pull their hands out of the knotted cord – keeping the knot intact so that the cord can be displayed or preserved as a reminder of their love. 


In some traditions, a couple remains tied at the wrist throughout the reception and afterparty, only removing the cord when they head to bed for the night. 


Step by Step: How to Perform a Handfasting:


  • The Officiant introduces the ritual to guests
  • The Officiant asks the couple to face each other and clasp hands
  • The Couple holds hands (one hand or both hands)
  • The Officiant wraps the cord around the couple’s wrists or hands and ties it into a knot
  • The Officiant says a few words on the meaning of marriage, the couple’s promises to each other, and offers wishes or blessings for the future
  • The Couple gently remove their hands from the knotted cords
  • The remainder of the wedding ceremony follows
  • The cord is kept as a symbol of their love and commitment


Close up photo as a wedding officiant lays his hands on a bride and groom's hands that have been tied with a handfasting cord during the ceremony



What Knot Should You Use for Handfasting?


There are many simple handfasting knots to choose from. One of the most popular choices is the ‘infinity knot,’ which results in a lovely knotted cord in the shape of the infinity symbol, that can be displayed in the couple’s home after the ceremony. 




At Pagan weddings, the officiant might knot the cord three times around a couple’s clasped hands, to represent lasting love, a long life together, and good health. 


Or just wrap it! Some couples ask the Officiant to wrap the cord but not tie it into a knot. This works too, carries the same symbolism, and looks just as beautiful! 



A Few Things to Keep in Mind…


Here are a few additional suggestions from professional wedding officiants to help make your handfasting ceremony a success:


  • Don’t wrap or knot the cord too tightly… the couple has to get out! 
  • Exchange rings before the handfasting for easier ring placement
  • Choose cord or ribbon colors that have special meaning or compliment the couple’s clothing 
  • If you forget how to tie the knot during the ceremony, just wrap the cord… It will look beautiful either way! 
  • Keep the knot intact as a keepsake 



Need a handfasting ceremony script? 


Try one of these from AMM’s Ceremony Scripts Library: 





Browse all Handfasting Articles 



Photo shows newlyweds holding up their hands to show off the handfasting cord tied around their wrists, behind them is a wedding arch with pink flowers and the word 'handfasting'

Have a happy handfasting ceremony! 



Everything you need to perform a handfasting ceremony in one

easy-to-use gift box.

Handfasting Wedding Officiant Package

Order Here

Say yes to magic and romance with this exciting wedding trend – the handfasting ceremony.

This comprehensive and easy-to-use handfasting kit that contains everything you need to plan and officiate a personalized handfasting ceremony, including a handfasting cord, instructions on how to tie a handfasting knot, a wedding planning guide written by an experienced wedding officiant, a detailed illustrated book about the handfasting ritual, and more. 

The gift box is perfect for a newly engaged couple, an inspired wedding officiant, or married partners who want to celebrate their love and commitment with a vow renewal ceremony.

Gift Box Includes:

• 1 Copy of Handfasting, From Ancient Rituals to Modern Ceremonies
• 1 Copy of Navigating Your Wedding Ceremony
• 1 Handfasting cord, made from woven natural hemp fiber
• 1 Screen Printed Canvas AMM Minister’s Tote Bag
• 1 Lapel pin struck from jeweler's metal, with hard enamel colors and nickel finish
• 1 Handy Handfasting instructional guide for reference during the ceremony



'We Still Do...' Vow Renewal Package

Reaffirm marriage vows, make new promises for the future, and commit to love all over again with this unique Vow Renewal Package! This sweet package is for couples who wants to deepen their connection and say YES all over again, and officiants that want to make it all happen. This resource contains everything a couple needs to celebrate a renewal of vows, anniversary celebration, or recommitment ceremony.


Product photo of the AMM We Still Do Vow Renewal Package gift box for renewal of vows and wedding anniversary celebrations

This package includes:

• 1 Elegant Vow Booklet Set with vow writing prompts and pages for finished vows
• 1 copy of AMM’s bestselling The Book of Wedding Vows and Ceremonies
• 1 “I Still Do” pamphlet – A short officiants guide to the vow renewal ceremony
• 3 Decorative Renewal of Vows certificates (Timeless, Floral, and Signature)
• 1 Wood display frame
• 1 AMM Embossed Presidential™ Custom Pen


Love it? Pin it! 




How To Officiate By State

Will You Marry Us? Gift Package

Who Will Officiate Your Wedding?

Choose Your Officiant with our "Will You Marry Us?" Gift Package.

Signature Wedding Officiant Package

Signature Wedding Officiant Package

Our premiere package contains everyting you need to officiate like a pro.

The Book of Wedding Vows and Ceremonies

The Book of Wedding Vows and Ceremonies

It's finally here! Timeless scripts and heartfelt vow inspiration to bring life to your ceremony.

Professional Wedding Officiant Certification Course

Learn from the Pros to Officiate with Confidence!

Wedding Officiant Training

Wedding Officiant Training

Everything you need to know to officiate.

Read our sample wedding ceremony scripts online

Sample Wedding Ceremony Scripts

Need inspiration? Check out our free ceremony scripts!

Subscribe To Our Newsletter!


Become a Wedding Officiant with Our Free Online Ordination!