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Handfasting and Virtual Weddings -- Keeping Traditions Alive in Modern Microweddings

Published Friday, Sep. 18th, 2020

A handfasting at a virtual wedding? Yes!


This Seattle couple pulled off their dreamy livestreamed handfasting ceremony by having not just one but two dads officiate the unique virtual event.


Kyla and Chris had been anticipating their Seattle-based handfasting ceremony for months. Chris’s beloved step dad Mike, a retired US Army Major and experienced officiant, had agreed to perform the ceremony. The plan was in place: he’d fly in from Texas, help them tie the literal knot, and they’d dance the night away. Then the Covid pandemic hit, causing sudden and indefinite venue closures and cancelled flights.


Like many other couples and officiants all over the country, they found themselves scrambling to answer questions they hadn’t even thought to plan for… Should they postpone or adapt with something smaller and streamable? Would out-of-town family and friends be able to watch them say “I do”?


Most importantly, would Mike still be able to perform their handfasting? With new travel guidelines in place, Texas suddenly seemed very, very far away.


Did you know? Handfasting is a traditional Celtic wedding custom. An officiant or spiritual elder wraps a cord or ribbon around a couples’ hands during a wedding ceremony to symbolize commitment and spiritual union.



The nation’s swift embrace of Zoom weddings, fueled by necessity, and more tech accessibility and know-how than any generation prior, meant that having friends and family attend wouldn’t be a problem. Sure, the ceremony might look a little different than they’d originally planned, but an online guest list was easy to manage and there could be (um… would be) a rescheduled dance party to look forward to.


But where couples and officiants are quick to adapt, state marriage laws are not. Only a handful of states have approved legislation to make remotely-officiated weddings legal, and Washington state isn’t one of them.

(Read: Can you officiate a wedding over Skype in Washington?)



So what could Kyla and Chris do about the handfasting? How could Mike still be involved? The family promptly got to work re-imagining the event.


Chris’s dad Carl, who lived locally, was quickly recruited to help save the day, by serving as a spiritual assistant of sorts. Mike would still participate, but he’d join the festivities from his home in Texas, over FaceTime in a celebratory role. Carl would stand with the couple, wrapping the handfasting cord in person, giving him an important role during the ritual.


For the couple, it was the perfect unexpected solution. Now, not just one but two of their beloved dads would be participating in their ceremony!


The day of the event was bright and warm. The couple gathered with a couple friends outdoors in their backyard, dressed in festive suits and gowns. Mike gave a moving speech from his ceremonial spot, propped on a table between the bride and groom, with Carl doing his part as he carefully and lovingly wrapped the cord with each vow. All around the country, friends and family gathered to watch the ceremony over Zoom, laughing and cheering along as Kyla and Chris tied the knot. 


• • •


Want to have your own adapted handfasting ritual, or have someone special participate in your online ceremony from afar? 



Check to see if your state recognizes remotely-officiated (or virtual / proxy) ceremonies.

The wording here is confusing, so it’s really important to clarify beforehand! Be warned: Most states don’t. Having guests attend your wedding over a video conferencing platform like Zoom or Skype is fun and won’t affect whether your ceremony is legal, but having an officiant participate long-distance will.


(Read: These are the states where you can - and can’t - get married online)


Have out-of-state family members or friends as part of your wedding party, or have them lend a special talent to the day

These are strange new times, and adapting to them with a little humor is what keeps us sane. We aren’t quite to the holographic-guest phase yet, but you can prop that laptop on a table next to you for a long-distance maid-of-honor or best-man speech. Out-of-town loved ones can co-officiate with someone local!  Musically-inclined friends can pull out their instruments and play that processional or first dance song over Zoom. And you can clink a champagne flute against your phone for a hilariously distanced toast with your Aunt Marge. Where there’s a will (and a little tech savvy), there’s a way!


Ask an out-of-state friend to share a meaningful story or blessing as part of the ceremony remotely, while an in-person officiant wraps the cord or ribbon. Ok, it’s a little anachronistic maybe, but traditional Celtic handfastings and Wiccan weddings have included two or more people in this moving custom for centuries! (Just not virtually… we admit that’s a new twist.)



Looking for inspiration? Try one of our Handfasting Ceremony Scripts! 



Updated February 2021

Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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