If couples decided to stay together following the handfasting, the next step was the proclamation of the banns - with a full wedding under the gaze of the church to follow.
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Today, a revival of handfasting has become part of many wedding ceremonies in Scotland when couples hands are bound with cords and ribbons to signify their lasting bond and unity. While handfasting itself is not legally recognised as constituting a marriage, the ritual is carried out as part of a legal wedding ceremony.
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They would often then be escorted to the bedchamber to consummate their union. This part of the ceremony is clearly not necessary in the 21st century, and I have never been asked to stay and carry out this duty! It was considered that if the couple survived the obstacles of life for the rest of the day then surely they would survive in marriage together. In the Scottish Celtic tradition, the binding would be for a year and a day and if after that they still wanted to stay together the handfasting was formally recognised as their wedding ceremony.
A modern day Medieval Celtic Handfasting is a beautiful romantic gesture, shared between couples, to celebrate their love, in engagement, commitment to be together or to celebrate the number of years they have spent together. Handfasting has become increasingly popular in recent years. Handfasting in modern times can be celebrated and more importantly performed in several different styles in any location.
The styles of Handfasting vary from a simple inclusion of the tying of hands within a traditional wedding ceremony to a Handfasting held in a sacred site such as within stone circles as Stonehenge or Avebury Circle for example. The popularity of Handfasting has been brought to the forefront of public knowledge due to its depiction on TV and in films.
The film, 'Braveheart' shows William Wallace played by Mel Gibson and Murron the love of his life being joined in a union of love in a Handfasting ceremony. Games of Thrones has also shown wedding scenes that include Handfasting and quite recently a major British soap held a Handfasting between two key characters.
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Choosing to have a 'mash' of both traditional and ancient ceremonies is a great option for many couples torn between the two. After all, so much of the tradition of Handfasting is steeped in folklore and legend and open to modern interpretations. A modern Handfasting permits licence to create the perfect ceremony for you. The spiritual beliefs and cultural and social background of each couple will generally determine the style of Handfasting conducted and the component parts that are included.
Finding a celebrant who can perform a Handfasting in the style a couple seek is paramount. I suggest they speak with them in person, ask lots of questions and then make their choice.
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Handfasting is a beautiful loving gesture and offers a very visual addition to the ceremony with a physical reminder in the form of the bindings. It is a very symbolic way to remember it and 'ties the knot', binding you in love to one another, in front of all of your loved ones. Traditionally, ale was drunk but this can be any beverage of choice. It is also usual at this point for Divinity to be invoked, often in the form of the Goddess and the God. At this point, they speak their vows, and rings or other tokens may be exchanged.
It is common for the newly handfasted couple to bless a chalice of wine as their first act as a married couple and pass it around to guests.
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As a point of interest, a handfasting is considered particularly auspicious if the woman is already pregnant, or a pregnant woman is present as a witness. In the British Isles, handfasting was the old pre-Christian ritual of marriage.
By the 18th century, the Kirk of Scotland no longer recognized marriages formed by mutual consent i. To minimize any resulting legal actions, the ceremony was always performed in public. This situation persisted until , when Scottish marriage laws were reformed by the Marriage Act.
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