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26 Jan 2021

Handfasting wedding ceremonies

A black and white photo of a bride and groom performing a handfasting ceremony. They hold lengths of fabric between them and tie a knot in the centre. A smiling man in a kilt stands between them, as the officiant, holding a large book.
Handfasting wedding ceremony at Fyvie Castle © Photography by Rhea
Ever wondered where the expressions ‘tying the knot’ and ‘bound for life’ come from? Well … it’s the age-old Celtic ritual of handfasting, where hands are tied together to symbolise the binding of two lives!

Handfasting ceremonies are a popular element in many wedding ceremonies and have seen a revival in recent years – perhaps thanks to the hit TV series Outlander.

Although the ritual itself is not legally binding, it’s frequently used in Humanist ceremonies because the knots are the perfect way to symbolically illustrate that a couple are joined to one another.

In fact, as it’s not a legal part of your ceremony, anyone can perform the handfasting, making it a lovely way to include a special family member or friend!

A handfasting ceremony takes place in the Gallery at Fyvie Castle. The bride and groom stand facing each other at the top of the aisle, watched by rows of seated guests.
Handfasting ceremony in the Gallery at Fyvie Castle © Photography by Rhea

Laura Widdop from Fuze Ceremonies explains:

‘Every celebrant has their own unique way of handfasting, but essentially the couple hold right hands so that their pulse points are touching. Two lengths of ribbon are then looped and tied around their joined hands, each ribbon representing the bride/groom. The couple then release their right hands whilst pulling the ends of the ribbons with their left hands, leaving a perfect Celtic knot to be cherished forevermore as a symbol of their marriage.’

“The fabric can be personal to the couple. We’ve seen couples use dog leads, pieces of fabric from a grandmother’s wedding gown, rock climbing robes, their clan tartan or simply ribbons to co-ordinate with the couple’s wedding theme.”
Laura Widdop
Fuze Ceremonies
A bride and groom walk down the aisle, arm in arm, after their wedding ceremony. They beam at the guests seated either side. The bride carries a bouquet of white and pale pink roses. Her dress has a beaded bodice and netted skirt. © Photography by Rhea

From fairytale castles and country retreats, mountain glens to gardens, the National Trust for Scotland’s places offer spectacular settings for weddings. So why not consider a handfasting ceremony for your wedding and add a personal, Scottish tradition to your day.

What’s more, by choosing a Trust venue for your wedding you’ll be supporting our vital conservation work to help us protect Scotland’s heritage for current and future generations to enjoy.

You’ll find more information on all our wedding venues on our wedding pages.

To discuss your wedding plans in more detail so we can help plan your perfect day, please contact us.

For more inspiration and info

Visit our weddings page

A bride and groom stand on smooth rocks beside a gushing river. Pine trees grow on the far bank and mountains can be seen in the distance. Image: Hannah K Photography >