This ritual is not part of the Catholic marriage rite, but your solemniser might agree to a modified version of it as an optional extra. You could propose a simple form of Handfasting with a suitable prayer to be said while binding the couple's hands are bound.


Roots of the ritual

To be spoken by a friend of the couple

When N. and N. kindly asked me to introduce their ritual of Handfasting, naturally I had to go online to research some background to this ritual, and I'm amazed with the amount of things people have said about it. While it's hard to find solid, historical facts about the distant origins of Handfasting, many see it as an old Celtic tradition with roots in Scotland.

In the Middle Ages a handfasting meant a public engagement to be married, made in a ceremony about a month prior to the actual wedding, when the marrying pair publicly declared themselves as a couple. More recently this ritual came to worldwide notice, when at the (2011) royal wedding in London of Kate Middleton and Prince William Windsor, the Archbishop of Canterbury (Rowan Williams) solemnly placed a gilded stole over the couple's joined hands in a clearly handfasting gesture, to seal their wedding vows.

Two distinctly different kinds of handfasting are widely described on the internet. The first and less significant kind is known as the year-and-a-day handfasting, a sort of temporary engagement; and the other is meant to declare a union till death do us part. Our good friends N. and N. are committed to the permanent form. Their tying the knot today is intended as a colourful sign of their lifelong commitment. In this sense it symbolises the traditional marriage bond, rather like the exchanging of rings at their wedding.

Very soon now, N. and N. will take each other's hands, and the ceremonial cord will be wound around their joined hands as a symbol of their pledge to spend the rest of their days together, united. The intertwining of their hands will declare their loving partnership, a bond of friendship and a commitment to support each other all along their life's journey.

Without wanting to trespass too much into the Solemniser's territory, I'd like to make these sincere wishes for our happy couple, on behalf of us all.

  • May your hands always be instruments of love and trust for one another.

  • May you hold together even in times of stress or illness, until the blessing of peace and health is restored.

  • May your hands be kind and gentle as you nurture and support each other.

  • May these united hands be signs of the protecting and cherishing, the healing and reconciling and embracing that you intend to share together.

And now I gladly hand over to our Solemniser, to perform the Handfasting ceremony itself.



[Names], please hold your hands together, to show the gift you hope to be for each other. With God's help, with these hands you will serve and strengthen each other as you journey through life together. With these hands you will tend to each other when either of you is sick and hold each other when you are sad or grieving. With these hands you will show how you love and cherish each other all your lives. By the grace of God, and working generously together, your union can be all that you wish and pray for today.


binding their hands, he says:

Dear God and Father of us all, bless the hands of these your servants, that are bound before You this day. May they always be instruments of love and trust for one another. Give them the strength to hold together even in times of storm or stress and until the blessing of peace is restored. Keep them kind and gentle as they nurture each other in their married union. May these hands continue nourishing a relationship built on your grace, devoted to helping each other in all the ways that true love requires. May N. and N. always see each other’s hands as supporting, protecting, helping and cherishing. This blessing we ask through your Son, Jesus and in the Holy Spirit. Amen.

A suitable song or musical piece follows, before the cords are untied, and the couple embrace.