About 20 years ago I was the “+1” for the wedding of a couple I hardly knew at a beautiful venue with a lavish reception for over 100 guests. Bride and groom were of different backgrounds and chose a traditional secular ceremony – except for one thing. After they stated their vows they added the very old, and seldom heard of, ritual of “jumping the broom.” I don’t remember the couple’s names, I don’t remember the dinner or whether they had a band or a DJ; but I do remember that interesting feature they put into their ceremony to show their unique take on life, on ritual, and on their imagination as a couple.
Flash forward to this millennium and I am now a wedding officiant helping couples custom craft their vows and making their ceremonies memorable. For the last few years I have researched wedding traditions and rituals of many cultures throughout the ages. While the trends and fashions change frequently (and sometimes radically), the one constant is that couples want a ritual, not only to proclaim and solidify their love, but to reflect their personalities.
Many couples are looking to ancient rites and customs as a way to personalize their wedding ceremony and make it more memorable. Recently, a couple with whom I was working requested a Hand Fasting ceremony, which I was happy to do for them.
The ancient Celtic ritual of Hand Fasting is a declaration of intent (just as the law requires today). The couple states that they are marrying of their own free will, that they have formed eternal and sacred bonds and they will strive to make real the ideals that give meaning to this ceremony and to the institution of marriage. The origins of Hand Fasting derive from agrarian society, but the ritual has meaning today in its environmental aspects and its invoking the natural elements of the earth, sky, sun, stars, etc.
Hand Fasting is actually tying the couple’s hands together with a ceremonial cord or ribbon upon wrapping the hands each time the couple affirms one of four questions. The cord is tied after the fourth avowal and thus they have “tied the knot.”
The officiant can then summarize with a pronouncement such as, “The knots of this binding are not formed by these cords but rather by the vows you have made. For always you hold in your hands the fate of this union. Above you are the stars, below you is the Earth. Like the stars your love should be a constant source of light, and like the Earth, a firm foundation from which to grow.” A blessing of the hands can be added as well as the beautiful poem, “These Hands” (author unknown).
Hand Fasting’s ancient sentiments seem very modern now when used alone or in conjunction with a couple’s chosen traditional or personal vows. Either way, adding an unexpected element to your wedding ceremony definitely makes it more memorable. Whether your addition is Hand Fasting, a Unity Candle, a Wine or Sand Ceremony, your love for each other can be expressed in some very unique ways; and your guests will appreciate the extra thought put into your ceremony as evidenced by my remembering that posh couple from 20 years ago jumping over a broom.
“Libby Lovejoy is a certified wedding officiant in the Nashville, Tennessee area. For more information or to book a ceremony email her at firstname.lastname@example.org .”