The Handfasting Ceremony is probably requested most by the couples in Scotland,  

You may have wondered where the expression to tie the knot comes from. It refers to the traditional Celtic ritual of Handfasting, which was recognised as the contract of marriage. 

Handfasting may be unfamiliar to many of you so I will explain a little about it. 

A hand fasting was originally more like an engagement or trial marriage, where two people would declare a binding union between themselves for a year and a day. 

After a year went by they could separate or decide to permanently enter a full marriage, very often if there were no child or pregnancy this is what happened, Hand fasting was suppress in 664 but was still considered amongst many as a legal form of marriage in England until 1753 when it was outlawed.

In Scotland it continued until 1939, hence the stories of elopement to Gretna Green to be married over the anvil. 

Example of Hand fasting Vows/Script 

Bride and Groom come to the front. 


I bid you look into each other’s eyes. 

Know now before you go further, that since your lives have crossed in this life you have formed ties between each other. 

As you seek to enter this state of matrimony you should strive to make real, the ideals which give meaning to both this ceremony and the institution of marriage. 

Do you still seek to enter this ceremony? 

Bride and Groom say, “We do.” 

Blessing of the Hands 

Can I ask you hold hands? 

(Couple to hold hands heart to heart.) 

These are the hands that will passionately love you and cherish you through the years, for a lifetime of happiness. 

These are the hands that will countless times wipe the tears from your eyes: tears of sorrow and tears of joy. 

These are the hands that will comfort you in illness and hold you when fear or grief racks your mind. 

These are the hands that will hold you tight as you struggle through difficult times. 

These are the hands that will give you support and encourage you to chase your dreams. Together, everything you wish for can be realised. 

Prepare the cords, put cords over hands 

Back in earlier years, the hands would be bound with whatever was available – vines, colourful cords, or scarf. Today we will use these cords to symbolize the binding or promises. 

The first promise 

Groom, Will you be Bride faithful partner for life? 

Groom says, “I will.” 

Bride will you be Groom ’s faithful partner for life? 

Bride says, “I will.” 

Will you be each other’s constant friends and one true love? 

Bride and Groom say, “We will.” 

First cord is draped across Bride and Groom ’s hands 

And so the first binding is made. 

The second promise 

Bride do you promise to love Groom without reservation? 

Bride says, “I will.” 

Groom, do you promise to love Bride without reservation? 

Groom says, “I will.” 

Will both of you stand by one another in sickness and in health, in plenty and in want? 

Bride and Groom say, “We will.” 

The third promise 

Bride will you stand together with Groom your times of joy and sorrow? 

Bride says, “I will.” 

Groom, will you stand together with Bride your times of joy and sorrow? 

Groom says, “I will.” 

Will you share the burdens of each so that your spirits may grow in this union? 

Bride and Groom say, “We will.” 

The fourth promise 

Groom will you always to be open and honest with Bride for as long as you both shall live? 

Groom says, “I will.” 

Bride will you always to be open and honest with Groom, for as long as you both shall live? 

Bride says, “I will.” 

Will you dream together to create new realities and hopes for this marriage? 

Bride and Groom say, “We will.” 

The fifth promise 

Bride Will you honour this man? 

Bride says, “I will.” 

Groom, Will you honour this woman? 

Groom says, “I will.” 

Will you both seek to cherish and strengthen that honour? 

Bride and Groom say, “We will.” 

Binding of all promises 

I will tie the knot 

Bride and Groom as your hands are now bound together, so your lives and sprits are joined in a union of perfect love and perfect trust. 

The bond of marriage is not formed by these cords, but by the vows you have made. For always you hold in your own hands the fate of this union. 


Can be read by the celebrant or best man 

Above you are stars and below you the earth 

Like stars your love will be a constant source of light, 

And like the earth, a firm foundation from which to grow. 

May your hands always hold each other during the storms of life. 

May they be tender and gentle. 

As you nurture each other. 

May they build a relationship founded in love, rich in caring, 

May your hands heal, protect, shelter and guide each other. 

Pronouncement and Kiss 

Bride and Groom, on behalf of all those present, and by the strength of your own love, I pronounce you hand fasted. 

May you know nothing but happiness from this day forward, 

May the road rise to meet you, may the wind be always at your back, 

May the warm rays of sun fall upon your home, 

May the hand of a friend be always near, 

May the grass beneath your feet be green, may the sky above you be blue, 

May the joys that surround you be pure, 

May the hearts that hearts that love be true. 

You may seal your vows with a kiss 

Take hand out of cords show cord in heart shape (photos) 

Now to finalise this union of Clans I ask Bride and Groom to take the candles lit at the beginning of the ceremony that represented each other’s family clans and friends and join them in lighting the unity candle in the front. 

The cords are removed and placed on altar/ table 

Closing words 

The bride and groom would like to invite you to join them in the reception 


I now ask you all to stand and applaud as they walk down the aile. 

Some couples prefer simple ceremonies and some couples want to include more than one symbolic gesture. It is entirely up to you. 

Here is a list of symbolic gestures you may wish to consider for your marriage ceremony. 

  • Candle Lighting 
  • Elements Well Wishing 
  • Sand Ceremony 
  • Planting a Tree 
  • Exchange of Flowers 
  • Gathering of Flowers 
  • Gifts for Mothers
  •  The Mexican Hug
  • Release of Doves
  •  Release of Butterflies 
  • Release of Balloons
  •  Wedding Band Warming
  •  Heart Entwining 

Candle Lighting 

The Bride and Groom each light a candle each, to symbolise their separate lives before their formal union as a married couple. In a partnership of equals, such as the one which they have, each partner cares for the other through both the difficult times and the good times. They will share the laughter and the tears, the joy and the sadness, as well as the companionship and tranquility of simply being together. But at the same time, they will continue to respect each other’s individuality and uniqueness and this is symbolised by the two candles. 

The Bride and Groom then light a third candle symbolising the joining together of their lives in marriage.
The three candles will shine forth as symbols of both their togetherness and of their continuing individuality. 

Elements Well Wishing 

As a unique way to symbolise a union is to celebrate life’s essential elements. A well-wishing is said to all the elements. Earth, Air, Water and Fire.
There are many ways of doing this, depending on where the ceremony is taking place. 

Sand Ceremony 

A marriage is symbolised by the pouring together of two individual containers of sand, representing the Bride and the Groom and all that they were, all that they are, and all that they will ever be. As these two containers of sand are poured into the third container, the grains of sand can never again be separated, as you will now be in their marriage. 

Planting a Tree 

The tree symbolises a Bride and Groom’s hopes for the future as well as the beauty and wonder of life. Whether a tree grows to be tall and strong depends on the nurture it receives. No tree grows alone – they all need the soil, the sunshine and the rain. So too, a marriage needs to be nourished and a Bride and Groom will be there for each other through all the seasons of their life together – to support, love and nurture each other. 

Exchange of Flowers 

The language of flowers, has its roots throughout history. Using flowers to send a message probably dates to prehistoric times as symbolic use of flowers is mentioned in Egyptian inscriptions, in Chinese writings and in both Greek and Roman mythology. 

And so, the bride and groom exchange white roses, which symbolize purity, charm and innocence. 

Gathering of Flowers

As your guests arrive, present them with a flower. Each one of these flowers is different, each one is beautiful, and each one will add its own unique qualities to the bouquet that will made when they are gathered together. All of your guests have each brought their own qualities to their relationships with you, their own beauty, their own colour and their own influence… And now as they gather together for this most special of occasions, a nominated person will gather these flowers together, each flower representing their place in the bride and Groom’s lives. 

The beautiful bundle of flowers represents the colour and the beauty that each and every person brings into your lives, and with the placing of each flower, the bouquet changes, each flower playing its own part in influencing how the final bouquet will look and feel. This bouquet will now be the centerpiece of this ceremony, and the dinner and party to follow. 

Gifts for Mothers 

This wedding is also a celebration of family. It is the blending of families, separate up to this moment, but united from this day forward – blending their different traditions, strengthening the family tree. Mothers cry when their children hurt and welcome pain and burden to give their sons and daughters the gift of life. 

The Bride and Groom, to honour this blending of families, present a rose to their mothers – to thank their parents for the many sacrifices they have made and for their unconditional love so freely given to their children. 

Mexican Hug 

You’ll be aware of the tradition in some churches of shaking hands with the people around you during a service. Well, this is more of modern twist on that.
Now you all know what a Mexican wave is don’t you? So you start with the bride and groom giving each other a hug, they will then hug someone else, who’ll hug the person next to them and so on, until every single person in the room has been well and truly hugged! 

You never know – you might have started something – maybe another couple will meet and fall in love at the wedding! 

Release of Doves 

For thousands of years, white doves have been a traditional symbol in wedding ceremonies. To the ancient Egyptians, the dove represented quiet innocence. The Chinese saw it as a symbol of peace and long life. To early Greeks and Romans, doves symbolised love, devotion, and caring. It was also the sacred animal of Aphrodite and Venus, the goddesses of love. White doves at a wedding therefore symbolise love, peace, and good luck. As you may know, doves usually pair up for life, so they are a beautiful representation of the lasting commitment that the Bride and Groom have made. It is said that if doves are seen on your wedding day, a happy home is assured. 

Release of Butterflies 

The butterfly is one of nature’s most symbolic and beautiful creations and is a lovely symbol of new beginnings and rebirths. What better way to celebrate the beginning of a new life together than with the releasing of butterflies on your wedding day? 

There is an old Indian legend about making a wish as you release the butterflies, so as they are released everyone makes a wish for the Bride and Groom and wish them much happiness as they take this first step in their married lives together. 

Release of Balloons 

The balloons represent each of the Bride and Groom’s lives, but as they are joined together as you are now joined in marriage. And as they are released, they make their journey through the sky. 

A word of caution – If there are going to be a large number of balloons released, be aware that you will need permission from the local/nearest airport as they are considered a hazard to aircraft. The requirement to inform the Civil Aviation Authority is only where a very large number of balloons (5000+) to be released, but if in doubt, check first. The Balloon Association website is a useful source of information ( 

Also be mindful of the ecological implications of releasing balloons! It is possible to get biodegradable balloons made from natural latex, the sap of rubber trees and the manufacturers claim that these have the same decomposition rate as an oak leaf (about 6 months) 

Jumping over a Broom or Besom 

In past times setting up home and getting officially married often took place months apart. This could be due to not having a resident notary to perform the ceremony or to have a trial period before committing to the legal marriage. 

To give the union a standing in the community the couples would declare their intention to “Live over the Brush” and would in front of family, friends and neighbours literally jump over a broom. The broom was then kept in the shared home as a symbol of the union and to encourage good luck. The also broom symbolises the sweeping away of the past and the fact that the happy couple are now starting a new life together 

Wedding Band Warming 

This is a really lovely gesture that includes your friends in family during the ceremony itself. It allows the Bride and Groom to acknowledge that they know too that it is often with the help and support of those around them, as well as from each other, that will get them through the harder times that they may face in the future. Before taking their vows the celebrant will ask the Best Man to pass the ring (tied together with a ribbon) to the front row from where it is passed around all of the guests to hold and to add their own thoughts, wishes and hopes for their marriage. 

Alternatively, even though the best man has been looking after the rings, you could ask a young niece or nephew to come forward and polish up each ring as hard as they can so that it is as shiny as can be for Bride and Groom. 

Heart Entwining 

This is when the Bride & Groom symbolically tie their hearts together. 

Taking two wicker hearts, the Bride and Groom tie them together with woven ribbon so that they are joined together. 

This represents that as the happy couple join their lives today without hesitation and with open and trusting hearts. Whatever they encounter, they will encounter it together, so they take each other’s hearts and with it their commitment to love, care and cherish for each other. The hearts, now tied together to represent their marriage. 

Please get in touch if you would like to discuss any aspect of your wedding ceremony.