What is Handfasting?

Outdoor, themed and festival weddings are more popular than ever, while traditional ceremonies have lost some of their appeal.
It’s clear that couples are opting for something more personal, more meaningful to them, and less expensive. That’s where a handfasting comes in! Mystical Mayhem Hippy Clothing explore this wonderful ceremony.


None of the usual rules apply – unless you want them to. Handfastings are unique to the couple. Most are held outdoors because being in nature is an important part of the ceremony.
But what is a handfasting, and more importantly, what should you wear to one?

The history

Handfasting goes back hundreds of years and was first noted in Scotland in the 16th and 17th centuries. The idea was a marriage that only lasted for a temporary period of time. This was often for the period of a year and one day. The reason behind this was so you could get to know the person you were going to spend the rest of your life with and therefore make sure it was the right decision. If after this period you both consented to carry on the marriage then you could go through the ceremony again but make it a more permanent arrangement. The roots of this form of marriage really lies in the poorer population. The lower classes couldn’t afford a religious church wedding and so the cheaper non religious handfasting became very popular.

The Ceremony

A handfasting is a traditional pagan wedding celebration that centres around the binding of hands (hence the name).
They are not legally binding, but they can be followed by a marriage ceremony if desired. The beauty is that you can do either or both, though not at the same time (civil ceremonies must be non-religious).

Main parts of a handfasting
Most handfasting ceremonies contain the following elements, however, one of the great hings about a handfasting is that you can change the ceremony to suit what you and your partner would like:
1. binding hands (some couples keep their hands bound all day)
2. exchanging vows
3. leaping over the besom (broomstick)

Binding the hands with ribbon is a bit like the ring exchange in a conventional wedding – it symbolises the union. Couples can still exchange rings if they want.
At the end of the ceremony, the couple leaps together over the broomstick. Like the tradition of being carried over the threshold, leaping the broom symbolises stepping into a new life together. But in this way, both partners are equal.

The Clothes

You may think hippie clothing is your only option when attending a handfasting. But often, anything goes. Although, Hippy is always good 🙂
In general, it’s best to wear something colourful and comfortable, with options for layering up if the weather takes a turn for the worst. We recommend beautiful hippie dresses for ladies and smart hippy waistcoats for gents.
If in doubt, check in with the happy couple. Bring sturdy shoes or wellies in case there’s a bit of a walk to the site.

Handfasting guide for couples

Handfastings can be as simple or elaborate as you want them to be. Themed weddings are trendy, but so are informal ceremonies. Whichever you choose, follow our checklist for outdoor weddings and you won’t go far wrong.

Before your handfasting:
1. First and foremost – tell your guests what to expect! Let them know what to bring – from picnic food to walking boots.
2. If you’re having your entire ceremony outdoors you may need shelter and power, such as a marquee and a generator. It’s a good idea to have a supply of umbrellas, too.
3. Have you thought about toilets? Your guests may appreciate the novelty of your unusual ceremony, but ‘going’ outdoors might be a step too far.
4. Do you need outdoor furniture? Haybales make great rustic seating.
5. Lighting is essential for the evening festivities. Simple, cheap and portable lighting for outdoor weddings can be as easy as tealight candles in jam jars. But in case they blow out, opt for solar or battery powered strings of lights, too. Beautiful!

On the day:
You’ll need to bring the ceremonial tools of the handfasting (unless the celebrant is providing these). Remember the following:
1. Ribbon – for binding hands
2. Broomstick – for leaping
3. Cake and mead – for sharing
4. Chalice and ceremonial (blunt) dagger – for the ritual

Finally, for a special touch, bring a hoop and stick plus a basket of spare ribbons. The hoop and stick are symbolic of male and female energies and should be interlocked. Pass these around your circle of guests and ask them to make a wish for your future happiness. As they make the wish, they can tie a ribbon onto the hoop and stick. By the end of the day, you’ll have a beautiful keepsake that you can treasure forever.