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  • Writer's pictureElaine Cormack

Handfasting Ceremony in Scotland

Updated: May 26

Calling all couples in love!

This blog is a must read for anyone who knows a couple who have recently got engaged, or just want to celebrate their commitment to each other!

“The best and most beautiful things in this world cannot be seen or even heard but must be felt with the heart.”

Whether you're planning your own engagement celebration or want to gift this unforgettable experience to a special couple, handfasting offers a truly unique and romantic way to mark the journey of love.


What is a handfasting or hand tying ceremony in Scotland?


Couple involved in handfasting or hand tying ceremony

Have you ever attended a wedding where the bride and groom participated in a handfasting ceremony? If so, you've witnessed a cherished Celtic tradition that dates back centuries. The act of binding the couple's hands together with ribbons or cords symbolises their union, often sealed with an infinity knot. It's a beautiful reminder of the commitment they are making to one another, echoing the ancient roots of "tying the knot."


Handfasting, or hand tying as it is often now known, has experienced a resurgence in popularity recently as a symbolic element in wedding and vow renewal ceremonies. Often couples will carry out the legal part of their wedding separately and have a handfasting ceremony to celebrate their commitment to each other. I have had the pleasure of officiating at some beautiful and very romantic handfasting ceremonies in Scotland including ceremonies arranged as a surprise for a loved one!


Historically, however, a handfasting ceremony in Scotland was a formal betrothal or engagement ritual, a promise to marry, symbolising a couple’s commitment to one another. And therefore, a handfasting or hand tying ceremony is a wonderful, romantic, and unique way to celebrate an engagement today.


It is a chance to symbolise the merging of two lives and the exciting journey ahead as partners in love and life. Through carefully chosen ribbons or cords, more about that below, the ceremony becomes a cherished memory etched in time.


How do you perform a handfasting ceremony in Scotland?


The ceremony can be simple (and easy to arrange) and is always tailored uniquely for each couple and is always all about their love for each other and their commitment to each other.

If you don’t want a big fuss, it doesn’t need to be a big fuss. If you do want a big fuss, you can have that. It could be an intimate ceremony, just the couple, your celebrant, and a photographer to capture the special moment. Or a grand affair.


A straightforward handfasting ceremony could involve:

  1. I meet with the couple, in person or online and ask some questions

  2. I write the ceremony draft and email it to the couple for checking

  3. You let me know any changes and I make them

And that’s it until the day!


Oh, and let me know where it will take place. You would usually organise the venue (and organise a photographer) but you can let me know if you’d like help with that. I have lots of connections.


Where would you have a handfasting ceremony in Scotland?


Dunbar's Close Garden, Royal Mile, Edinburgh

A handfasting ceremony in Scotland can really take place just about anywhere.  It could be an intimate gathering in a picturesque setting overlooking a loch, in the grounds of a romantic ruined castle, your back garden or your living room. Or it could be part of a lavish affair, surrounded by all your loved ones. Your choice, your way.

This picture was taken just before I had the pleasure of officiating a handfasting ceremony at Dunbar's Close Garden, just off the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. Beautiful gardens, an unexpected oasis of peace and tranquility in the heart of Edinburgh's Old Town. And a perfect setting for a handfasting ceremony.


Handfasting Ribbons or Cords?


Handfasting ceremony in Edinburgh

The choice is yours, so that the handfasting ceremony can truly reflect you and your love story. Ribbons come in many colours and offer a delicate touch, whereas cord can symbolise the strength of your connections.

Some couples choose to have cords woven from three strands to show strength and unity, or choose colours to represent different qualities they wish to bring into their relationship, such as red for passion or green for growth.


Other couples use something with personal significance, like a family tartan, African wax fabric, vintage lace, sailing ropes or even their favourite colours! Whatever you choose for your handfasting, make it something that suits you as a couple and you won’t go wrong.

Imagine the beauty of embroidered ribbons bearing the date of the ceremony, capturing the essence of the moment for eternity. A wonderful keepsake. Again, let me know if you need help with this.

The cords can be draped and tied by your celebrant, or by family or friends if they are there too. a handfasting or hand tying ceremony is a wonderful way to celebrate the coming together of two families.


A gift of a handfasting ceremony


For those seeking the perfect engagement gift, perhaps for your son or daughter and their fiancé, consider the beautiful gesture of a handfasting ceremony voucher. It's a thoughtful way to commemorate this joyous occasion and create lasting memories that the couple will treasure forever. It is also a unique photograph opportunity and perfect for those Instagram moments.

How to (easily!) organise a handfasting ceremony in Scotland for your engagement celebration

Reach out to Elaine to discover more about handfasting ceremonies in Scotland and how they can add a touch of romance and meaning to your engagement. Whether you're embarking on your journey of love or celebrating the love of others, let handfasting be the symbol of everlasting commitment and devotion.

If you’d like to have a chat with me to find out more, I would love to speak to you, just send me a message or book time in my diary.

Ceremonies for me are usually in Perth and Kinross, Edinburgh, Stirlingshire, Fife, but I am happy to travel further too.

Thank you for reading!


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