Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Have you ever wondered where the expressions "tying the knot" or "giving one's hand in marriage" come
from? They are in reference to the ancient tradition of handfasting. I learned about the custom some time ago while researching Celtic traditions for a series of historicals I was working on. I found the ritual interesting, especially since people still incorporate variations of the handfasting ceremony today. 

The phrase “tying the knot” comes from an old Irish tradition that symbolizes the bond of marriage in the same way that we would think of the exchanging of rings. At the point in the ceremony where the husband and wife demonstrate the bond between them, the couple clasp their hands together, and a brightly colored ribbon, cord, or rope is wound around their joined hands as a symbol of their agreement to spend their lives together. The ceremony was especially common in Ireland and Scotland because priests were not always available in each town to perform wedding ceremonies. Marriage was considered legally binding once the couple had performed the handfasting ceremony. 

Though the custom is considered to be a Celtic tradition, handfasting was originally practiced by the Greeks and Romans. A garland was created made of magnolia, elder and roses which was then wrapped around the couple’s wrists to signify love and fidelity. Variations on the theme have since been used in other countries as well. Today many couples choose handfasting to honor an Irish/Scottish heritage or if they really love the symbolism of the ritual. Even Prince William and Catherine incorporated handfasting in their royal wedding in 2011. 

To learn more about the tradition of handfasting visit

Elizabeth Ludwig is the award-winning author of the popular Edge of Freedom series. Her literary blog,
The Borrowed Book, enjoys a wide readership. Elizabeth is an accomplished speaker and teacher, often attending conferences and seminars where she lectures on editing for fiction writers, crafting effective novel proposals, and conducting successful editor/agent interviews. Along with her husband and children, she makes her home in the great state of Texas. To learn more, visit

Contact Elizabeth: HERE


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