Many people are attracted to the idea of having a handfasting at their wedding. It was originally a pagan custom, so it predates Christianity, and is a lovely reminder that the custom of taking a partner for life is something that humans have done from time immemorial. Handfasting is the origin of the phrase ‘tying the knot’, which means ‘to get married’.
In the pagan ceremony seven cords are used along with seven vows. The original wording seems to me quite quaint and dated so I have adapted and modernized it. The couple in the photos here chose to use the traditional number of cords and used ribbons the colours of the rainbow. The nice thing about using 7 cords is that it is too difficult for me to manage to speak the words (holding my book) and tie the cords at the same time – so it is good to have a helper or helpers, and in the pictured example here the couple chose to have different family members come forward and tie a ribbon, thus giving their blessing to their union in a unique way. Some accompanied the tying with words of their own, or just let the gesture speak for itself. This was a very beautiful ritual, although it took some time.
For this reason many couples choose to have just one cord. You could still have someone to ‘help’ with this and it is a lovely way of acknowledging someone special and including them in the ceremony, for example, a godparent.
There is no right or wrong style of handfasting cord, and they can be as elaborate or simple as you want them to be. I have conducted a number of handfastings now and people are very different in their choice of cords / materials. It really comes down to what seems best to represent your style, or just what is easiest for you, and people use strips of tartan, ribbons, or decorative trims (of the type you would use to make curtain tie-backs). The picture here shows some particularly nice handmade ones I found on Offbeat Bride.Com along with instructions as to how to make them. You can see that ribbons have been braided and then beads, tassels and charms attached. This way you have something lasting and decorative that you could display somewhere, maybe hanging on the wall, or just resting over a door or wardrobe handle.
Your cord or cords should be long enough to loop over both your arms/wrists two or three times as well as being able to make the knots, so about 3-4 ft.
Perhaps it is important for me to mention here that I myself am not a pagan celebrant as such, but I am offering this style of ceremony as one amongst the many other options you can choose from.