Many of our customers here at ScotlandShop.com are looking to add a touch of tartan to their wedding day in order to pay homage to their heritage on their special day. Some customers opt for cufflinks, others go for garters while others decide that a pair of tartan shoes in their clan’s colours is the way to go – and why not? It certainly makes a statement! However, the product flying off the shelves the fastest – faster, in fact, than our seamstress can sew them – is the hand-fasting ribbon.
What is Handfasting?
Handfasting, nowadays, is the name given to a marriage ceremony whereby the hand of the groom is bound to the hand of the bride. There are many different ways that this is carried out but ultimately the ceremony exists to symbolise the joining together of two lives. If any of you have seen the film Braveheart, and I’m assuming that most of you have as you’re reading a blog on ScotlandShop.com, then you will have seen a handfasting ceremony – even if you didn’t know that’s what you were witnessing. In the movie, Mel Gibson’s William Wallace participates in a Handfasting ceremony with Catherine McCormack’s Murron MacClannough before she is brutally murdered by English Soldiers.
Handfasting in History
Like most other aspects of the film Braveheart, it seems to me that the handfasting ceremony it portrays is similarly unrealistic. Braveheart is set in the late 13th century until – SPOILER ALERT – Wallace’s death in 1305; however, the earliest record of handfasting I can find in Scotland is from the 17th century. Furthermore, the handfasting mentioned in these early records is not a marriage but more of an engagement – in fact, in Old English, handfast was a verb meaning to make a formal promise. The handfasting ceremony allowed a marriage to be road tested for a year and a day before it became official, but, if the woman displeased the man within that time, he could send her back to her parents. Handfasting, on the face of it was a way for men to have their cake and eat it and as such the rights were curtailed and men who were thought to have abused the right were punished. In recent years, handfasting has moved away from being an engagement ceremony to becoming a part of the marriage itself.
The rise in popularity of Handfasting ceremonies could be because of the fact that they have no overt religious connotations – they are sometimes described as pagan or pre-christian but I can find no evidence to support that – and as such, they can fit into any wedding. Another reason for the cermony’s popularity could be that, aside from it being a public declaration of joining yourself to another, it is also fully customisable. If you want to tie the knot (some say that handfasting is where we get this phrase) with sparkly pink ribbon or with a piece of the Bayeux Tapestry, you can! Of course, a very popular choice is to use a ribbon made of your family tartan or a double-faced ribbon with the tartan of two families to be joined together. Whatever you chose, your ribbon should be around two inches wide by 50 inches long and ideally they should be hemmed to stop the ribbon fraying. If you want to make your on handfasting ribbon, you can order fabric from us here (minimum order of 0.3m), or if you want to save yourself the hassle you can buy the perfect sized ribbon here (our handfasting ribbons are available in well over 400 tartans).
If you fancy binding your hand to your beloved’s and intend to do so with a tartan ribbon, I think you are making a great choice. If you do make this great choice with one of our ribbons, or a ribbon you have made yourself using out fabric, please do send us a picture or two.