How to Make a Handfast Ceremony Knot

Updated November 21, 2016

Handfasting or "tying the knot" is an ancient tradition dating from Celtic times. Today, a revival of the old Celtic traditions has resulted in a variety of handfasting norms and recommendations. Ribbon or cording can be used, from one strand up to 13, and in various colours or colour combinations as desired by the bride and groom. Natural fibre such as silk or cotton is preferred. Handfasting can be used in a pre-wedding ceremony or as a part of a traditional wedding.

Make the cords or ribbons 9 feet long or 3 meters. The numbers nine and three are symbolic in Celtic handfasting ceremonies.

Group the cords or ribbons together and tie them in a square knot, a Josephine knot or a pretzel knot. Directions for a square knot follow.

Wrap the two ends of the cording right over left into a twist like you would when you begin to tie a shoe. Then wrap the ends left over right. Pull the ends until the knot is even and snug. Do not tighten the knot, but leave it loose enough to demonstrate the figure-eight appearance.

Follow website directions for details regarding the pretzel knot or the Josephine knot as they can be quite difficult to make.

Braid a section of the cords, leaving the remainder loose.

Wrap the couple's hands in a figure-eight configuration, encircling one wrist, crossing the cords and wrapping the other wrist. You can either wrap both right wrists, right wrist to left wrist, or have the couple face each other and wrap right-to-left and left-to-right. The figure eight is symbolic of eternity.

Give the cords to the officiant after the ceremony. The officiant is responsible for braiding the loose cords, attaching symbolic bells and charms and returning the handfasting cords to the couple as a keepsake.


Some ceremonies simply have a single square knot tied during the ceremony. Others may have up to 13 people come up with different coloured cords or ribbons and each person ties their cord in a square knot around the couple's hands. Others have the pre-knotted and braided cords wrapped around the couple's hands as explained above.


Do not tie a handfasting cord tightly. Cutting off circulation during a wedding or engagement ceremony could be hazardous.

Things You'll Need

  • Coloured cord(s) or ribbon(s) in colours chosen by the couple
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