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  • Writer's pictureHardingstone Ceremonies

To Knot or not to Knot…

Handtying © Red N Dead Photography

Throughout my career as a teacher I have valued opportunities to learn more, to update my thinking or pedagogy; my students will remember my enthusiasm for attending Dr Peter Vardy’s A Level conferences!  As I embark on my new career as a celebrant, I remain committed to developing my skills.  I was lucky enough to train with Veronika and Paul Robinson of Heart-led Celebrant Training; the training was thorough, demanding and deeply fulfilling.  I completed my celebrancy training ready to serve individuals, couples and families with care, authenticity, and integrity. (For further information read my earlier blog).  I am, however, deeply conscious of continuing to learn about my craft, to develop my skills and to learn from other experts in my field.

Handfasting ceremony
Handfasting ceremony © Hannah Michael

In the spirit of continuing learning, I was delighted to attend, what I hope will be, the first of many celebrant retreats in Glassonby, Cumbria.  This particular retreat was focused on Handfasting ceremonies and Handtying rituals, both hugely popular elements of many celebrant led bonding ceremonies.  Through a variety of practical workshops, demonstrations and witnessing two varieties of a handfasting ceremony, attendees learnt about the history, spiritual significance and delivery of these ceremonies.  Handfasting ceremonies are a part of many cultures including pre-Christian, Biblical  and modern times.  In the Bible there is reference to the “threefold cord” whilst handfasting is an essential part of both Pagan and Wiccan traditions and was popular throughout Celtic communities. In times past it represented a legally binding betrothal or engagement and today it remains a popular ceremony to represent weddings and unions. Handtying on the other hand, refers to a specific ritual which takes place within a range of ceremonies.  Many couples today choose to include some kind of handtying or ribbon tying ritual within their marriage or vow renewal ceremony.  It is a beautiful way to represent the joining of two people or two families and makes for wonderful photographs!

The opportunity to practise the actual tying of ribbons and cords in a variety of ways, along with the mechanisms of moving from hands interlocked to hands held for walking out of the ceremony together was absolutely invaluable.  Veronika Robinson and Jacqui Harding shared their tips from years of experience for making bonding cords, ensuring they look neat and stay in place during the rituals as well as offering inspiration for writing about the wide variety of symbolism and significance they can hold. I left with a deeply enhanced knowledge and understanding of both ceremony and ritual.

Handtying © Red N Dead Photography

In addition to my increased expertise, I also gained something more unexpected but just as invaluable - friendship.  We arrived on Friday afternoon as strangers but the atmosphere of mutual support and sincere cooperation was evident from the first moment.  From our trainers to fellow celebrants, from the couples who kindly allowed us to witness their beautiful vow renewals, to Nic the photographer whose skills captured the moments so perfectly; everyone was open, kind and accepting.  By Sunday afternoon the friendship was tangible and I am quite sure these new connections will grow ever deeper as time passes.

Ribbon tying at Handfasting ceremony
Ribbon tying © Camilla Reynolds Photography

I already believed in the value of Continuing Professional Development but am deeply indebted to everyone for confirming it to me so powerfully.  I already believed cooperation to be more important than competition between celebrants but am delighted to see the sentiment shared so vividly by others.

By Catrina Young, Leicestershire Heart-led celebrant, Marking Life’s Moments.

© Hardingstone Ceremonies, March 2024

Thanks to:

Veronika and Paul Robinson - Heart-led Celebrant Training

Jacqui Harding - Ceremony by Design

My fellow attendees, and K & C.

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