Since there has been an increase in cross-cultural dating, many of these types of relationships are leading to marriages. In the past, some religions and ethnicities have forbidden such a marriage, and even today some areas of the world still practice this and the policy of arranged marriages also. Now, the biggest issue regarding tying the knot is what to include in the ceremony. Some celebrations featuring two religions have features from both religions included, and the same goes for two ethnicities marrying each other. Sometimes a couple chooses to forgo the ceremony and just be joined legally. Elopement is still a popular practice. But one of the more interesting ways of tying the knot in modern times concerns a handfasting ceremony.
Handfasting is tied to the Pagan religion, but is not practiced exclusively by those of the Pagan religion. Paganism is a type of nature based religion, unlike others that are faith-based. A handfasting ceremony differs in many ways from tying the knot in traditional ways. A handfasting ceremony can refer to either the type of union where a couple has their ceremony and that is all, or more typically, the time period of a year and a day, at which time they can decide if they wish to renew their vows or part ways. In some ways this can be advantageous; instead of a messy divorce, just wait a few months and not renew vows. The disadvantage would be the constant renewal, especially if the couple deals with very hectic schedules.
Handfasting bucks traditional weddings in other ways. Handfasting can be done for same-sex couples and for groups of three or more, who wish to be united but cannot do so by traditional and legal marriage standards. Handfasting can be done by couples who have differing religions as a neutral type of ceremony. Some couples have a regular wedding but incorporate the ceremony into their celebration. Handfasting is mostly about a celebration of love and being united by love. It has some similarities to the Renaissance wedding practices of centuries ago, and can be linked with ancient Celtic and Irish ceremonies. Also, another unusual feature is a union that is "so long as the love shall last," not the traditional "until death."
The ceremony has many similarities to that of the traditional wedding. There are the people who are being joined, two or more people to be witnesses, and the Celebrant, who is similar to a priest or other authority who has the capacity to conduct a marriage ceremony. A small table filled with props holds a candle, a white cord, some small bowls, and a broom. The words spoken during the ritual are of the same nature as what is spoken at a traditional religious ceremony. The cord is used to tie hands together and symbolize the bond of love. The broom symbolizes the joining of equals and is used at the conclusion of the ceremony. Instead of the traditional wedding, the couple will pledge their love several times instead of just one simple "I do."
Handfasting literally means the binding of hands with cord, or in essence "tying the knot." This is most likely where the term came from. The term came into use regarding the shaking of hands over an agreement. A handfasting ceremony is more than just an agreement. It is probably a more appropriate type of wedding for modern times where love is united for as long as the love shall last, renewed yearly, and can be as specialized as the couple or group involved wishes it to be. Also, a handfasting is inclusive of anyone who chooses it, and does not exclude anyone based on religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Handfasting is becoming increasingly popular for many reasons, and should be considered by all couples either as an addition to their celebration or as the celebration itself.