Handfasting is a betrothal or wedding ritual in which the couple’s clasped hands are tied together by a cord or ribbon — hence the phrase tying the knot. The tying of the hands may be done by the officiant of the ceremony, by the wedding guests, or by the couple themselves.
In some modern Neopagan groups, the ceremony has been reinterpreted to be a spiritual marriage, whether on a trial basis or as a permanent (even eternal) bond.
The marriage vows taken may be for a year and a day, a lifetime, for all of eternity or for as long as love shall last. Whether the ceremony is legal, or a private spiritual commitment, is up to the couple. As many different traditions of Neopaganism use some variation on the handfasting ceremony, there is no universal ritual form that is followed, and the elements included are generally up to the couple being handfasted. In cases where the couple belong to a specific religious or cultural tradition, there may be a specific form of the ritual used by all or most members of that particular tradition. The couple may conduct the ceremony themselves or may have an officiant perform the ceremony. In some traditions, the couple may jump over a broom at the end of the ceremony. Some may instead leap over a small fire together. Today, some couples opt for a handfasting ceremony in place of, or incorporated into, their public wedding. As summer is the traditional time for handfastings, they are often held outdoors.
A corresponding divorce ceremony called a handparting is sometimes practiced, though this is also a modern innovation. In a Wiccan handparting, the couple may jump backwards over the broom before parting hands.