A wedding officiant binds the bride and groom's hands with rope and leather
Photo Credit: Anna DeMarco

Are you contemplating tying the knot?  And…what are the origins of that phrase, anyway?  If you’re in the midst of planning a wedding, the saying is probably popping up everywhere! It’s such a prevalent phrase, it is practically synonymous with getting married.   But, what are its origins? “Tying the knot,” of course, means to get married, as well as performing an actual wedding ceremony, and this can be traced to literal and figurative historical roots.  We learned a little more about the history here from a brides.com piece published on 10/2/23.   The handfasting or hand-tying ceremony is an ancient Celtic ritual, whereby a couple’s hands are literally tied together using a ribbon or cord as a representation of two entities becoming one union.  The handfasting ceremony dates as far back as 7000 B.C. in ancient Ireland, when couples would have their hands fastened by a braided cord or ribbon while a priest was present, in order to solemnify their engagement (which would last about a year). In ancient Scottish tradition, couples were hand-tied to bind them together and symbolize an official union, even if they were unable to be married in a church.   Knots, in Celtic and other cultures, symbolize unity, so this ceremony symbolizes a marriage being tied to the couple for the rest of their lives.

Rob Murray, dressed in the Murray clan tartan and his bride, Amanda, in a white dress smile at each other with their hands tied together with a ribbon.
Photo credit Jennifer DiRusso

Many couples enjoy incorporating the handfasting ritual into their modern-day wedding ceremonies, especially those with Scottish or Celtic roots.  Rob and Amanda’s hand-tying ceremony proudly incorporated Rob’s Murray Clan tartan.  The families of the Moray or Murray Clan are descended from the 12th century Flemish lord Freskin, and his progeny adopted the surname “de Moravia” meaning ‘from Moray’ (the area of northeast Scotland where Freskin obtained land), so it was a lovely and powerful nod to Rob’s heritage to incorporate hand-tying, as well as his tartan.  The couple still has their “knot” tied and on display in their bedroom.  

Other couples with Scottish heritage have incorporated wearing their tartan, and the hand-tying ritual into their nuptials, as well.  Wearing tartan evokes feelings of  tradition and ancestry that are perfect for a wedding ceremony.  Did you know that even if you aren’t of Scottish heritage there are universal tartans that you can wear, too?

Do you love history and distinctive traditions?  Consider incorporating the ancient knot-tying ritual into your ceremony as a unique display of your devotion and unity.  The officiant could briefly explain the history and significance before inviting you to join hands, as a sign of your free will and desire to marry, and then use the actual tying ceremony in lieu of, or in addition to, vows.  

A wedding officiant ties the knot using ribbon and twine for a bride and groom at their wedding.
Photo Credit: Tom Couture

Or why not incorporate knots, and their special symbolism into your décor?  Knotted accents are an elegant and simple way to bring this tradition of tying the knot to your big day in a subtle way.  We love the knotted napkin Sarah and Andrew used as a focal point for their stunning, rustic elegant tablescapes at their wedding last Spring.  

Elegant place settings for Sarah and Andrew's wedding, including gold silverware, a dusty blue silk table cloth and a blue silk napkin, tied in a knot.
Photo Credit: Tara

Congratulations on tying the knot, and enjoy all that goes along with it, right down to the literal knot, itself!