The term "handfasting" or "hand-fasting" was in use in Wicca for "wedding ceremonies" from at least the late 1960s, apparently first used in print by Hans Holzer. It was popularised by the 1991 movie The Doors, depicting a 1970 "handfasting" of Jim Morrison and Patricia Kennealy (with the real Patricia Kennealy playing the Wiccan priestess), and the expression "handfasting" ceremony is found in newsgroup discussions from the early 1990s.
In Neopaganism, and particularly in Wicca, "handfasting" is a term used for a wedding ceremony. 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." As with many Neopagan rituals, some groups may use historically attested forms of the ceremony, striving to be as traditional as possible, while others may use only the basic idea of handfasting and largely create a new 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.
An example of a handfasting knot where each wedding guest has tied a ribbon around the clasped hands of the couple.
By the 2000s, the term "handfasting" has also come to be interpreted literally, as the symbolic act of tying a marrying couple's hands together with a ribbon (as opposed to referring to a supposedly "ancient" form of temporary marriage). Such a custom found in various traditions[clarification needed] (but as discussed above it is not the origin of the English term "handfasting" ). It has probably entered the English-speaking mainstream from Neopagan wedding ceremonies during the early 2000s; such a ceremony is described (and attributed to "pre-Christian times" in Mary Neasham, Handfasting: A Practical Guide (Green Magic, 2000, ISBN 9780954296315). Evidence that the term "handfasting" had been re-interpreted as describing this ceremony specifically is found in the later 2000s, e.g "handfasting—the blessed marriage rite in which the hands of you and your beloved are wrapped in ribbon as you 'tie the knot.'" By the 2010s, "handfasting ceremonies" were on offer by commercial wedding organizers and had mostly lost their Neopagan association (apart from occasional claims that attributes the ceremony to the "ancient Celts"). The term "handfasting ribbon" appears from about 2005.
An uncanonical, private, or (esp. in Scotland) probationary form of marriage
Now also: a form of marriage practised in neopaganism, Wicca, etc.
The sense of "probationary form of marriage" is recorded for 1541. Thomas Pennant in his A Tour in Scotland, and Voyage to the Hebrides 1772 explicitly records the custom as being "now obsolete".
^"handfasting, n." and "handfast, v." OED Online. November 2010. Oxford University Press. “Old Norse hand-festa to strike a bargain by joining hands, to pledge, betroth” The earliest cited English usage in connection with marital status is from a manuscript of c. 1200, when Mary is described as “handfast (to) a good man called Joseph”. “?c1200 Ormulum (Burchfield transcript) l. 2389 “Ȝho wass hanndfesst an god mann Þatt iosæp wass ȝehatenn.”
^"My wife and I were married by the handfasting ceremony, and it was most controversial." Hans Holzer, The Truth about Witchcraft (1969), p. 172; "Then I learned that the "special meeting" was, in effect, a wedding ceremony called "hand-fasting" in Wicca." Hans Holzer, Heather: confessions of a witch, Mason & Lipscomb, 1975, p. 101.
^rec.music.music "Jim Morrison was a vampire?", 21 July 1991; alt.sex.bestiality, 19 August 1993, alt.pagan 10 May 1993
^cover blurb of Kendra Vaughan Hovey, Passages Handfasting: A Pagan Guide to Commitment Rituals, Adams Media, 2007.
^Wendy Haynes, "Handfasting Ceremonies" (wendyhaynes.com), January 2010: " It was used to acknowledge the beginning of a trial period of a year and a day during which time a couple were literally bound together - hand fasted."