Posted by Word Camel on April 29, 2003
In Reply to: Hand in marriage posted by Woodchuck on April 28, 2003
: : Apology for double posting another question on the same subject, but a friend of mine is getting married next week and has been asking the origins of certain marriage rituals and sayings. To give one's hand in marriage is a commonly used phrase, but can anyone help with the origin?
: I believe it's in reference to the old Celtic handfasting ritual.
From Brewers Dictionary of Phrase and Fable
A sort of marriage. A fair was at one time held in Dumfriesshire, at which a young man was allowed to pick out a female companion to live with him. They lived together for twelve months, and if they both liked the arrangement were man and wife. This was called hand-fasting or hand-fastening. 1
This sort of contract was common among the Romans and Jews, and is not unusual in the East even now. 2
"'Knowest thou not that rite, holy man?' said A venel . .; 'then I will tell thee. We bordermen . . take our wives for a year and a day; that space gone by, each may choose another mate, or, at their pleasure, [they] may call the priest to marry them for life, and this we call handfasting.'"-Sir W. Scott: The Monastery, chap. xxv.