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What it means to 'tie the knot'

What is meant by 'tying the knot' when someone marries

When people get married, we hear it said that they "tied the knot." That might sound like a strange expression for marriage, but there are some theories that might explain the reason people say a couple "tied the knot" when they got married. The expression has become so commonplace that people just know what it means without even caring about its origin. So this article is for those who care.

The most likely theory is that the phrase originates from the ancient wedding tradition of binding the hands together in the ceremony of “handfasting.” Some say handfasting dates back to Ancient Greece or Rome, but it was particularly prevalent in the Celtic tradition practiced in Ireland and Scotland in Medieval times.

Handfasting is an ancient Celtic custom in which a man and woman came together at the start of their marriage relationship. Their hands, or their wrists, were literally tied together. This practice gave way to the expression "tying the knot" which has come to mean getting married.

Handfasting was also the premise behind a handshake which involves “giving a pledge by joining hands” where the deal in this case is to get married. The joining of the hands as part of the ceremony may also be responsible for the phrase “taking your hand in marriage.”

After joining the hands, a ribbon or several ribbons are used to fasten the hands together, and the ribbons were tied in a knot. The tying of the hands together is symbolic of the couple coming together as one in a lasting, strong, unbreakable bond. In some practices, both the hands of the bride and groom are tied together in a figure eight that is the symbol for infinity.

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