The Wedding Band or Wedding Ring is symbolic of the unity of two people in marriage. The unbroken circle of the ring, without beginning or end, represents the eternal nature of the commitment being made. As a visual reminder of a promise of love and fidelity, the wedding band’s popularity has spanned continents and centuries, and continues to be an almost essential part of modern marriage ceremonies in countless cultures.
Celtic wedding bands derive from one of the most ancient cultures in history, dating back to the 1st Century BC, and covering the area of present day Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and even parts of France. With a history that extensive, it’s no wonder that Celtic wedding bands are so admired: the symbolism involved has been carried down through the centuries and speaks to a deep sense of the sacred within us. Because they are so sought after, Peter Stone has put great effort into providing a wide array of Celtic wedding bands to choose from, each of them beautiful in its own right, but all of them incorporating the elements of Celtic art and folklore, making them not only gorgeous, but deeply meaningful as well.
The Celtic Influence
Celtic wedding bands have been influenced by Christianity since the first missionaries explored the area in the 4th century BC, which makes for a powerful combination of wisdom and symbolism, and adds to their attractiveness. The Celtic Trinity Knot is a perfect example, whereby three entwined strands symbolize the Christian idea of the Holy Trinity.
The focus of Celtic influence on wedding bands is in the inclusion of the distinct and compelling Celtic Knotwork that is so prevalent in Celtic art. Representing eternity with endlessly interwoven patterns, this theme is particularly appropriate for a wedding band, since marriage, ideally, is intended to last forever.
The Claddagh is another popular design in Celtic wedding bands, as well as other Celtic jewelry. The design of the Claddagh was developed in Ireland over 300 years ago, and it’s meaning is derived directly from the elements which make up the distinctive design. The hands on either side denote friendship, while the heart they are holding represents love, and the crown perched atop the heart promises loyalty.
The Binding of the Hands
Although Celtic wedding bands are most certainly appropriate for traditional Christian weddings, they are also in great demand as elements handfasting rituals, as well.
Handfasting is a traditional ceremony of engagement or wedding that has been practiced in Europe since the 18th century. The term originated from the ancient custom of shaking hands over a contract, and was intended to be performed in front of witnesses to validate the marriage. In 1939, European authorities reformed their laws so that handfasting would no longer be recognized, but the practice has continued through modern times, most particularly within Pagan and Wiccan circles.
The marriage vows taken during a handfasting ceremony can be for “a year and a day,” “for all eternity,” or “for as long as love shall last.” The couple can legalize the ceremony by inviting a legally recognized minister to officiate, or by holding a separate civil ceremony, or they may choose to view the ceremony as a statement of private spiritual bonding and leave the legalities out of it. The ceremony itself is fluid, and handfastings are often individualized by the couples involved. Some choose to follow the traditional forms, while others introduce elements that have personal significance rather than historical roots.
Handfastings often center around binding the couples’ wrists together with cord (thus the modern slang, “tie the knot”), but many ceremonies also include the exchange of wedding bands. Others perform various traditional rituals such as jumping over a broomstick or a small fire, trading roses, lighting a unity candle, or the blessing of the hands. The ceremony can be conducted by the couple themselves, an ordained minister, or a spiritual leader such as a Chieftain, Priest, Priestess, or Shaman.
Handfasting and Celtic Wedding bands both hold great significance to those who believe deeply in the ancient traditions of old, allowing for a wedding ceremony that speaks to the soul within us.