This period of engagement would typically run the length of a full year, during which the couple were encouraged to cohabitate together (and consummate the relationship).
It was a public declaration of intent to marry, signaling to potential suitors that the woman was intended to her betrothed and not to be harassed.
THE CHORD Hand-fasting involves the part that is actually tied into a knot — called the “chord.” Traditionally it was made of rope or dyed cloth, embroidered if the skill and money afforded it.
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AFTER THE CEREMONY Usually the hand-fast chord is left tied to the couple; they are encouraged to slip it off with most of it still tied if possible.
Some couples place it around their unity candle (if using) while others simply bring it home and frame it or place in a keepsake box.
From our vow renewal chord, we used 3 ribbons; I plan to give one to each of my children when they get married to use as part of their own hand-fast chord.