Saturday, March 19, 2011


A special guest post written by Niamh Dempsey Trua

A handfasting is the making of a contract of marriage in which the hands of the marrying couple are bound together using a cord. It is an old Celtic custom still practiced widely in alternative, often outdoor, ceremonies. Indeed it is the origin of the phrase ‘tying the knot.’ In Ireland the Crios, (pronounced “kriss”) a traditional woven woollen belt, made especially for the occasion, is used as a handfasting cord.

 Handfasting using a colourful cord, especially woven for the occasion is a truly lovely, symbolic addition to a marriage ceremony. Essentially the tying of the hands is, in and of itself, non-religious but can be used in a religious setting, being a striking visual symbol of their union, showing all present the joining together of a couple in a unique and beautiful way.

Thanks to Anna Scully for this lovely photo of her handfasting

I first learned to weave a crios six years ago when I worked as a costume maker for the theatre in Dublin. I have always had a love of wool and I enjoy the weaving process immensely. Since my own handfasting ceremony in August 2008 I have specialised in weaving them for couples getting married. I realised that there was an opportunity to provide a unique service when the man who performed the ceremony for us, Celtic Monk, Dara Molloy informed me that he could no longer source the traditional crios. Dara lives on
Inis Mór, the largest of the Aran Islands off Co. Galway, the last stronghold of the crios-making tradition.  There was nobody on the Island still making them for sale.

I now provide a custom order service in which I work with the colours chosen by the couple to be married. I really enjoy weaving colours that have a symbolic meaning for the couple, and seeing their colour combinations come to life. Often they will choose colours that represent themselves in some way, like the colours of their national flags interwoven.

Here is a crios I made recently which weaves together the colours of the Irish and Australian flags.

Alternatively, it could be colours that represent something the couple value, like the balance between the masculine and the feminine, or colours that represent the sun, moon and stars. Traditionally a crios has six colours with undyed cream-coloured báinín (pronounced "bawneen") wool as the weft.

This crios represents  the four elements.

I feel very privileged to be involved in this traditional craft and to help keep it alive and relevant today.  It’s rewarding and exciting to play a small part in the preparations for a wedding, and of course it’s wonderful to have lovebirds for customers!!

For more about Niamh and her work, visit her website here.


  1. Annie, lovely post and what a lovely tradition!! xo

  2. Yes, I agree. You know that if I had heard of this, I would have incorporated it into my wedding ceremony. I'm so glad to have made the acquaintance of Niamh and learned of what she is doing. Add this to the list of uses for a good woven strap!

  3. Such a beautiful tradition and so interesting to know the origin of "tying the knot".

  4. I love the idea of this!

    I hadn't heard of it before ...but there is also something similar in the Sikh/Indian tradition, where an elaborate cord is used by girls to put around their brothers' wrists as a token of love and sibling bonding...

    Thanks for the story...

    ...I too am glad that a tradition is being kept alive...

  5. Lovely post and what a beautiful way to present the history of handfasting.

  6. It is such a lovely tradition and great to see it kept alive.

  7. Hey Annie, I recently wove a crios for a couple who were coming to Ireland from the States for a renewal of vows ceremony. It's never too late!
    And a great excuse for a party too...

  8. Great idea! Well, I like the idea of renewing vows ceremony and of coming to Ireland.

  9. Love your posts.

    Catherine, Westmeath, Ireland