“Tying the Knot”
It’s wedding season! No doubt you’ve been caught up in the excitement of a family member or friend’s matrimonial plans or maybe your dream walk down the aisle is only few weeks away. Whether it’s conventional or contemporary, afternoon or evening, courthouse or church-based, traditions will abound.
And as there are many ways to get married, there are just as many to describe the act: getting hitched, biting the dust, dropping anchor, settling down, or the more archaic, plighting one’s troth. My favorite, however, is tying the knot, because it’s steeped with tradition and storytelling options.
For writers, a wedding ceremony is usually an eminent part of the story and the more we can anchor our fiction with detailed history, the better the opportunity we have to immerse the reader in our tale.
I hope by now you’ll be a little curious. Was a woman literally tied to a man before we had shotguns to make sure a wedding ceremony took place?
Of course she was! Even though a forced union might seem cruel and crude, history and fiction are full of the arranged marriages. Knots have been used in wed
ding ceremonies for centuries, beginning with the tradition of trying the wrists of bride and groom together with twine. Binding the hands of the couple in public
to symbolize vows is believed to be an ancient, Pagan practice used before Christianity.
And because marriage ceremonies are steeped with tradition, we can find practices of handfasting that date back to the time of the ancient Celts still being used today, even by the modern royals like the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Derived from Old Norse, Hand-festa, means to strike a bargain by joining hands. The notion of a handshake comes from this tradition of a partnership. The original handfasting was described as a trial marriage, or like an engagement period, where two people would declare a binding union between themselves for a year and a day.
Tying the knot is also a tradition also associated with the marriage bed. For it took a series of knots of strung together to create a netting that would support a mattress. But of course, that was before the introduction of metal bed frames.
Something borrowed, something blue? A seventeenth century resource, The Encyclopedia of Superstitions, details how blue, knotted ribbons where stitched loosely onto the bride’s wedding gown so the guests could pluck them off at the wedding fest, then wear them as good luck charms.
But most importantly, the idea of a knot in many cultures symbolized lasting unity and unbreakable pledges. And isn’t that what most of romance stories are all about? Getting to the HEA, where the hero and heroine can plight their troth. Cheers to tying the knot!