‘Tying the Knot’ or to ‘tie the knot’ is a saying synonymous with getting married to day, but where does it come from? It’s funny thinking about these types of saying we use on a daily basis, not really knowing where they originate from, but gleefully use them without thinking about what they really mean. In the case of ‘Tying the Knot’ however it’s no where near as dark as the origin of the tradition of having a Best Man, it’s actually quite nice 🙂 I was thinking about the origin of the saying as I have just become engaged myself, and we announced it on Facebook using an image we produced together of a tied knot in between our hands.
Origin of the saying ‘Tying the knot’
In the US, the saying ‘let’s get hitched’ refers to the practice of ‘hitching’ up your horse as you go to town, or tying a knot in a rope to keep your horse from trotting away. In the same vein the idea was that ‘getting hitched’ was tying a knot between the two newly weds, or in some people’s minds, tying a lady down like a horse so she wouldn’t get away. Because of this, the saying ‘Tying the knot’ is commonly, incorrectly attributed to this practice.
The term ‘Tie the Knot’ came from an earlier time, during the Renaissance in a ceremony called “Handfasting”. ‘Handfast’ and its variations are defined in the Oxford English dictionary as “to make a contract (of marriage) between parties by joining of hands.” Kind of like a handshake. This could also be interpreted today as a proposal of marriage for a specific period of time, traditionally a year and a day. the notion of marriage by the way has not always been an eternal one, with marriages in the past being made for “a year and a day,” “a lifetime”, “for all of eternity” or “for as long as love shall last” depending on your vows.
The old way in Great Britain for couples to pledge their betrothal was for them to join hands, his right to her right, his left to her left, so from above they looked like an infinity symbol. ‘Handfastings’, which is an ancient word for ‘wedding’ were traditional before weddings became a legal function of governments or formal religions in the early 1500’s. The very word ‘Handfasting’ derived its origin from the custom of tying the the bride and groom’s hands and wrists together. In this period of time, it’s actually quite interesting to note that during the traditional period of time for a wedding of ‘a year and a day’ or 13 moon cycles, the bride was referred to as a Virgin, or ‘a woman not owned by a man’. It was after this period of time that, if the marriage survived that long, longer vows could be taken.
So there you go! Another wedding history tidbit from my research of the history of the modern wedding!