Handfast Marriage Law and Legal Definition

A handfast marriage lacks only solemnization by clergy and is characterized by the couple's joining of hands to conclude a marriage contract. A handfast marriage is a betrothal with all the binding effects of a marriage, including conjugal rights and cohabitation, and followed by a later formal marriage. This is a kind of trial or probationary marriage wherein the couple agrees to cohabit and behave as spouses. The agreement to cohabit is for a definite period, usually for one year, at the end of which they will mutually decide to separate or go through a permanently binding ceremony. The legal status of such a trial marriage is unsettled. However, the couple intends to remain free to end the relationship without legal proceedings. A handfast marriage is also known as handfasting.