History of Handfasting
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. Done in front of witnesses, this made them officially "married" for a year and a day, following which they could renew permanently or for another year and a day. This was called "handfasting" and was used extensively in the rural areas where priests and ministers didn't go all that often. Sharing a cup and pledging their betrothal in front of witnesses used to accomplish the same thing (usually done in taverns) but was eventually outlawed in most of Europe. In fact, the reference I got that from mentioned only Switzerland because that country was one of the last to stop recognizing it as a legal marriage. Handfastings (ancient word for weddings) were traditional before weddings became a legal function of the government or a papal responsibility taken over by the formal religions in the early 1500's. The very word Handfasting derived its origin from the wedding custom of tying (or hitching; see section below) the bride and groom's hands (actually their wrists, not hands) together, as a symbol to their clan, tribe or village of their decision to be bound together in family living. The traditional length of time was a year and a day, or 13 moon cycles. If the marriage proved to last over this period of time, then the vows would be renewed for a lifetime or they renewed them for "as long as love shall last". Often during this (trial) period of time the bride would be referred to as a Virgin, or 'a woman not owned by a man'. The wedding would be best arranged during the time of the new moon, for the new moon symbolizes new beginnings, the beginning of a new cycle and also looks like the Moon Goddess smiling down on them in the night sky.