HANDFASTING (A.S. handfceslnung, pledging one's hand), primarily the O. Eng. synonym for betrothal (<?..), and later a peculiar form of temporary marriage at one time common in Scotland, the only necessary ceremony being the verbal pledge of the couple while holding hands. The pair thus handfasted were, in accordance with Scotch law, entitled to live together for a year and a day. If then they so wished, the temporary marriage could be made permanent; if not, they could go their several ways without reproach, the child, if any, being supported by the party who objected to further cohabitation.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)