A Unity Ceremony or Unity Ritual can make an impressive addition to any wedding, and bring something different to simply listening to your officiant speak. Here is a list of some of the ideas you might use to make your moment even more special.
There is no strict rule as to where unity rituals should take place in the ceremony, but typically it is placed right after the exchange of vows and rings.
Although the Unity Candle has somewhat gained a reputation as the classic unity ceremony, it is actually a relatively new tradition. It has declined in popularity somewhat in recent times as many venues have fire regulations prohibiting open flames and for outdoor ceremonies it is often impractical.
The unity candle ceremony uses two taper candles with a large pillar candle in the center. At the beginning of the wedding ceremony, a representative from each family (usually the mothers of the bride and groom) light the two taper candles. Later in the ceremony (usually after the vows), the bride and groom use the two taper candles to light the large pillar candle together.
Often a unity candle is decorated with the wedding invitation, an inscription, a picture of the couple, or other ornamentation. The candles are almost always white. The lighting ceremony may be accompanied by special music. The couple may choose to save the unity candle and relight it on anniversaries.
Sand ceremonies have become increasingly popular in recent years, especially in coastal areas.
Typically, each person has different colored sand and takes turns pouring it into one clear vessel, forming a layered effect. Complete sets for these are available widely online and in craft shops. The receiving vessel makes a very nice ornamental keepsake.
Family Sand Ceremony
Although most sand ceremonies involve just the bride and groom, it can be nice to involve other family members, especially where one or both of the couple bring children with them to the marriage. It can be a great way to make kids feel included to be given their own special color of sand which they then add to the blend.
Beach Sand Ceremonies
On a beach, where sand is of course plentiful, there are other variations. Each of the couple can scoop sand from the ground beneath the others feet and this can then be mingled in a bowl or simply allowed to pour through the others upturned hands.
In this variation the sands are poured into an hourglass which is then sealed and kept and turned once a year on the anniversary of the wedding.
Hometown Earth Ceremony
For a special celebration of the mingling of two histories it is possible to obtain samples of earth from each partner’s hometown and mingle these instead of sand.
A ceremony which can be symbolic of many things in many ways. Simply by virtue of having roots and being inclined to growth, plants in general, make excellent metaphors for marriage when couples wish to honor their families of origin yet look towards their future together. Flower blossoms evoke images of beauty, joy, potential, and fertility. This is also a great opportunity to involve parents or children in the ceremony. The color and type of flower can be chosen to represent or amplify many themes relevant to weddings and marriage.
Lei / Garland Ceremony
The Lei exchange ceremony has it’s roots in Hawaiian culture while the giving of garlands has a strong tradition in India. In a modern secular ceremony the garlands can be exchanged at any time from the start to the close of the ceremony. Additionally they can be presented to or by parents or children. The choice of colors can be symbolic or simply designed to blend in with those used across the day in general.
The ceremonial tying of knots is another addition which has become very popular in recent years and can be performed in a variety of ways. Traditionally, the marriage knot is secured at the end of the ceremony to symbolize the couple’s final pledge to bind their lives together.
There are many ways to perform a handfasting ceremony. The number of cords used can vary, as can the color and these can be used to symbolize any number of things as you wish. In a handfasting the cords are draped rather than tied. Typically a couple will take turns draping the cords while repeating vows or while listening to statements given by the officiant. As you can see this is an incredibly versatile addition to any wedding.
This is a wonderful adaptation of the knot tying ceremony which is highly symbolic and gives the couple something both beautiful and fascinating to do, usually towards the end of the ceremony. For those unfamiliar with this knot here is a helpful video. It is easy to see how this could be adapted for two people. Perhaps more than any other type of knot ceremony this one demands that the couple practice the ceremony beforehand, but that in itself can be fun!
Tying of the Braid
Tying a braid once again represents the joining of lives. Some can interpret the use of three cords as having religious symbolism but this could be a beautiful addition where one or more children are also coming together as a new family. The colors of cord you use could be symbolic or chosen to blend in with the theme of the day. The braid could then be hung in the home as a keepsake.
Typically a table is set out with a bottle of wine or a decanted carafe of wine chosen to suit the couple. Sometimes the officiant will pour the wine for the couple (often they have the steadiest hand) and sometimes the couple will pour a glass for each other and exchange these.
On occasion the couple may want to pour two different wines into one goblet for them both to drink from. In this case it is important to choose wines which will blend well.
Wine and Chocolate Ceremony
A variation of the wine ceremony also adds chocolate as something the couple choose to share. The idea is to represent both the sour and the sweet moments that we encounter in life and to show that whichever of these may come, from this point forward they will always be faced together.
A beautiful idea that has really taken off, the couple seal letters to each other along with perhaps a bottle of something special and a copy of their vows inside a container and seal it. The idea is that at a later date, perhaps in a few years or maybe at a time of crisis the box is opened and they can relive the memories and emotions of the day once again. I have written a separate post on this idea which you can read here.
Much like a liquid version of the sand ceremony, the idea is that waters of two different colors are mingled together to create a new color, much as the blending of two loves will create something new.
A different variation is for each to sprinkle water from a bowl over the others hands, representing the gift of a clean start to life, as well as trust and support. In some cases this could be done by parents or other family members.
Bread Breaking Ceremony
This idea stems from an eastern European tradition where each of the couple take a bite from the bread and the one who manages the biggest becomes the “leader” of the household. Of course you don’t need the competition element, and bread broken and offered can be symbolic of anything from the joining of two families (particularly if the mothers baked the bread) to the founding of a new home.
The custom of the giving of wedding coins originated in Spain. Thirteen gold coins (arras) are given to the bride by the bridegroom, signifying his willingness to support her. Often presented in ornate boxes or gift trays, this represents the brides dowry and holds good wishes for prosperity.
Of course coins or tokens can be exchanged either way or perhaps brought together collectively to symbolize the joining of two incomes into one.
Jumping the broom is a time-honored wedding tradition that has African American roots in which the bride and groom jump over a broom during the ceremony. The act symbolizes a new beginning and a sweeping away of the past, and can also signify the joining of two families or offer a respectful nod to family ancestors. Generally taking place at the end of the wedding the couple can jump the broom together or separately as the officiant explains it’s meaning. The broom itself can be beautifully ornamental and afterwards kept as a keepsake of the day.
During the reading of the Bride and Groom’s wedding vows, they hold an Oathing Stone in their hands. It is believed that holding the stone during the reading of the vows casts them into the stone. In a more modern version, the Oathing Stone can be engraved with the couple’s initials and date of their wedding. The source of an oathing stone, what minerals are in it, it’s color, or other characteristics are less important than what is said over the stone. After the wedding the stone can be kept as an ornament or keepsake.
Here the couple are presented with a bell during the ceremony which they can give a symbolic ring. The idea is that they will take this with them into marred life and, should an argument occur, one can ring the bell to call a truce and reconciliation. Other objects can be used instead of a bell, the idea being that whatever it is can be used to recall the wonderful feelings they shared that day and use these to lighten any difficult moments or situations to come.
Although they have their roots mostly in Jewish traditions, circling ceremonies have a huge variety and can symbolize many things. Circling each other can symbolize protection or creating a new family unit. It has become very common for each of the couple to circle the other three times, often accompanied by words of explanation spoken by the officiant or vows or oaths spoken by the couple. One variation can be for the couple to give questions and responses as the circle the other.
The Seven Steps Ceremony
From Hindu tradition this ceremony involves the bride and groom taking seven steps in a circle, often around a fire or other symbolic object, where each step symbolizes a hope for the future. A modern version of the seven steps:
1. May this couple be blessed with an abundance of resources and comforts, and be helpful to one another in all ways.
2. May this couple be strong and complement one another.
3. May this couple be blessed with prosperity and riches on all levels.
4. May this couple be eternally happy.
5. May this couple be blessed with a happy family life.
6. May this couple live in perfect harmony… true to their personal values and their joint promises.
7. May this couple always be the best of friends.
In some ways this is very like the sand ceremony. Each of the couple brings a container of salt and pours a few grains into the other, or a larger container. The idea is that the couple are joined until the day one is able to separate their own grains from the other.
Indian Salt Ceremony
Indian weddings often include a Salt Ceremony, where the bride passes a handful of salt to her groom without spilling any. He then passes it back to her and the exchange is repeated three times. This symbolizes many ideas such as trust and sharing.
Tree Planting Ceremony
The unity tree planting ceremony can be used to symbolize the joining together of two individuals or the joining of two families. This is especially good for couples who feel a special bonding with nature. You set up a separate table. On this table you would have a potted tree/sapling, something perhaps with special meaning to the couple or taken from a special place. You would also have two small containers of dirt, two gardening trowels as well as a small watering can placed on the table. If you choose to have the ceremony symbolize the joining together of both family’s then upon the entrance of the mothers, each mother goes to the table and scoops in a small amount of dirt. After the ceremony, the couple plants the tree in at their home or a special location to symbolize the putting down of roots, longevity and strengths in their marriage.
A blank canvas represents a new beginning. During the ceremony the couple could pour or daub different colors on the canvas, symbolically mingling concepts or ideas. This is a particularly fun ceremony for couples with an artistic inclination. Bear in mind that this can be a messy ceremony to perform and is perhaps best attempted outdoors. After the wedding the picture makes a nice artistic keepsake.
You don’t have to be a nerd to enjoy watching the volcano at the science fair. Here a couple get to bring a little science into their wedding.
Enough of my talking. Here is a video showing how its done!