A wedding ceremony celebrates your journey toward love, your reasons for choosing each other and your visions for the future. It is a formal way to commemorate the uniqueness of your relationship in a personal way. By celebrating all that has brought the two of you together, your wedding becomes an unforgettable experience. A marriage ceremony is a ritual which honours your incredible union and through sub-ceremonies, rituals and symbolism, you can express your personalities and religious or cultural beliefs.
The following are some examples of rituals and symbols that may be incorporated into your wedding ceremony. These can be done in addition to or as an alternative to exchanging wedding rings. You may also have some ideas of your own.
Unity Sand Ceremony
This beautiful ceremony symbolizes the inseparable nature of two individuals joined in marriage. In the beginning, a handful of sand would be thrown into the wind by the Bride and the Groom symbolizing the coming together into the bond of marriage that was impossible to separate. Today, the Bride and the Groom each select a separate container of coloured sand and pour them into one, symbolizing the blending of their lives together. This beautiful and commemorative container then becomes a precious keepsake for the couple reminding them of their union into marriage. The symbolic Sand Ceremony can also be featured into a ceremony symbolizing the blending of families by giving various colours of sand to the children of the couple or to family members and friends who can also add a special wish or blessing for the couple as the sands are poured. This contributes a part of each individual person into one committed blended family creating a colourful symbol of unity. Just as the grains of sand can never be separated and poured again into the individual containers, so will become the bond of the new united family.
Unity Cup Ceremony
The Unity Cup ritual symbolizes the union that exists between a man and a woman entering into marriage. This is a tradition where the bride and groom both drink from their individual cups and pour the remainder of their wine into the Unity Cup. The cup of wine is symbolic of the cup of life. As the Bride and Groom share this wine, they promise to share all that the future will bring. They drink three times from the same cup. The first is a drink to friendship, the second to commitment of love and the third represents the unity of spirit. The sweetness of the wine is symbolic of happiness, joy, hope, peace, love and delight whilst the bitterness is symbolic of disappointment, sorrow, grief, despair, and life’s trials and tribulations. These properties together represent the couple’s lifelong journey and all its encounters.
Unity Candle ceremony
This ceremony can be performed in many different ways. One of the most popular is when the bride’s parents light one candle, followed by the groom’s parents lighting another. Together, the bride and groom using these two candles light a third larger candle of their own symbolizing the joining of two lives into one and the creation of a new family. This ritual represents the joining of two families in a love that burns as brightly as one flame signifying one family.
On each wedding anniversary this candle can be relit to commemorate your ceremony and honour your continuing commitment of the love you share.
Unity Bowl Ceremony
The Unity Bowl Ceremony signifies and honours the influence from past to present generations on the lives and characters of the Bride and Groom. It’s also a delightful way for the Bride and Groom to include and recognize their children. The couple choose a special bowl that will have a prominent place in their home serving as a memento of their wedding. People with significant ties to the couple, for example, grandparents, parents, siblings, or through other close ties such as godparents, step-parents or guardians are given small bags filled with coloured marbles or stones. Each bag holds a colour that is unique to that person. The stones or marbles are placed into the bowl representing the foundation of the family and the wedding itself. Once all the stones have been added, the celebrant blends the colours followed by the couple adding their own stones. This is a wonderful way of allowing the children to express their individuality by choosing their own colour and that once they are in the bowl they are part of the blended family without the loss of their individualism.
This ceremony originated in Great Britain during pagan times as part of the early Celtic and later Scots and Welsh marriages. The bride and groom would bind their hands together with a rope, ribbon or cord, symbolizing the joining of their lives. The wrapping and “tying of the knot” in the ribbon or cord forms an infinity symbol representing oneness between the couple. This is where the expression “tying the knot” came from. Handfasting was legally binding as soon as the couple made their vows to each other. This declared them validly married and the union could only be dissolved by death. Today, many couples do this immediately before or after the exchange of rings.
The Hand Ceremony is a simple yet poignant ritual. The couple holds each other’s hands with their palms up so that they may see and acknowledge the gift that they are to each other. These palms symbolically represent all the trials and tribulations their future together will bring – the joys, triumphs, sacrifices, nurturing and hardships. Their palms are a metaphor for many aspects of marriage, the toil, the nurturing, the supporting, the anointing and the sacrifice.
Often as this ceremony is performed this beautiful blessing by Rev. Daniel L. Harris is said by the celebrant over the clasped hands of the Bride and Groom.
“Blessing of the Hands”
“These are the hands of your best friend, young and strong and full of love for you, that are holding yours on your wedding day, as you promise to love each other today, tomorrow, and forever. These are the hands that will work alongside yours, as together you build your future. These are the hands that will passionately love you and cherish you through the years, and with the slightest touch, will comfort you like no other. These are the hands that will hold you when fear or grief fills your mind. These are the hands that will countless times wipe the tears from your eyes; tears of sorrow, and tears of joy. These are the hands that will tenderly hold your children. These are the hands that will help you to hold your family as one. These are the hands that will give you strength when you need it. And lastly, these are the hands that even when wrinkled and aged, will still be reaching for yours, still giving you the same unspoken tenderness with just a touch.”
Wishing Box Ceremony
A Wishing Box Ceremony is where the guests, family and friends all write personal wishes and messages to the Bride and Groom on their wedding day. Each person places their message in the commemorative wishing box which is taken by the Bride and Groom to their home. The box is stored in a safe place and opened many years later, commemorating a special occasion such as an anniversary or special birthday of a son or daughter.
If the wedding ceremony venue is seaside, the Shell Ceremony is a wonderful ritual to include in the ceremony which involves all attending. Prior to the wedding ceremony everyone is asked to bring along one shell with them to the ceremony. At the end of the ceremony, everyone is asked to step forward and one at a time place their shell into the vase that the Bride and Groom will display and treasure always in commemoration of their loving family, beautiful friends and extraordinary day.
Medallion Presentation Ceremony
The Medallion Presentation Ceremony celebrates a wedding that includes children from a previous marriage. The new step-parent may present a medallion, charm or other piece of jewellery (a ring or pin) to the partner’s child/children during the wedding ceremony. This gift, like the couple’s rings, serves as a reminder of commitment to each member of the newly blended family and a celebration of their unity.
Warming of the Rings
During their ceremony the Bride and the Groom will exchange rings which are the visible signs of their commitment to one another. The Warming of the Rings starts by the celebrant asking the families and guests to take part in this spiritual ritual. This can begin by the ring bearer passing the rings to the Mother of the Bride then the rings work their way back to the Mother of the Groom. Each person at the ceremony is given the opportunity to “warm” the rings by holding them for a moment, warming them with their love and wishing them health, happiness, and a good life before passing them on to the next person. When the rings are then exchanged by the Bride and Groom they have been warmed and blessed with your love, hope and your pledge of support for their marriage.
Honouring a Special Person
Including children into the wedding ceremony acknowledges and honours the uniting of two adults and their children. Children may be included into the wedding ceremony making them feel special, wanted and an important part of the new family.
Deceased parents, grandparents or other prominent persons can also be honoured in several ways during a ceremony. A piece of their jewellery may be worn, sewn on a garment or carried by the Bride or Groom. A poem or quote that is significant to them may be read through the ceremony. Candles may be lit in their honour or simply a few moments silence honouring and recognizing how loved they were and how much they are missed.
The Stone Ceremony is a beautiful and symbolic way of involving all those present at the ceremony. Each guest receives a blessing stone as they arrive and the celebrant explains their significance. The guests hold the stones during the ceremony transferring their love, good wishes and heartfelt blessings for the couple to the stone. This ritual is usually performed at the end of the ceremony but can be incorporated in any way. At some point the celebrant explains to the guests how the stones were chosen as symbols of their special relationship, love, good wishes and heartfelt blessings to the couple. The stones will serve as a lasting reminder of your presence at their wedding, their good wishes of eternal love, happiness, prosperity, and unity and of the special love that they shared on this their special day. As you hold the blessing stone tightly in your hand, reflect for a moment your wishes for this couple for love, happiness, prosperity, and unity. At the end of the ceremony everyone is invited to toss the stones into the ocean symbolizing their unity so long as the tide ebbs or to place the stones in a special container which will be kept as a significant memento of this beautiful ritual and their day.
This ceremony is a beautiful and special way to acknowledge the mothers of the couple. The Bride may present a single flower from her bouquet to her mother as she walks down the aisle. At the completion of the wedding ceremony or on her way back down the aisle, she may hand her mother-in-law a flower from her bouquet. Alternatively, the Bride and Groom may present a rose to each of their mothers early in the ceremony as a gesture of love and gratitude.
Some couples will present a single rose—a symbol of their love—to each other declaring their love with some special words.
Dove Release Ceremony
A White Dove Release is one of the most exquisite ceremonies that can be included in your wedding ceremony. Beautiful white ceremonial doves are released and fly high, circle then head for home to their loft, representing the bride & groom beginning their new lives together. Two doves signifying your love for each other and a wonderful journey through life united as one expressing a new beginning!
Butterfly Release Ceremony
The supreme beauty of the butterfly has always been a symbol of the soul. The Butterfly Release Ceremony expresses the Bride and Groom’s new beginning, good fortune and joy. It is also believed the butterflies will carry forth the good news of the Bride and Groom’s love and commitment for each other.
As the butterflies are released they will flutter around you and your guests, often landing on the bride and her bouquet. As they fly upward, the guests make a silent wish for the couple. This creates an amazing experience and everlasting memories.
According to an American Indian Legend, if one desires a wish to come true they must first capture a butterfly and whisper that wish. Because the butterfly is silent, the wish can’t be revealed to anyone except the Great Spirit who hears and sees all and gives the beautiful butterfly its freedom granting the wish. By making a wish and giving the butterfly its freedom, the wish will be taken to the heavens and be granted.