Updated: Sep 28
What are wedding rituals? What do they mean? Why have them? Are they right for you?
There is a myriad of wedding rituals that span countries, cultures and centuries. Although they are not for everyone, lots of my couples are interested in what options there are and what might work for them. In this blog I’ll be looking at some of my favourites and ways that you could personalise or adapt them to fit your personality or celebration! These rituals, or unity ceremonies, are performed by the couple (and can sometimes include other members of the family) as a visual symbolisation of their coming together as one.
Some are more spiritually based and some from religious practices whilst others were born out of pure fun and creativity.
1. Honey Kiss
Sometimes known as a Honey Ceremony, in this fun little ritual of Persian origin, the couple take turns dipping their fingers in a dish of honey and feeding it to each other. The sweetness of the honey symbolises a sweet life and future together.
The honey ceremony is generally performed right before the 'first kiss', and personally I can’t think of a sweeter way to start a marriage. I like to emphasise the couple’s fun side during this little ritual with really playful (yet meaningful) words that get the couple and their guests laughing!
2. Unity Candle Lighting
This is one of the more popular ceremonies with couples today. In most cases, two small candles are placed on the side of one larger candle. The couple each take a smaller candle that is pre-lit and together, they light the large candle in the middle. This symbolises two flames becoming one, just as their lives have.
You can also add multiple candles lit by the couple’s children or to represent family members that are not present but you want to honour or remember. This ceremony is very flexible, so adapt it and use whichever symbolism works best for you. The only downside to this ceremony is if a brisk wind is blowing during your outdoor wedding; it might not work as well.
Although it is unclear where the unity candle ceremony originated, it is still a great way to show your loved ones the unity of your marriage.
3. Quaich Cup
The Quaich, a two handled loving cup, is an ancient Scottish tradition that cement the bond of two people and marks the blending of two families. It symbolises the love and trust implied by the bond. As the new couple share the first drink of their marriage together, they are represents their commitment to sharing everything in life and sealing the deal between them.
You can use the couple’s favourite shared drink or fashion a cocktail in which even the drinks use a mix of sweet and sour to represent all the phases of life. And of course, don’t have to use alcohol!
Also consider having family members from both sides pour the drink into the Quaich to represent the families mixing and merging!
4. Sand Ceremony
The sand ceremony is a wonderfully visual ceremony with a simple and beautiful meaning: two (or more) becoming one. The couple mix two different colours of sand into one container, thereby symbolising their lives and hearts entwined. It’s also a great one for including children as they get to choose their own colour of sand and have a direct role in the ceremony.
Once combined, I normally say something along the lines of “As it would be impossible to separate those joined grains of sand, it will be impossible to break your special bond.”
I recently officiated a ceremony with a couple and their four children. The end result was beautiful and unique and a fantastic keepsake for the family.
5. Handfasting and Tying the Knot Ceremony
One of the oldest and most recognisable rituals, handfasting is the joining of the couple’s hands and wrists using vines, cord, rope, or ribbon tied into a knot.
It’s believed that this is where we get the expression “tying the knot” from, and it often takes place towards the end of the wedding ceremony as a final promise from one person to the other; binding their lives together.
The materials used could be significant to you, maybe a strip of cloth from the outfit you wore for your first date or something handed down from a loved one or you could just use cords or ribbons in various colours that represent traditions, emotions, cultures. You can be as creative and unique as you like.
There is nothing to stop you incorporating charms, jewelry or flowers as well. Skilled officiants will be able to use different types of knots such as Infinity Knots, Fisherman’s Knots, and Trinity Knots.
6. Love Letters Ceremony
Literally seal you love in a time capsule with this ceremony.
Generally performed after the vows, the couple place love letters written to each other into a beautiful box with a bottle of wine (other drinks options are available) and some wine glasses, which is then locked ready for later period in the marriage such as a milestone anniversary.
Open it up, share the wine, and read the letters you wrote for each other on the day, reliving all the magical memories of your special day. Don’t forget to personalise your wine bottle with a cute, personalised label!
7. Ring Warming
Ring warming is a great way for guests to be involved in the ceremony and is sometimes referred to as the Blessing of the Rings.
The rings are passed around your chosen guests and warmed with their love, blessings and positive energy. When the rings are returned to the Best Man (or Woman) in time for the ring exchange, they contain something very powerful and very precious; the love and blessings from those gathered to share your day.
You can involve the whole congregation or just a select few. If you would like to include all of your guests, you might want to set up a table at the entrance to your ceremony inviting your guests to ‘warm the rings’. It might be wise to task someone with standing by the table to ensure the rings are kept safe!!
If only including a select few, think about gathering them around you just before the exchange of rings, form a circle in the ceremony area and your rings can be passed between them, receiving lots of love and blessings along the way.
8. Passing The Rope
This ritual has lots of similarities to the Ring Warming.
Passing around a rope to each attendee allows them to take part in the ceremony and signals their commitment to supporting the marriage.
After the last guest has blessed the rope, it is then returned back to the couple who can braid it together. This symbolises the couple's union and bond to each other and, if you want to give the ceremony a religious meaning, to God.
9. Jumping the Broom
Jumping the broom is a time-honoured wedding tradition in which the couple jump over a broom during the ceremony, most commonly right before the recessional. The ritual symbolises a new beginning and sweeping away the past but can also signify the joining of two families. For these reasons, and for the sheer fun of it all, jumping the broom is an increasingly popular part of modern wedding ceremonies.
Jumping the Broom is a fun yet meaningful way to end your ceremony. Simply have it placed on the floor, or if you are more adventurous and want to get others involved, as them to hold the broomstick for you. Remember – it’s a jump not a limbo but that’s not to say that you can add a limbo in as well!
If you’re feeling really creative, get your guests to write their names on pieces of decorative paper attached or ribbon, and then the ribbons can be tied to the broom before it is jumped symbolising that the guests, and their well wishes, go into the marriage with you.
10. Painted Canvas Ceremony
One of the most artistic, fun (and slightly messy) alternative unity ceremony ideas. This ceremony allows you to create a piece of art that you and your partner can treasure forever by painting on a piece of canvas, afterall very marriage starts out as a blank canvas and every day is a splash of colour.
There are a wide range of ways you can approach this but my favourite is to begin with a blank canvas with an interlocking heart in the centre, fashioned from masking tape. The couple, and whoever they wish to include, each pour a tiny pot of paint across the top of the canvas, letting the paint drip down. This makes a uniquely abstract painting. When you remove the masking tape, you are left with an interlocking heart in white in the centre of the painting.
What a keepsake, a one-off piece of ‘heart-work’ that will look fantastic on your living room or bedroom wall and a constant reminder of your special day. Add your names and wedding date for that extra special touch.
There are lots more rituals and ceremonies from all around the world, the only restriction when you have a Celebrant-led ceremony is your imagination. Use an established ritual and put your own twist on it to make it the perfect addition to your celebration.
If you want more tips or want to talk about having ME as your celebrant, drop me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.