Wedding unity ceremonies are symbolic of the uniting of a man and a woman as a married couple. Most people are familiar with the unity candle ceremony, but there are other unity ceremonies to choose from when planning your wedding.
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Unity ceremonies are adaptable elements for a wedding. They can be revised to include important family members, such as the couple’s parents. Children from previous marriages can also be included, as can the entire congregation in an intimate wedding.
Many couples include more than one wedding unity ceremony; for example, a hand and water ceremony, or a candle and rose ceremony. The unity ceremony most often takes place directly after the exchange of vows. Music can be added to these ceremonies if you so choose.
If you feel that a wedding unity ceremony would make your wedding more meaningful and personal, consider these options. Don’t forget that you can use more than one!
The Unity Candle Ceremony is one of the most common wedding unity ceremonies. The mothers of the bride and groom each light a candle as they are escorted to their seats at the beginning of the wedding. The bride and groom take the candle that was lit by their mothers and simultaneously light a third larger “unity candle.” They then blow out their individual flames, signifying leaving their mother and father and uniting as one. You can buy elaborate unity candle setups, including the candelabra that holds the central unity candle higher than the others. You may also have your unity candle personalized with your names and the date, allowing it to be a keepsake from your wedding.
Variations: All guests are given a candle, and the first guest’s is lit. Guests pass the flame until all are lit, and then the bride and groom together light their unity candle. This variation typically includes a proclamation that this ceremony represents the unity of friends and family supporting the couple in their marriage.
Sand Ceremony: The bride and groom each have a vessel of different colored sand. The groom first pours some sand into the chosen container. Next the bride pours some of her sand. They continue to alternate sands until the container is filled. As a variation they may both pour sands in at the same time creating a mixture of the two. The two separate sands symbolize everything that the bride and groom are and have been.
The blending of the sands represents their union in holy matrimony. After the sands have been poured into the unity vase, they can never be put back into their separate vases. They are forever entwined just as the lives and loves of the bride and groom.
Variation: This is a beautiful wedding unity ceremony for couples with children, allowing the children and sometimes other family members to be included with their own color of sand, creating a colorful and one-of-a kind symbol of unity and love.
Rose Ceremony: A simple wedding unity ceremony where the bride and groom exchange roses. Other variations: the families exchange roses, the bride and groom exchange roses with their families, the bride and groom exchange roses, then present their mothers with the roses.
Wine Ceremony: The bride and groom each take a carafe of wine and pour it into a single glass, which they both drink from.
Water Ceremony: The bride and groom each pour different colored water into a single glass, creating a third color. The two colors of water become one and can never be separated!
Salt Ceremony: Indian weddings often include a salt wedding unity 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. She then performs the salt exchange with all the members of the groom’s family, symbolizing her blending in with her new family.
Breaking Bread Ceremony: The bride and groom tear off pieces of bread, and then each eat a piece. Sometimes the bread is also shared with family and friends. It symbolizes their future as a family together.
The Loving Cup Ceremony: The purpose of the Loving Cup ceremony is for the bride and groom to share their first drink together as husband and wife and to symbolize two families coming together.
Garland Ceremony or Lei Ceremony: The bride and groom exchange garlands of flowers. This is a common part of Indian weddings, where thewedding unity ceremony is called Varmala or Jaimala, and represents a proposal by the bride and acceptance by the groom. It also represents their new unity, blessed by nature.
In Hawaiian weddings, the bride and groom typically exchange leis. The families may also exchange leis with the couple. Leis represent the love and respect you have for the person you are giving it to, and the unity of the new family.
Circling: In Eastern European ceremonies, the bride and groom circle the altar three times, which are their first steps together as husband and wife. In Hindu ceremonies, couples circle the fire seven times, sealing their bond. The unbroken circle represents the unbroken commitment to each other.
Jumping the Broom: An African-American tradition that has its roots in slavery times when slaves were not allowed marry. Wedding unity ceremonies such as jumping the broom held significant symbolism. The broom relates to the sweeping away of the past, cleaning away all that is evil and unhealthy – and starting life anew. Typically the family places the broom on the ground, and the bride and groom jump over it together immediately after the Pronouncement and Kiss or during the reception activities. The broom can then decorate a place of honor in their home.
Lasso Ceremony: Lasso or rope is placed around the bride and groom’s shoulders, usually by the officiate. Sometimes rosary beads or orange flowers are used instead of rope. It can also be placed around the couple’s necks, or wrists.
Veil and Cord: These two Hispanic Catholic wedding unity ceremonies take place together following the Exchange of Rings and/or Unity Candle ceremony. The couple takes their place on a kneeler or for outside wedding ceremonies, on a pillow. Two veil sponsors bring forward a large, white veil and place it over the bride’s head and the groom’s shoulders symbolizing the oneness of marriage. Then the cord sponsors bring forward a white double lasso (in a figure eight shape) and loop it over and around the couple symbolizing the unbroken and unbreakable bond of marriage. At this point a prayer is usually offered by the officiate, designated individual or godparent. A song may be included as well. Communion may also be served during the song. Following this the cord sponsors come and remove the cord. The veil sponsors remove the veil and the couple arises from kneeling to return to their place front and center.
Communion: brings a spiritual aspect into a marriage at the inception of the marital relationship. The origin of Communion comes from the New Testament as recorded by Matthew when Jesus broke bread and shared the cup with His disciples just prior to His betrayal and arrest in the garden of Gethsemane. It symbolized the breaking of His body and shedding of His blood which was soon to take place on the cross. To include this ceremony in a wedding establishes a family altar in the home where the couple is symbolically demonstrating their desire to recognize Christ as the head of their home. The officiate serves a small loaf of bread and juice or wine in a goblet and allow the couple to have a few moments to pray over their new relationship. He then also prays over them, if desired. This would be appropriately done after the pronouncement.
Rock Ceremony: Although small, polished stones are usually used, the couple may choose to use any other token they desire… seashells, glass or crystal, flowers, etc. the guests make a wish for the couple’s happiness and then the tokens are collected into a single container… each rock representing a wish and an individual present at the couple’s wedding. Some couples even have small markers for each guest so they may write their name on the rock. Then, the couple can save the tokens in a nice container as a keep-sake. Also, some couples combine the elements of other wedding unity ceremonies (such as the “Sand Ceremony”) and pour sand or water over the collected tokens. The many variations of this ceremony are only limited by the couple’s imagination.
Hand Ceremony: This is a very moving recitation of the importance of the hands of the bride and groom. It is spoken by the minister while the bride and groom are simply facing each other holding hands.
Hand Wrapping/Hand Fasting Ceremony: is a Celtic ritual. It involves the tying of hands together to symbolize the coming together and remaining tied together. Then the hand fasting vows are said.
The 13 Gold Coin Ceremony: originated in Spain. Centuries ago a man would give his bride thirteen gold coins, a token of his pledge to support her. The coins represented Christ and His twelve apostles. The act symbolizes entrusting the stewardship of all his earthly possessions to his new bride. Her acceptance signifies her promise to be a wise and responsible steward for the sake of the family. Today it is common for her to pour the same coins back into the groom’s hands representing a mutual commitment to provide for their joint needs. The coins are then placed back into a pouch and handed off to the best man for safekeeping.
Bouquet of Love Ceremony: For these wedding unity ceremonies, have a table with an empty vase in the middle and a half dozen flowers laying on each side of it – maybe red on one side, white on the other with one pink flower laying in front of the vase. Then as the song is sung, the two of you can put each flower in the vase and finish with the single one. This could signify your families coming together to celebrate the new union (red and white make pink). Match your flowers to your wedding colors if you can, maybe the single flower could have a bow with rings tied in the streamers.
Another option would be to have each individual sitting closest to the aisle hold a rose or other flower. As the bride enters, she takes the flower to create her bridal bouquet. The groom may hold a ribbon at the altar so that upon the bride’s arrival, he would tie the ribbon around the bouquet to hold all flowers in place – their first task completed together as husband & wife!
Celtic Oathing Stone: The couple holds or puts their hands on a stone during their vows to “set them in stone” This is where the phrase comes from, or so the rumor goes.
Truce Bell: A bell is rung on the wedding day, the happiest day of the couple’s lives and then is placed in a central location in the home. If the couple starts to argue, one of them can ring the truce bell, reminding them both of that happiness and hopefully ending the disagreement quickly.
The Butterfly Release Ceremony: Butterflies are the symbol new of beginnings and rebirths. The caterpillar is ‘reborn’ into a beautiful butterfly. What better way to celebrate the beginning of a new life together than with the releasing of butterflies at your wedding.
White Doves Release Ceremony: White doves are a true symbol of love choosing their mates for life. The dove release is very fitting wedding unity ceremony to any wedding. The pair creates a magical atmosphere as they circle the skies before flying away on their unknown journey together.
Love Letter Ceremony: For this wedding unity ceremony, the couple each writes a love letter to the other before the wedding. During the love letter ceremony vows are spoken, and the letters are put into a box and sealed; either nailed closed by the couple and the minister or double locked with different locks, each having one key. On the couple’s first anniversary the box is opened and each read the letter written to them by their spouse. (The box can also contain a bottle of wine, photos and other mementos).
Glass Breaking Ceremony: In the Jewish faith the breaking of the glass signifies the destruction of the great temple in Jerusalem. Its spiritual significance is our reaffirmation of our faith in God. Our prayer today is that their lives together would be longer than it would take to fit these broken pieces of glass back together again.