I enjoy placing the unity portion of a ceremony between the Vow Exchange and the Ring Exchange, but as it is your ceremony I am happy to arrange it where it makes you the happiest.
This tradition symbolizes the pledge of unity between the bride and groom and the merging of two families.
Traditionally, there are three candles, but I have performed ceremonies with up to five.
Generally the mothers light their tapers before taking their seats, often to a special piece of music (typically instrumental).
When the bride and groom light the center candle, a song is often sung or played.
At this time you may take a few minutes at the altar to exchange a few words, or you may want to take a flower that was placed by the candle and present it to your respective, or both, mothers at this time.
The tapers of the bride and groom may be blown out to symbolize the extinguishing of their two single lives, or, as is more common today, they may keep those candles burning to symbolize that their individuality is not extinguished, even though they are united in marriage.
Like the Unity Candle, the Unity Bouquet is a similar concept, which does not involve a flame which might go out in a draft. The Mothers of the couple are each escorted into the room with a bouquet of flowers, which they place in a side vase before being seated, representing the life of their family member who is going to be married. The Officiant says that the flowers represent the ways in which each partner has blossomed and grown, up until this point in their life. The partners are then instructed to place their flowers together into one larger vase, creating a very special "unity bouquet". Although each bouquet, and each life were beautiful alone, they are even more beautiful together.
The Sand Ceremony represents the joining of two lives into a new dimension of unity. It is similar to the candle ceremony. Instead of each partner having their own candle, each partner has a vial of sand which represents their childhood and life before marriage. During the ceremony, each partner pours his or her sand into a larger vial to represent their new status as a married couple. Some couples use two different colors of sand, which make a third color when joined. Partners may wish to use sand from a lake or ocean close to where they grew up, or where they spent meaningful vacations together.
Instead of using sand you can use pebbles or glass "stones" found in many arts/crafts stores.
*I have also worked this ceremony into a Tree Planting Ceremony, which can signify the couples timeline.
Covenant of Salt
The Covenant of Salt is used in many Biblical traditions. Salt is referred to in the Bible many times, since it was a very important and valued commodity. There are many Biblical references to "the salt of the earth". The Covenant of Salt indicates a binding contract. In the Bible, when a contract was made, each party put a pinch of salt into the pocket of the other person. It was said that when each grain of salt could be sorted, identified, and returned to the rightful owner, the contract could be broken. Today, partners each take a vial of salt, and pour their salt into a container, joining the grains together for eternity. This tradition is popular with many religiously observant couples in place of the sand ceremony.
Commemorative Plaque or Hand Printing
Make a stepping stone or an Inkless Hand Print to frame with your wedding portrait; add your vows.
Handfasting dates back to the Celts. During the middle ages, there wasn't a priest or minister available to perform an official wedding in many of the small villages. In this case, a couple would perform a temporary ceremony that would last a year and a day, which was enough time for an official to come to town for the legal ceremony. Nowadays, there are numerous handfasting ceremonies taking place. Whether it is a pagan ceremony, or incorporated into another tradition, this ceremony is the forerunner of modern day weddings.
To Bind: A priest or priestess performs the ceremony by lightly binding the hands of the couple together and speaking to them and the witnesses of the meaning of the ceremony. The couple then speaks words of love and commitment to each other. These words can be created by the two or found in old Celtic books using words that have been used throughout the ages.
This type of wedding vow includes the binding of the couple’s hands with some sort of cord, thus the term “hand fastening.” It is noteworthy that the term “to tie the knot” comes from the handfasting ceremony.
Symbolism is the most important thing regarding handfasting ceremonies and vows.
You may say your vows in front of friends and family or choose to hold your ceremony privately with no witnesses other than the priest or priestess.
You may want to incorporate a cleansing ritual to create a sacred space, and an invocation of the four elements/directions. The directions are invited to witness and protect the couple as they make their way into the world as one.
An option is to conclude your ceremony by jumping over a sword and broom while holding hands. This is part of the vow ceremony. The sword is symbolic of cutting ties with the old life and the broom represents the remnants being swept away.
There are many variations of the handfasting ritual; any may be easily adapted to fit your unique style.
Handfasting or "Tying the Knot"
Handfasting is a general term for the symbolic binding of hands in matrimony. It is a marriage ritual popular in numerous cultures outside of the United States. Historically, it was popular with the Celts and various Pagan communities. Hands are tied together loosely with a decorative sash or cord to signify the marital union, and then removed. Prayer beads are sometimes used instead of a sash or cord. Handfasting is becoming increasingly popular in this country.
Originating from ancient Jewish tradition, the "chuppah" or wedding canopy has become more popular with secular and interfaith couples as well, particularly with outdoor weddings. The canopy represents the home the couple will make together. In Judaism, instead of the traditional Christian ritual of the father of the bride walking the bride down the aisle, the parents of both partners escort their child to the Chuppah. The procession itself symbolizes the adult child leaving their parent's home, and making their new home with their beloved. The canopy itself is symbolic, too. The walls of the canopy remain open to family and friends, while the covering overhead protects the couple from the harshest elements in life.
Some couples choose to use a canopy with added significance - one that has been used in the family before, one that was created by a friend or family member, or one that is made from fabric that is meaningful to the couple (such as fabric from the wedding dresses of the bride's mother and grandmother, a relative's prayer shawl, etc.)
In the Hindu tradition, the canopy is called a "Mandap" and in the Hawaiian tradition, a "Kappa". The Finnish call it the "bridal sky". Danish couples may walk through an archway made of pine beech or oak branches, which represents entering their first home together.
Parents, grandparents, godparents or other close relatives are honored for their love and support by each partner during the ceremony. These special people can each be recognized with the gift of a flower, a corsage, a special poem or a simple hug and kiss. This is a touching ritual for the beginning of the wedding ceremony, and is usually deeply appreciated and remembered by all. Here is an example, of the words that may be used: "Mom, Dad -- you have spent the last x number of years raising me, protecting me, nurturing me, educating me, and sheltering me from harm. Although there are not enough words to thank-you for everything, I present this simple rose to you as a token of my love and appreciation for all you have done for me. It is because of your love that I know how to love others today. Although the beauty of the rose will fade, my love for you will always be strong. Thank-you Mom and Dad. I love you!"
In the Jewish tradition, "kiddush" wine is used to sanctify a ceremony. The sweetness of the wine symbolizes the sweetness of life. The Officiant blesses the glass of wine and offers it to the couple to share. In Japan, Sake is sometimes used in a similar way. Many other communities around the world offer the bride and groom wine during the wedding ceremony, and some have a full Eucharist or Communion service. Wine can also be used for "libations" in an African-American wedding, where wine may be poured on the ground as an act of holiness, instead of being sipped by partners.
*I have many variations of a Wine Ceremony and even offer a Whiskey Barrel Ceremony
In some Native American communities, drinking from a goblet of water sanctifies the union. Water is a basic element, without which there would be no life. A two spouted water jug designed for this purpose may be used. The Wedding Jar is then displayed in the home as a reminder of one's vows.
Water may also be used in a ceremonial washing of hands to purify them, before uniting one's hands in marriage with another person. The ritual of purifying one's hands by washing them may be combined with the Hand ceremony, listed below.
The Ring Ceremony
The Ring Ceremony is perhaps the central, most popular aspect of American weddings. The rings represent the covenant between partners. As the ring is round and has no beginning and no end, the love between them knows no beginning and no end. The ring represents a sacred and binding covenant between both partners, and serves as a daily reminder of their love and devotion. The Ring Ceremony is usually associated with the exchange of the wedding vows.
In some countries, rings are not exchanged. Sometimes the exchanged items are white silk scarves (a Buddhist tradition), or leis (A Hawaiian tradition). In Hindu ceremonies, garlands of marigolds are usually exchanged.
Each partner offers the other partner a single rose as a token of their love. Like the opened blossom of the rose, their hearts are open to the other in full devotion. The Officiant asks the couple to find a special place in their home for roses. Each partner then makes a promise to use a rose as a symbol of their love for one another in the years to come. When words may be hard to find, the gift of a simple rose will be a symbol that they are still loved by their partner. It can also be used to mean, "Thank-you", "I love you", "I forgive you", "Happy Anniversary", etc.
**Ask me about other Unique Unity Ceremonies I have performed, or let's create one unique to the two of you.