By now, surely everyone’s familiar with the unity candle, but did you know there are other unification ceremonies to choose from when planning your wedding?
Although the unity candle seems to have been with us forever, in reality it’s only about ten years old. During those years, more “two-become-one” motifs have arrived to round out the theme. Unification ceremonies aren’t just a symbol of togetherness, they’re also flexible elements of a wedding. These ceremonies can be “opened up” to include important family members, such as the bridal couple’s parents. Children from previous marriages can play a part, as can the entire congregation in a smaller wedding. Candle and rose ceremonies are common choices for adapting in this way.
Unification ceremonies can also be “stacked.” It’s not unusual to find a wedding that includes a hand and water ceremony, for example, or a wine and rose ceremony. Some couples play music during these ceremonies and others don’t.
The timing of unification ceremonies varies by wedding, but they most often take place directly before or after the exchange of vows. These ceremonies may be especially important in non-religious weddings, which may end too quickly otherwise!
Let’s look at some alternatives to the Unity Candle ceremony:
The rose ceremony is a flexible, informal ceremony especially suited to an interfaith or non-religious wedding, not to mention a garden wedding! In the rose ceremony, bride and groom exchange a single rose as their first married gift to each other. They are asked to recall this symbol of their love during the more trying seasons of marriage.
In the hand ceremony, the bride takes the groom’s hands in hers, palms up. The officiant invites her to view his hands as a gift, and says: “These are the hands that will work along side yours, as together you build your future, as together you laugh and cry, and together you share your innermost secrets and dreams.”
The groom then takes the bride’s hands, palm side up. The officiant says, “They are the hands that will passionately love you and cherish you through the years, for a lifetime of happiness, as she promises her love and commitment to you all the days of her ife.”
In the knot ceremony, the mothers of the bridal couple are given a cord, which the officiant later asks them to give to the bridal couple. The couple ties a lover’s knot, which they may save to look back on later.
Sand, Water and Wine Ceremonies
These are all mixing ceremonies suited to a Unitarian or interfaith wedding. The unity sand ceremony is said to arise from Apache customs, and is popular in beach weddings. In each case, the bride and groom pour sand or liquid from two separate vials into one. In the wine ceremony, they drink the mixed wine.
A nice touch is to have the bride pour white wine while the groom pours red. You can then serve rosé at the reception to remind everyone of the ceremony.
Another meaningful touch for an ethnic couple is including their countries of origin. You might acquire a bottle of wine — or sand — from both the bride and groom’s countries to mix at the ceremony.
The Salt Covenant
The salt covenant is an ancient tradition, well-described in the Bible, and appearing regularly in Indian-national and Jewish weddings. Like the Jewish Huppah, the salt covenant (a mixing ceremony with ancient connotations of loyalty, protection and hospitality) is beginning to show up in non-Jewish weddings as well.
The Foot-Washing Ceremony
The foot washing ceremony (not to be confused with the Scottish bridal foot-washing ceremony, a wild pre-wedding event!) is a fascinating, solemn custom emphasizing the role of dual servitude in a marriage.
This short article hasn’t covered all the unification ceremonies: there are bread-sharing ceremonies, circling ceremonies, broom jumping ceremonies, and probably more ceremonies that are being invented right now. However, if you feel a unification ceremony might make your wedding more meaningful and personal, consider these alternatives.
Don’t forget that you can use more than one!