At their most basic, wedding ceremonies can be pretty quick and simple. (We’re talking sometimes five minutes quick) the couple gets up on the altar, they say “I Do,” they exchange the rings, and then it’s over.
Sometimes a short ceremony can be a good thing! Especially if you and your family want to spend most of your event time at the reception party.
But if you are looking for ways to extend your ceremony and create some beautiful memories, we suggest including a unity ceremony! Here are our top 10 unity ceremonies to include in your wedding ceremony (that go beyond just having a relative do a reading).
Candle lighting ceremonies are the most common activity we see for indoor ceremonies. (We don’t recommend this for outdoor ceremonies, even if you have cover, because the slightest breeze will blow the candles out!)
In a unity candle lighting ceremony, there is typically one large candle in the center with two pillar candles on each side. Usually, the mother of the bride and the mother of the groom will each light a candle at some point during the ceremony. Then, the couple will take each candle and light the center one — creating one flame. This symbolizes the two families coming together as one.
The candle lighting ceremony can be a very cool and quick but meaningful event, and it is a great way to include the mothers of the bride and groom in the ceremony.
The sand ceremony is similar to the candle lighting ceremony, and it is almost just as common.
In this ceremony, the couple takes two vessels of sand (sometimes of different colors) and pours them together into one central vessel. The vessel is often a picture frame or a heart-shaped vase.
These ceremonies often come with a script that someone can read. The script can be customized to fit each couple, but the overall sentiment is that it would be as hard to separate the new couple as it would be to put each grain of sand back into their original vessels.
Again, this is a beautiful, symbolic sentiment that represents the unity of the new couple.
Wind can be an issue with this ceremony too, so be careful when you are pouring!
In this ceremony, the couple will take a nice bottle of wine and personalized notes that they’ve written for each other and close them into a nice, engraved box during the ceremony. The officiant can explain the ceremony as they are doing it, and then they’ll close everything up and not open the box until their one-year anniversary.
On their one-year anniversary, they can open the box and reflect on their first year of marriage over a lovely bottle of wine! Then, if they wish, they can buy another bottle and write new notes then close up the box again until a future anniversary. So could go on every year or every 5 or even every 10! — whatever feels best to you as the couple!
This is a great activity to incorporate into the ceremony because it can create an ongoing tradition between the couple for years to come. The box itself can also become a keepsake to pass down through generations.
A similar idea is to create a wedding time capsule. In addition to a note, you can gather small, sentimental items that represent your relationship and put them into the time capsule. Items might include things like a ticket or receipt from your first date, or small trinkets that are meaningful to you. There is a lot of opportunity to be very creative here!
During the ceremony, the officiant can explain the process and the couple can place the items in the capsule while at the altar.
Then, they can store or bury the capsule and open it on their first anniversary. Again, this capsule could be reused each anniversary and can become a tradition in the relationship!
This ceremony is definitely ranch-style, so we have only seen this in Texas and it requires the proper setup — preferably outdoors!
While it is unique, it is still pretty simple. In a branding ceremony, the couple will get a really nice picture frame, piece of wood, or even a hide, and brand their last name and wedding date onto it. There are traditional, fire-heated brands, or you can also find an electric brand that might be easier to use.
Whatever piece of material you choose to brand, you can hang it in your home as a memento from your special day!
Planting a tree during your wedding ceremony is another ceremony about unity and creating something long-lasting.
Don’t worry — you don’t have to get dirty for this one!
Couples will arrange to have a seedling or small baby tree in a cute pot at the altar. Then, the bride and groom can each put a little scoop of dirt in the pot and water it together. (You can even get cute, personalized little shovels for this!)
Then, they can take the tree and plant it at their new home where they will watch the tree grow over the years.
Of course, there is a potential that the tree could die — you can’t always control those things! (so don’t take it as a bad sign) — but the sentiment of this ceremony is lovely and a crowd favorite!
A little less traditional but fun idea is to do a shot or share a glass of wine at the altar! The couple can choose a nice bottle of their beverage of choice and maybe even intertwine arms as they drink.
This is often popular with couples who met at a bar or liked to go out while they were dating. It is also a great way to signify to their guests that the ceremony is over and that it is time to get the party started!
A handfasting ceremony is an old Celtic tradition where the couple holds hands at the altar, the officiant wraps a decorative cord around their hands, and then when the couple removes their hands, it ties a knot!
(They say this is where the term “tie to knot” comes from!)
Couples can choose different colors for their ropes and talk about what the different colors symbolize to them. Maybe blue and orange are simply their favorite colors, or maybe there is deeper symbolism behind it. Either way, it can be personalized to the couple!
The knot can be a beautiful symbol of unity and dedication to each other. Like many of these, the knot can then be displayed in their home as a beautiful reminder of their special day.
This is a very similar idea to the handfasting ceremony, but it is born from the Christian tradition. Here, the couple takes three cords and braids them together at the altar.
This ceremony represents the binding of the couple and the holy trinity.
Another ceremony that symbolizes a Christian tradition is the cross assembly ceremony. Here, the couple takes large puzzle pieces made of wood or metal and assembles them into a cross at the altar.
This is a great ceremony for couples who wish to keep their relationship rooted in their faith. The assembled cross can be put somewhere in the home as a beautiful reminder of your commitment to one another.
These are the most popular ceremonies we’ve seen in our time planning weddings. But of course, it’s all about creating a meaningful experience and special memento for you, so get creative and personalize your ceremony to fit your needs!
If you see an idea above that you like, we encourage you to put your own spin on it and bring it to life!
Let us know in the comments below what unity ceremony you think you’d like to incorporate into your wedding ceremony!
And if you are looking for more guidance with wedding planning, you can visit our shop where we have some downloadable forms, including a music planner and a wedding planner to help guide your wedding planning journey!
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