Unity rituals are a celebration of your connection. They can be woven into your wedding ceremony to add flavour and make your ceremony completely unique. Many have traditional ‘roots’ but can be adapted and added to, ensuring they are meaningful and personal to you. So, for example, if you love gin and tonic, you might want to include a gin and tonic ceremony. Some of the most popular unity rituals include handfasting, unity candle, unity sand and unity wine. It can be very moving to include children or parents and grandparents in these rituals.
Handfasting has been used for centuries in Celtic and Pagan traditions, to signify the joining of a couple. It is often performed just before or after the exchange of rings. In Celtic traditions, it includes 13 colored ribbons where each has a significant meaning. In Pagan traditions, it is concluded with the act of ‘Jumping over the Broom.’ You can choose which coloured cords you would like to include, and the meaning of each one, yourself. Many couples like to include vows as part of the ritual. Handfasting is particularly beautiful if you are having an outdoor wedding, as it has traditionally been linked to nature and the natural elements.
The Unity candle ritual uses three candles (often one large and two small). The couple each light one of the smaller candles and then use those candles to come together and light the third. You can extend the ceremony to include parents, so they light the first two candles and then the couple light the third candle using the one their parents lit. There is some lovely symbolism about joining families together and the couple starting their own family.
The Unity sand ritual is often chosen by couples who have children that they would like to involve in the ceremony. There will be a different coloured sand for each person who is taking part and they each take it in turns to pour their sand into a bottle. You end up with a bottle that has layers of different coloured sand, each representing one member of the family. The bottle can then be kept as a momento of the day.
Unity wine takes two different types of wine (red and white, red and bubbly) which the couple pour together from two separate vessels into one. They each then take a sip (or more if they need to calm their nerves). If the thought of mixing red and white wine makes your blood run cold, perhaps you could think about using cassis and bubbly, vodka and tonic or whatever your favourite tipple is).
Stepping into tomorrow
Many rituals are used to symbolise new beginnings. Although it is not clear where the tradition started, in many cultures the act of jumping the broom was used to symbolise a sweeping away of the past. It can also signify the joining of two families. Often this is performed at the end of the ceremony but some couples prefer to use it at the start or even part way through, depending on what else they are including. One source suggests that it might symbolise the willingness of the wife to clean the courtyard of the new home she had joined – my guess is that most brides would not be too keen to include this aspect! Jumping the broom together seems to be a much more joined up way of approaching this element. Decorating the broom with some ribbons or other embellishments which are meaningful to the couple can be a lovely extra touch.
In some cultures, notably Greek, there has been a long tradition of smashing plates. It meant that the couple were throwing away their old life and embarking on a new life together, sweeping away the past. It sounds like it could be fun but would need some careful thought because of obvious safety risks.
Another ritual that is filled with symbolism is the rose ceremony. This ritual can be done in many different ways, involving just the couple or other members of the family (parents and children) or friends. At its heart it is about demonstrating love and symbolising the joining of families. You can include a few words as the rose is passed from one person to another and you might choose to have a bowl or vase for placing the roses. Play around with the ritual to make it work for you and your loved ones.