“Unity Ceremonies” are small, symbolic rituals that you can hold within your wedding or Vow Renewal service. Chosen carefully, they can add something special to your ceremony – if you have a particular reason for using one. They should be meaningful to you as a couple but can often involve your guests too. You’ll either love them or hate them!
The word “Unity” is used as they’re symbolic of people coming together as one. But a Unity Ceremony is by no means obligatory; the majority of couples opt not to have one.
Here are some to get you thinking – and this list is by no means exhaustive, you are welcome to create your own:
Time Capsule/ Wine & Letter Ceremony – This could be a nice tradition that continues through your life together. Before the ceremony, you write each other a letter expressing how you feel about the other, your hopes and dreams for the future. You don’t show each other your letters and during the ceremony, you place your letters and a bottle of nice wine in a box and seal the box. On your 5th wedding anniversary, you sit and open the box and read the letters to each other. You each then write another letter , replenish the box with another bottle of wine and save it for your 10th anniversary. If, before any anniversary comes around, you find your marriage struggling, you both sit, open the box and read your letters, reminding you of the reasons why you are together…and drinking that bottle of wine always helps!
Bush/tree planting – A lovely thing to do if you’re marrying at a private villa that you’ll be returning to. You could both help to plant a bush or small tree in a pot. Bring a watering can too!
Rose Ceremony – The rose has traditionally been considered a symbol of love and a single rose can only mean one thing; “I love you”! So why not make a rose your first gift as husband and wife? At the end of your ceremony, you each hand a rose to one other. There are some lovely words that go with this ceremony. You can also place a single rose in a vase of water, symbolising you both needing each other like a rose needs water.
Welcoming the new ‘in-laws’ – take two flowers from your bouquet and each of you give one to your new in laws as we talk about the two families joining as one.
Stone/Rock Ceremony – A Stone Ceremony is a great way of involving all your wedding guests at your wedding ceremony, particularly if you’re getting married on a beach in Portugal. Small stones or pebbles are collected before the wedding and are then handed to the wedding guests as they arrive at the ceremony (you could equally chose seashells, glass, crystal, flowers). During the wedding ceremony the guests and bridal party hold these stones and make a loving wish for the couple’s life and future together. Each stone represents a special wish that the couple can take with them to reflect on during their married life together. A good idea is to ask your wedding guests to write their name and a word signifying their wish on the stone, such as love, happiness, health, strength, wealth, success, family, luck, friendship, patience etc. The stones are then collected during the wedding ceremony by a family or bridal party member and placed in a jar or vase as a memento. If you want guests to write on the stones, remember to bring a few permanent fine-tipped pens.
Ring Warming – Both rings are placed into a cloth ring-bag or ring-box and passed around to guests. Each holds the bag, makes a wish for the couple, and passes the bag on. Bear in mind this will take a long time if there are lots of guests, so this needs to start happening early in the ceremony.
Unity Candle – You each take a lit candle and simultaneously light a third larger ‘unity candle’. You can blow out your individual lights, or leave them lit, symbolising that you’ve not lost your individuality in your unity. You can also get your unity candle personalised with your names and the date, as a keepsake from your wedding.
Reverse Unity Candle – Instead of the traditional Unity Candle Ceremony, flip it upside down; start with one flame, and spread it to all of your guests. Give each adult an unlit candle and to start the candle ceremony, the bride and groom light a single candle together. Then use that candle to light your bridesmaids and groomsmen’s candles. They then start spreading the flame to the rest of your guests. For an evening wedding, the glow of candles is amazing – but not something for a windy beach day!
Unity Sand Ceremony – A popular ceremony for beach weddings. Using different coloured sands representing the lives of you both, you alternate filling a glass vase (known as a ‘Unity Vase’) while you exchange your Vows. This wedding ceremony captures the meaning of two lives becoming one and the sand-filled vase becomes a symbol of a new life together. You can collect sand from beaches and dye it with food colouring or buy the sand in craft shops. There’s a great website in the UK that sells alot of useful wedding items (www.thinkfavours.co.uk). If you search for “Unity Vase Set” you’ll find this is much cheaper than some of the sets you find online.
Hand Ceremony – The Hand Ceremony can be conducted either during or at the end of the main ceremony. The couple face each other and hold hands. I then talk about how your hands play a part in your future together. Here’s a snippet to give you an idea:
“These are the hands of your best friend; young and strong and full of love for you, that are holding yours on your wedding day as you promise to love each other today, tomorrow and forever….”
Handfasting – This is quite similar to the “Hand Ceremony”, except that your hands are literally bound together. This is an ancient Celtic ceremony that dates back to pre-Christian times and usually involves the tying or binding of your hands with a cord or ribbon. It’s the origin of the term “tying the knot”.
Sharing wine – Throughout history, in nearly all cultures and traditions, the sharing of a cup of wine has been used as a universal, central moment of communion during significant moments. Two glasses of wine are combined by the bride and groom into one larger glass and each takes a sip – or big gulp!
Butterfly Release – This is a stunning thing to do but you’d need to find someone living in Portugal to grow the butterflies for you in the run-up to your wedding! The internet is full of places where you can order butterflies to release on your Big Day. According to American Indian Legend, if anyone wants a wish to come true, they must first capture a butterfly and whisper that wish to it. Since a butterfly can make no sound, the butterfly can’t reveal the wish to anyone but the Great Spirit who hears and sees all. In gratitude for giving the beautiful butterfly its freedom, the Great Spirit always grants the wish. So, according to legend, by making a wish and giving the butterfly its freedom, the wish will be taken to the heavens and be granted!
Unity Bowl – With this ceremony, you can get all the different generations of your families involved – particularly any children you may have. You will need a pretty glass display bowl . Each grandparent, parent, step-parent and so on, is given a small vase or dish filled with coloured marbles, each dish using a different colour, signifying the individuality of each family member. The grandparents pour their colour marbles into the Unity Bowl, representing the foundation for this marriage. This is followed by each set of parents and anyone else you want involved. After each person adds their marbles, the celebrant stirs the colours together creating new mosaics each time. Siblings and other special friends may be invited to participate as well. The Bride and Groom then add their two colours and at every stage we are honouring each generation. Ultimately, the family members are reminded that each of them, in their own way, has coloured the lives of the couple. Therefore, each has developed specific tastes, goals, morals, choices…and thus the Bride knows she has found her perfect Groom, and the Groom knows he has found his perfect Bride. You keep the Unity Bowl with all its contents as a memory of all your family members and loved ones present at your wedding and a symbol of your ever-changing lives together.