There are so many options when it comes to making your wedding truly represent who you and your partner are, individually and as a couple. And while there are plenty of decisions to make when it comes to florals, your cake, and your reception décor, perhaps one of the most meaningful choices you’ll make is what will be included in your ceremony. And deciding to include a unity ceremony is definitely one of the questions that will come up.
What Is a Unity Ceremony?
A unity ceremony is a symbolic ritual woven into the wedding ceremony. Among the most common unity ceremonies are handfasting, circling, and the lighting of a unity candle.
Unity ceremonies are meaningful rituals performed during your wedding to represent becoming a union. A unity ritual is certainly not required by any means, but there may be a ceremony option that's the perfect fit for you and your partner, whether you're looking for something religious, historical, or secular. Often, a unity ceremony allows for other family members to participate as well, furthering its meaning and representation of two families joining together. It may also be the perfect way to celebrate you and your partner's heritage with tradition.
To get your ceremony planning started, read on for 13 options to incorporate into your wedding.
Releasing a Wish Lantern
We love the romance that this tradition brings. During this unity ritual, the couple releases a paper lantern into the air, allowing their love to pass into the universe as one. Depending on the ceremony and the couple's preference, they may release their paper lantern on their own, or they will invite all of their guests to release lanterns as well.
Lighting a Unity Candle
This is definitely one of the most common unity ceremonies performed. The candle-lighting ceremony usually involves the couple lighting one large candle from two smaller family candles. Traditionally, the smaller candles are lit by each of their mothers, representing the merging of two families.
Also called "el lazo," this ritual—traditional in Mexican, Filipino, and Spanish cultures—takes place after the vows have been said. At that time, the officiant (or whomever the couple has designated) drapes a floral garland or rosary around the couple, twisting it into an infinity symbol. At the end of the ceremony, the bestower of the lasso removes it and the couple saves it as a symbol of their love and unity.
Creating an Anniversary Capsule
The time-capsule ceremony is a reminder of the durability of your love and the lifetime commitment of marriage. During the ceremony, all of these tokens of love are sealed up in a box, and the couple can open it on their five-year, 10-year, or 20-year anniversary. The time-capsule ceremony can also include friends or family who are invited to bring photos, letters, or keepsakes to seal in the time capsule.
Before the ceremony, the couple should gather up important mementos from their relationship: ticket stubs, hotel room keys, notes, and cards. In addition, each should write a love letter to each other.
Handfasting comes from an ancient Celtic tradition wherein the right hands of each partner are bound together during a portion of the wedding ceremony. Typically, the officiant will read the vows while cords are wrapped around the couple's hands. This symbolizes their commitment to each other as they literally tie the knot.
This is such a fun ceremony idea for a nautical or beach wedding, but the concept can certainly be utilized for any wedding theme. The couple takes turns pouring colored sand from personal vases into another vase, where they blend their sand together to make a beautiful display. This is one of the best unity ceremony ideas for blended families, as children can also add sand to the family vase.
Although the most well-known Jewish wedding tradition involves breaking a glass, there's another one that gets both soon-to-be-spouses involved. Each partner takes a turn circling around the other, typically seven times each. This symbolizes the creation of a new family and the circle of protection and love each is placing around the other.
This blended-family-friendly unity ceremony has a few more steps to it. The couple pours colorful glass crystals into a display container either before or after saying their vows. Then, the combined crystals get sent to Unity in Glass, a Texas-based glass-blowing studio. Once the crystals arrive, an artist uses them to create a one-of-a-kind glass sculpture, which is then shipped back to the couple. The artistic representation of the couple's union then becomes the perfect decorative piece for home.
Braiding of the Cross
This ceremony idea comes from Christian tradition, based on Ecclesiastes 4:12: "Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." Each strand of the braid represents the bride, groom, and God and the unending bond and strength between the three. During the ceremony, the groom traditionally holds a ring securing the three strands, while the bride braids them.
We love this fun idea to add a splash of color. Artsy couples can each choose a different color of paint and pour it onto a single canvas. The two paint colors blend and bring life to the empty canvas together, creating a modern-art representation of their marriage.
Wine or Beer Pouring
If you've ever stumbled upon the perfect red blend wine that you couldn't get enough of, this is definitely the unity ceremony for you. The couple chooses two different, yet compatible, wines, pours them into a glass to create a perfect blend, and then drinks the blend together. This can also be done with beer, or it can be done with tea for a dry wedding.
This is such a sweet ceremony option for a woodland themed or garden-inspired wedding. This creative nature-inspired idea is to plant a tree together, adding soil (perhaps gathered from both of your hometowns) to a pot to symbolize your union. Like the tree, your relationship will need love and care to grow and bloom.
Wine Box Ceremony
Some things just get better with time, like the perfect bottle of wine. And what better way to plan ahead for your anniversary than to bring a love for wine into your ceremony? For the non-religious wine box ceremony, the couple selects a wine that can age well. During the wedding, the couple places the bottle of wine in a box and closes the lid, sometimes including other notes or objects. Once sealed, the box isn't opened until a specific date chosen, such as a 10-year wedding anniversary.
If you choose this unity ceremony option, be sure to consult a wine steward or another knowledgeable wine expert on the best wine to tuck away. Often, white wines don't age as well as reds. You'll want to make sure you choose something that can still be enjoyed on the day you choose to reopen your box.
When does the unity ceremony take place?
The unity ceremony takes place at the altar during the wedding ceremony. Typically, it follows the vow exchange and precedes the newlyweds' kiss. This can vary depending on certain cultures, religions, or unity ceremonies.