Wedding Ceremony Elements | Top 3 Unity Candle Ceremonies
Unity Candle Ceremonies can be conducted in many ways, limited only by the imagination. One thing, however, that they all have in common is that they are symbolic of a union / unity for wedding, commitment, vow renewal, naming, reunion and even funeral ceremonies.
Below are three samples of the most frequently used ceremonies.
1. Unity Candle Ceremony (Leaving All Candles Burning)
The couple will commemorate their marriage by lighting a Unity Candle (Couple walk over to the candles)
The individual candles represent all that makes each of you the wonderful and unique person the other admires and respects. The Unity Candle in the center symbolizes the union of your lives, families, and friends, as well as your shining commitment to each other, and to a lasting and loving marriage. This candle is lit after your vows.
Same as the above with the addition of: Extinguish the two flames symbolizing your previous lives and you are forever united together in love after you say your vows and light your center candle.
3. Unity Candle Ceremony (Involving family)
You can have your parents or someone special light the taper that you are going to light your individual candles with or you can just light them yourselves.
The individual candles represent your lives before today. Lighting the center candle represents that your two lives are now joined to one light, and represents the joining together of your two families and sets of friends to one. Each of the above ceremonies can be concluded with:
A minimony is a mini ceremony held with your loved ones. Given the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic, couples have been forced to postpone their weddings and move them.
A minimony is considered a commitment ceremony between you and your partner, and it can include up to 10 people, but it is important to follow social distancing measures. A minimony is a great way to honour their original wedding date.
A minimony usually involves an officiant/celebrant and a small group of loved ones. Your minimony should be low budget as Later in the year or next year you can have your “sequel wedding”- a follow-up wedding with all your guests and celebrations you originally planned. See my infographic below for the 8 steps to your minimony.
After your minimony, continue preparing for your sequel wedding, or the initial wedding that you had planned prior to the pandemic. Having a minimony allows you to set your union or to honour your first proposed date.
Weddings were once rather pre-prescribed affairs. In most cases that meant a bride, a groom, an officiant, some witnesses, and vows that were passed down through generations. You could, married or not, probably recite the ceremony by heart.
As cultures and ethnicities have blended, though, the realm of the mainstream has expanded. Additions of “non-traditional” elements like beach locales, personalised vows, civil celebrants, and unity-candle ceremonies have become, if not the norm, then at least very normal, and many betrothed couples are looking for ever-newer, ever-more-surprising ways to make their weddings unique.
One that has rather recently entered the engaged public’s consciousness is the sand ceremony, more formally known as the unity sand ceremony. Much like the unity candle with which many of us are familiar, the sand version offers a symbolic, visually poignant moment that can add not only a personalised feel but also a bit of whimsy to an otherwise formal affair.
While the unity sand ceremony has a lot in common with the unity candle ceremony, it differs in some important ways. In this article, we’ll find out what the sand version means, what it entails, how to pull one off seamlessly, and about some time-savers available to make it even easier to incorporate this ritual into many different ceremonies
First, what the ceremony is, what it symbolises, and how to make it happen.
Unity Sand Ceremony Steps
As far as wedding-ceremony extras go, this one has quickly gained in popularity for good reason. It’s a rather simple, visually appealing and highly customisable ritual that not only contributes a bit of worldliness but also leaves thenewly-wedswith a meaningful souvenir of their big day.
Plus, unlike the unity candle, this ceremony isn’t complicated by a light breeze. Sand ceremonies can move outdoors with no problem at all.
At its simplest, a sand ceremony involves a symbolic blending of two different-colouredsands into a single vessel. The meaning is clear: The blending of two different beings, the bride and the groom, into a single, inseparable unit that is their marriage — the joining of their lives.
Hard as it would be to separate out those grains of sand, that’s how difficult it is to separate these two people. It usually takes place after the exchange of rings and vows (although it can go before or even during), and lasts just a couple of minutes.
A basic sand ceremony involves three (typically glass) vessels — one holding the bride’s sand, one holding the groom’s sand, and an empty one that will soon hold both, all sitting on a small table or stand. It goes something like this:
The celebrant explains the meaning of the ceremony and how it relates to the two people getting married.
The celebrant invites the groom to pour a bit of his sand (let’s call it blue sand) into the empty vessel.
The celebrant invites the bride to do the same with her sand (let’s say it’s pink).
The bride and groom then pour their sands at the same time, in a single stream, into the vessel.
The celebrant closes the ceremony with some words about the inextricable joining of their lives.
The end result is a glass container holding one of blue sand (the groom), one layer of pink sand (the bride), and a top layer of purple sand, showing how the joining of the two have created a new, equally beautiful entity.
And, it’s an entity that’s easy to make entirely your own.
Unity Sand Ceremony Customisations
One of the greatest benefits to the sand ceremony is how easily it is to personalise. It lends itself especially well to blended families, when the bride and/or groom already have children. Having each child (or special relative or friend or parents) pour his or her owncolouredsand into thevessel along with the couple involves them in the ceremony — and in the finished product — in a seamless, natural way.
Other ways to personalize the ceremony include:
Leaving a bit of sand in each original vessel, symbolizing that each person involved in the union will maintain his or her individuality even as their lives are joined
Collecting sand from meaningful sources — using sand from favourite beaches or from holiday spots can add some extra poignancy to the ceremony.
Inviting each member of the wedding party to add sand to the container, commemorating the special place they hold in your new life together
Coordinating the sand colours to the wedding colours
Choosing a vase, urn or other vessel with that has special meaning to the couple
However you decide to make the ceremony yours, you’re going to need a few supplies to make it work. They’re not tough to come by — just coloured sand and a few glass vases. But with the increased popularity of this ceremonial interlude, gathering everything you need is even easier.
Unity Sand Ceremony Kits
It’s not difficult to find coloured sand. You’ll come across it in craft stores, toy stores, and art-supply stores, and you can easily buy it on-line. Glass vases are even easier to come by. Any shape will do, and you may even have the perfect vessels lying around the house. A container with special meaning, such as an engagement gift, vacation souvenir, or a crystal vase passed down through generations, can make the ceremony and the finished product even more special.
Still, with all that goes into planning a wedding, you may prefer an all-in-one solution — a sand-ceremony kit. These kits range in price from about €25 to €75. They can be basic, with three glass vessels (vases or urns) and two colours of sand; customised with extra vases for family members or friends; and engraved with the names of the bride and groom to create a more personal memoir of the wedding. You can also find a sand vessel that also serves as a picture frame.
The simplicity of the sand ceremony is part of its appeal, so there’s no need to complicate it with elaborate vows. The spiritual symbolism speaks for itself, so a few words from a celebrant and the betrothed are plenty.
The unity sand ceremony is an excellent alternative to the unity candle and is perfect for outdoor settings. But it does come with a warning: Sand can be messy. If all must be pristine, consider a glass funnel. It’ll help the bride and groom combine their lives with more precision.
Jumping the broom is a time-honoured wedding tradition in which the bride and groom jump over a broom during the ceremony. The act symbolises a new beginning and a sweeping away of the past, and can also signify the joining of two families or offer a respectful nod to family ancestors. For all of these reasons, jumping the broom is an increasingly popular part of many modern wedding ceremonies.
Today’s wedding brooms, however, are a far cry from those first used in jumping the broom ceremonies. They’re still made with a wooden handle and natural bristles, but they’re kept as treasured keepsakes and probably never actually used to sweep the floor.
Some brides prefer to create their own brooms, while others purchase ornately decorated brooms ready-made. Far from ordinary, these brooms are outfitted beautifully with silk ribbons, fresh or silk flowers, bows, beads, and more.
During the ceremony, broom jumping can be paired with a reading, song, poem, or simple explanation of the tradition.
The broom can even be used to include guests in the ceremony: A couple can have guests write their names on pieces of decorative paper attached to ribbons, and then the ribbons are tied to the broom before it is jumped. This symbolises that the guests — and their associated well wishes — go into the marriage with the couple.
Ribbons on the broom may be considered symbolic of the tie that binds the couple, while the broom handle represents life and the straw signifies the couples’ families. In pagan ceremonies, the broom represents a perfect balance between the male and female, with the handle symbolising a phallus and the bristles symbolizing female energies [source: Pagans Path].
Regardless of the ways in which the broom is incorporated into a wedding, it should be accompanied by a full understanding of the custom’s historical significance.
History of the Jumping Over the Broom Ceremony
There’s no definitive answer as to where jumping the broom originated. Some people believe that the ceremony began in the 18th century in West Africa where, among some cultures, handmade brooms were used not only for cleaning but also for removing evil spirits. During a wedding ceremony, the broom was waved over the heads of a couple to ward off these spirits. Sometimes the broom was placed on the ground directly in front of a couple’s path as they turned to exit the ceremony, at which point they would jump over it. The person who jumped the highest was good-naturedly designated as the household’s decision-maker [source: Aaregistry.com].
Jumping the broom was used as a marriage ceremony in the 18th and 19th century American South among some slave populations. It served as an alternative to courthouse or church weddings, which were prohibited by the then race-based laws and customs. Like many African traditions, jumping the broom survived but became less common in the decades immediately after emancipation, perhaps because the ceremony was too closely associated with slavery at the time.
People of African descent weren’t the only ones who jumped the broom during that period in history. The wedding custom was a common practice in Welsh, Scottish, and Roma cultures [source: BBC]. In pre-Christian Wales, couples who wished to commit to each other followed pagan tradition: A broom was placed across a home’s doorway and, like jumping a hurdle, the groom leapt over it, and then the bride followed. If neither one of them made the broom fall — or took a face-plant on the floor — the marriage was meant to be. If the broom took a tumble, so did hopes for their marriage: The wedding would be canceled altogether [source: Jones]. The ceremony was widespread enough (especially among couples who didn’t want or weren’t given the legal right to have a court- or church-sanctioned wedding) that Charles Dickens mentioned it casually in “Great Expectations” in 1861; he wrote that a couple was married “over the broomstick.”
Today, jumping the broom is still an important wedding tradition for many — whether they wish to pay homage to their ancestors, signify a fresh start or add a personal twist to their special day.
A handfasting is an old Pagan custom, dating back to the time of the ancient Celts. A handfasting was originally more like an engagement period or betrothal, where two people would declare a binding union between themselves for a year and a day. The original handfasting was a trial marriage. It gave the couple the chance to see if they could survive marriage to each other. After a year goes by the couple could either split as if they had never been married or could decide to enter permanently into marriage.
Today, Wiccans and Pagans are not alone in embracing handfasting as a part of their wedding ceremony. A handfasting in the modern world is a ritualistic/ceremonial sign of a commitment for “as long as love shall last.” A handfasting ceremony can be tailor-made to suit the couple.
The Handfasting Ceremony
There are many variations of the traditional handfasting. After the intended couple, both declare their intent to enter into this union, the hands of the couple are clasped and fastened together with a cord or cords just before, just after, or during their vows are made to one another. The wrapping of the cord forms an infinity symbol. The handfasting knot that is tied in a symbolic representation of oneness between the couple. In a show of unity, they become bound to each other.
The Cords / Ribbons
Each Wiccan and Pagan path has different decrees concerning the colour, length, type, and of the number of cords used to handfast the couple. One custom may have the couple facing each other, binding both pairs of hands of the bride and groom. Another custom is to have only the right hands, and another one of each right and left. There are many variations of the handfasting rite. It all depends on the bride, groom, and the celebrant they chose to preside over their wedding, commitment or vow renewal ceremony.
The handfasting ritual is a beautiful, mystical rite of passage. Many non-Pagan and non-Wiccan couples are adopting this old custom, much like when couples borrow from other traditions to craft their own ceremony to match their distinctive personalities.
Handfastings Q & A
Q. What is handfasting?
A. The short answer to this question is: a handfasting is a component of a wedding ceremony which entails gently wrapping cords/ribbons around the bride and groom’s clasped hands and tying a knot, symbolically binding the couple together in their declaration of unity.
However, the long answer entails a bit of back-story. Today’s modern-day handfasting ceremony is a revival – of sorts – of the handfastings of yesteryear. The ritual of handfasting was originally an element to a formal betrothal ceremony (the precursor to today’s engagement) perhaps going as far back as ancient Celtic Scotland, up to the 16th-century reformation-era. During the formal betrothal ceremony, in which a couple promises to one another their agreement in future marriage, there was a formal handshake to seal the deal. This was called the handfasting, meaning, a pledge by the giving of the hand.
One of the main reasons for this handfasting renaissance, if you will, is because today’s ever-growing secular society can identify with the symbolism of an elaborate handshake agreement. To illustrate the imagery and importance of the handshake, the knotting of cords around the hands was eventually incorporated, possibly by today’s neo-Pagans. Cord knotting presents an outstanding visual in illustrating intent. The handfasting ritual has been, almost effortlessly, adapted and incorporated into many modern wedding rituals as the main ceremonial element in addition to – or instead of – the ring exchange. Modern Pagans revived the literal tying of the knot.
Q. Is there one set ceremony for a handfasting, or are there options to help tailor the ceremony for a particular bride and groom?
A. Well now that you have a better understanding of what a handfasting is, you can see that any ceremony created by a bride and groom can be customised to fit the couple’s wishes. The most important aspect of the handfasting ritual, after the intent, of course, is the cords.
Traditionally in much of cord magic (including handfastings), cords maybe nine feet in length, with each end knotted or bound with thread to prevent fraying. A natural substance (such as cotton or silk) is ideal. In many initiation ceremonies, cords are measured as per the length (height) of the persons involved in the rite; however, the numbers 3 and 9 are very magical and can be incorporated simply by using a cord that is 9 feet or 3 meters long, which is totally acceptable.
In handfasting cords, traditionally, 3 cords are used, each a different color: white for purity (or a “clean slate”), blue for fidelity, and red for passion. However, you may choose other colours that you or the bride & groom feel match their intent. For instance, the bride may love the colour pink and be using it as one of her wedding colours. Pink would be a lovely colour to use in the cords as well. Magically, pink symbolises love. Or you can incorporate a green cord, which symbolises fertility and growth. Do a search for colour correspondences.
Some people braid the three cords together, others only use one cord. It’s up to you! The best way to pick out cords is to use your intuition along with your intent. You can never go wrong with that.