This is an article I’ve been meaning to write for quite some time. A symbolic ritual for your wedding ceremony. You may have heard of symbolic rituals in your quest for a wedding that resembles you. These rituals often have become an integral part of the outline as they add a spiritual and symbolic dimension to the commitment of the couple. They can also make space for the guests to participate in this moment filled with emotions.
There are many rituals in secular ceremonies, it is also perfectly possible to make up your own. The theme of the ceremony, the meaning of the commitment that the newlyweds want to share, or a link to a culture: any can be the basis for a ritual, and the possibilities are unlimited!
I chose a few rituals to talk about here, the most popular ones. I don’t specifically like to suggest this type of rituals, which can be found anywhere and everywhere on the Web, but I would like to explain the meaning behind each of them. From that point forward, your imagination can take over.
The sand ceremony is said to be a Hawaiian tradition. At the time, when couples wedded, they would stand barefoot on the beach. During the ceremony, they would take a handful of sand under their feet and pour it into a unique vessel thereby symbolizing that, from that day onwards, they were coming together as one.
The sand ceremony is performed as such: the bride and groom each pour different colored sand into a vase. This mix becomes a unity symbolizing the blending of two people. Once the grains of sand are mixed together, it is impossible to separate them, which represents the new union. This ceremony can also symbolize the respect they each have of the other’s differences and their complementarity, since each sand keeps its color and each spouse keeps his or her personality.
If the spouses have children, it is possible to have them participate by handing them a small sand container that they will pour at the same time into the vase. This expresses the creation and unity of the family.
The spouses’ families can also participate, thereby expressing the new family alliance. You can also have this ceremony with the best man and the maid of honor.
During the ceremony, the officiant can say a few words explaining the symbolism behind the ritual for the couple. Spouses can also exchange their vows at that time, filling this moment with emotions.
Handfasting (or tying hands together)
Handfasting is an ancient Celtic practice whereby newlyweds expressed their new bond. At the time, thirteen ribbons of different colors were tied around the spouses’ wrists. Each color represented a promise for the newlyweds: red for passion, pink for unity, green for fertility, etc.
Today, this ceremony ritual is much the same, the ribbons still symbolize this new union through promises. The officiant performs the ritual by asking the couple different questions about their commitment. Each time the spouses answer “yes”, the officiant ties one of the ribbons around their wrists, while they hold hands and look each other in the eye. Once the spouses have answered every question, the ribbons are untied or cut.
Variations are also possible here, by having one or several close friends or family members place the ribbons around the couple’s wrists. The newlyweds can also express their promises at that moment.
In many cultures and religions, light represents life and positive energy. For this ceremony ritual, each of the spouses holds a small lit candle, and, together, they light a larger candle which represents their couple and union, thereby creating a “hearth”. Moreover, the flames of the candle symbolize love, passion and life. This ceremony ritual is very well suited for couples who wish to include some religious dimension into their wedding, namely Christianity. Indeed, the fact that the ceremony is secular does not mean all religious expression is banned.
It is also possible to have the children and/or family members participate to express the union of the family. Other alternatives: light a candle and have the guests each take the candle and say a blessing, or give a candle to each of the guests at the beginning of the wedding ceremony if the wedding party is not too big. They can all make a wish for the newlyweds combining their lit candles with the larger one, previously lit by the couple. It is a sure pleaser!
This ceremony ritual is particularly well suited for secular wedding ceremonies taking place early in the evening or at night.
A tree is a symbol of the path of life and of love. It represents the growth of bonds, the development and strengthening of the couple through the stages of life.
For this ceremony ritual, the couple picks the tree of their choosing, based on its symbolic meaning (strength and fidelity for the oak, longevity and hope for the olive tree…). Planting this tree together represents the growth of your love and bond. The couple may also each plant a tree, next to each other. For practical reasons, a potted tree is generally chosen. But if you organize the ceremony in your own garden, this ritual takes all its true meaning and the planting can be done directly in the soil.
The family alternative can also be performed here and keep the bride and groom from soiling their clothes: the fathers of the spouses can plant the tree together, as a symbol of the joining of their two families. The metaphor is particularly lovely as, like the tree, the father represents strength and protection.
This ceremony ritual, inspired by an ancient Celtic tradition, is also called “the ritual of the Blessing”.
On each guest’s seat will be placed a small stone (preferably flat) and a black pen. During the ceremony, as the officiant announces the ritual, guests firmly hold the stone in their hands and make a wish for the couple. Then they write down the wish on the stone and put it in a large vase that the newlyweds can keep as a memento.