In my experience as a professional wedding officiant, adding a unity ceremony into your wedding ceremony is a wonderful way to bring the ceremony to a close. It’s usually an element that symbolizes your union and commemorates your marriage. There are many different ways to do this and you’re only limited by your imagination! I encourage my couples who want to include an element like this in their wedding ceremony to find one or create one that is meaningful to them. This offers another opportunity to personalize their wedding.
Below are some of the more common options and a few other ones that you might not have thought of. I have experience with all of them and have contemporary and updated language for even the more traditional ones. I hope these spark your imagination and help you find the right unity ceremony element that’s right for you and your sweetheart!
Ceremony Options to symbolize unity
#1 Unity Candle
I put this one first because it’s the most common and well-known of all the unity ceremonies. That doesn’t make it any less meaningful. I love the symbolism behind the unity candle! The element includes three candles: one for each member of the couple and one to represent the couple. In some cases, the mothers of the couple light their child’s candle, which is a lovely way to include people in your wedding. During the ceremony, the couple will take their individual candle and together, at the same time, light the third candle. While doing this the officiant talks about the two flames joining into one flame that cannot ever be divided. It’s important to note that the two individual candles remain glowing to signify that the individuality of the person getting married lives on.
#2 Sand Ceremony
This is a fun one because it can also be done with children for a special family sand ceremony. This element includes an empty jar or clear vase and as many small jars of sand as there are people participating in the ceremony. Before pouring the sand into the empty jar, the officiant talks about the individual grains of sand representing the individual members of the wedding couple. As the sand is poured, either simultaneously or one at a time, into the empty vessel, the officiant talks about those individuals grains combining into one new entity, again focusing on the fact that those grains of sand will always remain individual and distinct even as they are combined into one.
#3 Tree Planting Ceremony
This is a great option for a couple who is outdoorsy and values spending time in nature. There’s some beautiful language around the symbolism of planting a tree, tending to it with love, and care and watching it grow through the years, just like a marriage. Don’t forget the analogy of the family tree! You can use soil from a family home or special place of meaning to “plant” the tree. It works best if you already have the tree planted in a lovely pot and just add a tiny bit of soil to the top to symbolize the planting.
#4 Beer Ceremony
I officiated a wedding where the couple did a special black and tan beer ceremony. It was fun to watch the two beers get poured into the glass and then combine as the couple took a sip. You can do a beer unity ceremony with a favorite beer or local brew and use it as an opportunity to signify your first drink as a couple!
#5 Wine Ceremony
I love the symbolism behind the wine ceremony. I’ve created some really beautiful, secular (non-religious) language for this traditionally Jewish ceremony. You can talk about taking each taking a sip to signify your willingness to stay together through the inevitable bitterness of life and then each taking a sip to signify that the sweetness of life will be doubled because you have someone with whom to share it. You can also skip this symbolism all together and just drink to your past, your present, and your future!
#6 Champagne Toast
Who doesn’t love a festive pop of a champagne cork during a ceremony?! This is such a fun way to celebrate your first drink as a married couple directly after your ring exchange and before your kiss. Have your caterer put a bottle of champagne on ice. Purchase two special champagne glasses and have it all on your ceremony table so that mid-ceremony you can pop the cork and cheers your guests!
#7 Handfasting Ceremony
This is one of the most meaningful unity ceremonies I conduct. It can be done with or without fasting cords. If you’re using the cords to wrap your clasped hands, consider inviting a family member to tie the cords as the officiant conducts the ceremony. You don’t need the cords to make it a magical moment, just hold each other’s hands. You can find some really lovely language about how these are the hands that will hold you through the years and comfort you with the slightest touch. My favorite line is “these are the hands, that even when wrinkled with age, will still be reaching for yours.” So beautiful!
#8 Knot Tying Ceremony
This is a fun one and works well for a nautical-themed, coastal Maine wedding. I have language about the fisherman’s knot, which gets stronger when pressure is applied to it. What a lovely representation of a marriage! Of course, it can also be referred to as a lovers’ knot, which is apropos for a wedding. The actual knot-tying can be a little confusing, so it’s really important to practice a bunch before the wedding.
#9 Hourglass Ceremony
A couple of mine used this ceremony and it worked great! It’s similar to the sand ceremony with some added language that every year the hourglass will be turned combining the sand more and more as time goes on. As with the sand ceremony, you can use different colored sand or sand from beaches that have special meaning to you both.
#10 Love Letter Ceremony
I put this one last because it’s not necessarily about unity, but it’s a really sweet element to add into your ceremony. You each write a love letter to each other, especially discussing your reasons for falling in love and choosing to marry. You seal your envelop and lock it into a box that you’ll open on your 10th wedding anniversary. You can combine this with the wine box ceremony, which includes a bottle of wine along with the love letters. I wish my husband and I had done this because it would have been so fun to read how he was feeling when we got married. It’s like creating your own time capsule!