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Joined Together: Unity Ceremony Ideas

Weddings celebrate the joining together of hearts, families, and homes. The unification of a couple pledging vows to each other is the key component of the ceremony, and unity rituals are common during both traditional and nontraditional weddings. Unity ceremonies represent the magic of two people coming together as one.

Unity rituals may be built into certain religious or cultural weddings as a normal part of the festivities. Other couples may want to embrace the idea of a unity ceremony to add something special to their ceremonies.

Couples seeking creative options for unity rituals as part of their wedding ceremonies can explore these ideas:

· Candle lighting: The lighting of a unity candle is one of the more recognizable and traditional unity rituals. During this ritual, the bride and the groom each light an individual candle and then together light a larger candle, which celebrates them coming together as one.

· Sand pouring: The pouring of sand into a vessel also is a popular unity ritual. In this custom, couples choose two sands of different colors and then pour their respective colors into a vessel, allowing the different hues to mix together. This ritual can be expanded to include other family members, with a rainbow of colors blending for a now-unified joining of families.

· Unity cross: Christians may enjoy including a unity cross ritual at their ceremony. A unity cross is a decorative cross with a holder, and the cross is held in place by three pins, which symbolize the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. During this ritual, the bride, groom, and officiant will each set a pin in place.

· Tree planting: Planting a tree or shrub that can grow with the marriage is a green idea and one that takes unity rituals to a different level. Couples can place the sapling in a decorative pot and then take turns watering it. Later, the tree can be planted outside the couple's first home.

· Lasso ceremony: This ritual is traditional in many Spanish- and Filipino-speaking countries. After vows are exchanged, the officiant wraps a floral garland or rosary around the couple. At the end of the ceremony, the garland is saved as a symbol of unity and love.

· Handfasting: This custom comes from an ancient Celtic tradition that binds right hands of the bride and groom together during the wedding ceremony. Handfasting symbolizes the couple's commitment to one another.

· Flower ceremony: In this ritual, couples can exchange roses or a favorite flower and then place them in a vase or basket. All members of the family also are invited to place a single flower into the vessel, which ultimately results in a beautiful floral display.

· Creating a painting: In this unity display, couples create a painting on a blank canvas during their wedding ceremony. The bride and groom can work together to paint a specific design (a heart is an appropriate choice), or they can each pour a different color of paint onto the canvas so that the two colors combine for a more abstract masterpiece. The artwork can then be displayed in the couple's home after the big day.

Couples can create their own unique unity ceremonies. The blending of any two materials, such as wine, tea, or glass beads, or even the traditional tying of knots will convey the symbolism of joining as one.

The Ties That Bind

When Lancaster, Pa., residents Meghan and Eugene got married on Aug. 4, 2018, they took the expression "tie the knot" literally. Meghan and Eugene, who are high school sweethearts originally from Wilkes-Barre, PA, included a special unity display in their ceremony, during which they tied a square knot together in the center of a large macrame hanging made by local artist Amber of Ropes and Roses of Lititz, Pa.

"I had seen the idea once or twice and thought it was perfect for us, because I have made a few macrame hangings myself," explains Meghan, a school psychologist, noting that she taught Eugene, an executive chef, how to tie a square knot in the lead-up to the wedding. "Even though I'm the one that actually makes macrame occasionally, Eugene still appreciated and liked the idea behind it," she says.

In addition to the symbolism a unity ceremony affords to a wedding, it can also provide newlyweds with a tangible memento of the big day, which is something that appealed to Meghan and Eugene. "I loved the idea of having something from our ceremony that we would want in our home for years to come that would really be an heirloom of sorts," says Meghan. "It's currently hanging in our bedroom and is a really beautiful reminder of the day."

Meghan and Eugene's friends and family responded positively to the couple's original and customized wedding ceremony. "So many people came up to tell us how much they loved every part of the ceremony," recalls Meghan. "Many remarked that it included things they had never seen before, and they thought everything really worked beautifully together and seemed to represent us as a couple."

"It was important to us that we were picking ceremony elements that were meaningful to us," adds Meghan. In fact, when asked what advice she has for other couples who are interested in including a unity ceremony in their wedding, Meghan says, "My best advice is just to make sure whatever you're doing has true meaning to the two of you as a couple! It's hard when you're wedding planning to not let what's popular at the time or what you think you 'should' do influence your choices. But the day - and especially the ceremony - is meant to be truly celebrating your relationship and future ... so you can do whatever you want, and it's all about what's important to the two of you!"

macrame hanging: Ropes and Roses Macrame, Lititz, PA (shopropesandroses.com)

photographer: Emily Grace Photography, Elizabethtown, PA (emilygracephoto.com)

wedding and reception venue: Friedman Farms, Dallas, PA (friedmanfarms.com)

"Our wedding included a rose planting ceremony, symbolizing the roots of our relationship and our continued growth of love. We will plant this rose in our backyard to always be a symbol of our love for each other. Our mothers provided the foundation for the rose with soil from each of their homes. We then watered the rose, symbolizing the joining of our two families.

-Kelly and Zach,

married May 19, 2018, at Riverdale Manor, Lancaster, PA

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