Jocelyn in Georgia: My fiance and I are wondering if it would be okay to exchange two sets of rings during our wedding. My dad passed away a few years ago and his mom died when he was very young so we have their wedding rings. Can we put those on our right hands and then exchange our own wedding rings on the left?
Rev. Ann: Earlier this month, one of my couples did exactly that with their grandparents' rings. I think it's lovely and worked quite well in the ceremony. Here is how we did it, but you can partner with your officiant to write the double ring exchange in a way that works best for you.
As circles have no beginning and no end, rings have naturally come to symbolize eternal love within the union of mind, body, and spirit that constitutes the sanctity of marriage. They are freely offered as gifts of faith and hope as visible signs of the promises given this day. (Groom) and (Bride) appreciate that they do not come to their relationship alone, but carry in their hearts the love and support of the generations that precede them. They have chosen to exchange their grandparent’s rings on their right hands in recognition that their love has a past, a present, and a future.
Laurie in Miami: It is important to our families that we include a unity candle in our ceremony, but I also really like several other rituals I've seen on your website. Neither of us want a long ceremony and would like to keep it under half an hour. Is it possible to include more in our ceremony without turning it into a marathon wedding? Does it make sense to do something else in addition to a unity candle?
Rev. Ann: Yes and Yes.
Wedding ceremonies do not last nearly as long as most people expect, and each individual element rarely adds more than a minute or two to the overall length. If you focus on including elements that are meaningful to you with no thought whatsoever to the length of the ceremony, you are still extremely unlikely to exceed about 20 minutes in length. It honestly takes some serious effort to put together a wedding that lasts more than half an hour.
I have officiated quite a few weddings that included more than one ritual. Fairly recently I officiated a wedding for a couple who chose to include include four wedding rituals within their order of service. Their wedding was exactly twenty minutes long.
There are a few suggestions I would make if you do want to include multiple elements. You should understand the symbolism of each ritual to avoid redundancy. For example, a unity candle followed by a sand ceremony simply repeats the idea of two individuals coming together to form a partnership and seems odd. I recommend selecting rituals from different categories of meaning. You don't run the risk of a redundancy problem if you pair a Unity Ritual with a Reconciliation Ritual or a Sharing Ritual with a Ritual of Conclusion.
You do have options if you have your heart set on two rituals that mean essentially the same thing though.
1. You can partner with your officiant to blend two rituals thereby creating a single ritual that includes what you like best about both. I did just that with the Rose Ceremony and Wine & Letter Box several years ago. It turned out quite nicely if I do say so myself.
2. You can opt to include one ritual within the context of your wedding ceremony and do the other at the reception. I once officiated an outdoor wedding for a bride whose mother had given her a Unity Candle as a gift. Those do not work very well in even the calmest of winds. We included a Sand Ceremony in the wedding and they did a Unity Candle right before their cake cutting inside a ballroom.
When including multiple rituals, make sure your officiant is a ritual specialist and understands how to place the rituals within the ceremony for maximum effect. They can seem jumbled and lose the emotional impact of their symbolism if not placed well within the order of service.
Left: Cheryl Clermont of Space Coast Photographer