While most couples both symbolically plant and water a potted tree, I have had one couple omit reference to planting and simply water an existing tree at the park where their ceremony was held. If including the planting of the tree as part of the ritual, I don't recommend the couple get down on their hands and knees in the dirt with a spade. With a potted tree, the couple just adds a little more soil and some water. Let's keep the suits and dresses clean, we are dealing in the realm of the symbolic after all.
The details of the ceremony can be adapted based upon the type of tree; the symbolism of a fruit-bearing tree for a couple wanting to start their own family or blending step-children is a powerful one for example. The conclusion of the ceremony can be customized depending upon what the couple plans to do later with the tree. It would be very different indeed if the tree is a sapling intended for the couple's own yard, a donation to a public green space, or a mature tree located at the wedding venue.
Rev. Brenda Owen passed along an excellent idea when I spoke to her about the ritual. She suggested couples could take pictures of their children beside the maturing tree as they grew up. I wish I had thought to do something similar with my own kids. We have the perfect tree in our yard for that! Of course, it does mean you have to stay in one place for awhile. Which brings me to an idea one of Brenda's brides passed along to her. They used a hibiscus tree in their wedding so they could take a cutting to their new home should they ever relocate. Brilliant!
The sample below is not from Cassie and Joe's wedding. It is a fairly basic Tree Ceremony rather than a highly personalized one. I include it to convey a general sense of the ritual. With a wee bit of creativity, the ritual can be transformed into almost anything the couple finds even more meaningful.
(Bride and Groom) have just sealed their relationship with the giving and receiving of rings. Today their union is further symbolized by uniting in the life giving act of planting and watering this tree.
Water unceasingly changes shapes and transforms itself. It is thus a model out of which everything can be born. It nourishes and purifies, reminding us that (bride and groom) joyfully undertake the sacred duty to transform their marriage when they find it in need of renewal and re-commitment.
This vessel, symbolizing the cup of life, was crafted lovingly by human hands and represents love's strength and endurance dependent upon our human feelings and intentions.
This tree, born of the tiniest of seeds, symbolizes both the beauty and the potential of love that blooms and grows through time. Its roots remind us of the families who nurtured (Bride and Groom) to become the one person in the world each holds most dear, families whose love and support is important to the strength of this new union. The branches reach to the future that is their shared potential as (Bride and Groom) face it together, hand in hand and heart to heart.
(Bride and Groom), I invite you to now share in the planting and watering of this tree, this precious gift of life to show your commitment to your marriage as a joint endeavor with responsibilities you now share as the consequences and rewards of lives lived well affect you both in equal measure. (Bride and Groom) as you tend to this young sapling, may it remind you of the joy you feel this day. May you cultivate a marriage with deep strong roots and take pleasure in the effort that entails. May you always be the best of friends and your love for one another deepen over the years.
* My special thanks to Rev. Brenda Owen, Wedding Officiant and Minister serving Northeast Georgia, Upstate South Carolina and Cashiers - Highlands North Carolina. She presided at the marriage of Cassie and Joe at Augusta Manor in Greenville, South Carolina on March 30, 2013. She is a gracious and generous colleague.I am very grateful for her help with this article.