I’d like to focus today on two categories of rituals that are typically placed in the wedding after the couple has exchanged their vows and rings. If not done immediately following the ring exchange, certainly later in the ceremony as these are visible metaphors for what the couple has done verbally within their exchange of vows.
Unity Rituals: These rituals capture the symbolism of two unique individuals coming together to create a partnership. What was separate has now been joined as one and can never be separated. While the Unity Candle and Sand Ceremony are far and away the two most common, pretty much anything that can be blended or joined can be used to create a unity ritual. The Flower Ceremony and Knot Ceremony are probably the next two unity rituals in order of popularity. One of my couples blended salt and another combined two colors of paint. It wasn’t just any paint resulting in a weird color, there was some planning involved with a specific shade intended. They used the paint to decorate their first child’s nursery a year later. How cool is that?!
Rituals of Sharing: These rituals carry the symbolism a step further. Yes, two individuals are coming together to create a partnership, but what does that mean in practical terms? It means they intend to be there for one another in both good times and in bad. The Wine Ceremony, Tasting of the Four Elements and Sharing of the Cup / Native American Wedding Vase are examples of this type of ritual. I encourage couples to think symbolically when it comes to the Wine Ceremony as they are each taking a sip of two different wines described as “sweet” and “bitter.” Who wants to drink bitter wine? I believe the visual component of the ritual is more important, so I just tell the couples to pick a red and a white they like and then use the red for sweet and the white for bitter.
You can certainly use both types of rituals within your wedding ceremony, but it doesn’t make much sense to do two rituals of the same type. If you include a Unity Candle and a Sand Ceremony you’re just repeating the exact same symbolism and it doesn’t work well ritually. But if you want to do a Unity Candle and a Sharing of the Cup, those two rituals can be worked in beautifully because of the different symbolic meaning.
These rituals add a depth of meaning to the wedding. The words used to describe the rituals as they are happening during the ceremony can be adapted to highlight what the couple sees as important to the success of their union. They increase the engagement of the guests since they include movement and visual interest. None are terribly expensive to assemble on your own, although you can find professional kits at a variety of price points. Most of these rituals also result in a keepsake the couple can add to the mementos of their special day.