Symbolic Actions – ideas for your wedding ceremony

by | Feb 27, 2020 | symbolic actions | 0 comments

There are many different symbolic actions you can choose from to add something special to your wedding ceremony. So I’ve written this blog series to give you plenty of ideas and suggestions for symbolic actions (also known as symbolic acts or symbolic gestures) to use in your wedding. We will cover popular unity rituals such as hand-fasting, and sand-layering but I will also share lots of other more unusual and creative ideas.

In this first of three blog posts, I will introduce how important and pervasive symbolism is as part of weddings. I will then suggest some lovely symbolic actions and rituals that can create a very special atmosphere right at start of your ceremony.

The symbolism of weddings

Wedding ceremonies are full of symbolism. From the bridal bouquet, to throwing confetti, symbolic elements are so intrinsic to weddings, so much so in fact, that we often take them for granted.

Take a bridal bouquet for example, which traces its origins as far back as ancient Rome. In those times the flowers that brides carried to their weddings symbolised new beginnings, fidelity and fertility. Fast forward nearly 2000 years, and the Victorian fascination with the symbolic ‘language of flowers’ bought added significance to a bride’s choice of blooms.


Or consider the example of throwing confetti – always a fun way to finish a wedding ceremony. But it didn’t originate just because looks great in the photographs! In fact, the custom is thought to have developed in Italy in the middle ages, to help guests’ express their wish to bestow prosperity and fertility on the happy couple.

When you stop and think about it, the whole ‘wedding day’ is an elaborate, layered ritual. Since a wedding is a whole bundle of of symbolic elements by which we mark and celebrate this defining transition in a couple’s relationship.

Why do we need symbolic actions in wedding ceremonies?

In most weddings in England and Wales, the symbolic focal point of the wedding ceremony is an exchange of rings. Wedding rings are a permanent visual reminder of the promises that the couple make to each other.  Indeed, the rings are an enduring emblem of the love that binds them.

Symbolic actions like exchanging rings lend extra weight and impact to the words of a ceremony. How you create these rituals in your own ceremony should reflect your own personal style and outlook on life. Using symbolic actions thoughtfully and creatively is certainly a memorable way to make the ceremony your own.

Making an entrance

There are so many options for this symbolic moment at the very start of a wedding ceremony. Whether a bride follows tradition and arrives with her Father, arrives with someone else, or brides and grooms of both mixed and same couples can all choose to mix it up entirely!  For example, a couple could both make entrances, arrive together, or simply be there together from the start to welcome their guests. There is a surprising variety of options for the choreography! Watch this space for another blog post on all the options to consider.


Symbolic Actions Involving your guests at the start of the ceremony.

If you love the idea of involving your friends and family right at the very start of the ceremony, how about involving them in creating your bouquet or decorating the ceremony area?

Gathering a bouquet

In this ritual, instead of arriving with a bouquet the bride or brides (or any floral-loving grooms!) gather flowers from guests as they arrive. You could ask a select group of friends and family to present you with blooms before you go down the aisle.  Or guests at the end of each aisle could give you a flower as you walk past. When you’ve gathered up all your flowers from your guests,  a couple of helpers, perhaps the Mums or some bridesmaids, tie the posy for you.

Symbolic Actions That Create the Ceremony space

You could ask all your guests to bring a pebble, pinecones, or a flower to the front of your ceremony space and create a circle of love for you to stand in during your ceremony. This works very well for an outdoor wedding, using natural elements, which are left in place at the close of the ceremony. But there is no reason why you couldn’t also use other objects that you love – for example musical instruments, sports equipment like tennis rackets or hockey-sticks, teapots (if you love a good cup of tea)…etc! Whatever type of object that resonates with you could be used to define the space. And depending on what you pick, it could look amazing in the photographs! At the close of the ceremony, your friends and family simply retrieve their item. And as an added bonus, they might always remember your wedding when using that teapot or tennis-racket again in the future.

If these ideas for symbolic actions at the start of your ceremony have whet your appetite to find out more ideas and options, read on!  Because In the next blog in this series I will cover symbolic gift-giving and unity ceremonies.

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Unity ceremonies and gift-giving in wedding ceremonies

I share great ideas around symbolic gift-giving and unity ceremonies such as handfasting, sand-blending and lighting unity candles in this post.