Unity ceremonies and gift-giving in wedding ceremonies

by | Feb 29, 2020 | symbolic actions | 0 comments

In this second blog post about symbolic actions in wedding ceremonies, I share ideas around symbolic gift-giving and unity ceremonies. We’re all very familiar with rings being given in a wedding ceremony, but the idea of a gift with meaning can easily be developed further. Or you might be interested to explore symbolic unity ceremonies such as handfasting, sand-blending and lighting unity candles, all of which are lovely, meaningful rituals to add to your ceremony and are becoming increasingly popular. Read on to find out more!

Symbolic Gift giving

The giving and receiving of gifts is one of the most basic and fundamental of all human rituals. As a couple, you could choose a gift to give to each other that represents something important to you. You might choose to do this as well as, or even instead of exchanging wedding rings. The right gift can also provide a simple and elegant symbolic gesture that recognises other important family members. 

Symbolic Actions – A flower ceremony

A ‘flower ceremony’ which is just one example of a gift-giving ritual in a wedding.  There are various versions in which couples give a flower to each other, or their mothers, or both. But you don’t need to limit yourself to the typical, and perhaps a little clichéd, single stem rose. Giving a symbolic gift is a great way to symbolise gratitude and family connection. You could pick something that is far more original, has more lasting value, or something that is just more meaningful to you.

Symbolic Actions – gifts for your children 

I also recommend gift-giving as a way to incorporate your own children in a wedding ceremony. You could make a family vow about your commitment to them, and then present them with a gift as permanent symbol of the promise you have made. Giving a gift recognises your child’s importance in the ceremony, without being too onerous or overwhelming for them.  It works even for the youngest children. After all, what child doesn’t like to receive a gift!

For younger children whose own memories of the day may not last, the gift itself will become a treasured possession for them, and a permanent symbol of their involvement in the day.

Pictured is a gorgeous little VIP given a bracelet by her mummies just after she had brought their rings forward for them and before they said their vows.  She was given an impromptu round of applause.  It was a lovely moment for everyone present to express their love for this new family.

Unity Ceremonies

Wedding Rings 

Rings are the most common way to symbolise unity in a wedding ceremony. The unbroken shape of a circle is a symbol of the sun, the earth and the universe. It is symbol of wholeness and of peace and continuity.

Handfasting unity ceremony

Handfasting is becoming a popular choice of unity ceremony for a wedding. ‘Tying the knot’ is an ancient Celtic tradition symbolising the commitment and connection of two people in marriage. There are a variety of hand-clasps you can try to find one that feels right for you, as well as several different knots to choose from. Some of these result in a dramatic moment where the knot is only formed as the couple slips their hands out of the loop and pull the cords apart.

You can ask friends or family members to be involved in the wrapping or the knotting of the cords. You might choose to bind your hands with coloured ribbons, each colour representing a different quality you want to incorporate in your marriage. Or you could use a piece of fabric or fabrics that hold meaning for you.  For instance, you might use some fabric taken from a favourite piece of clothing that a parent or grandparent used to wear.

The picture opposite is from Emily and Rex’s beautiful wedding.  They are intrepid rock climbers, so we used climbing rope for their handfasting.  We also incorporated a special climbing knot that is used to join two ropes.  They trust their lives to the strength of this knot on the mountain, so it it was a great allegory for their marriage!


The unity candle is another unity ceremony you can include to represent your lives are coming together in marriage. You each hold a lit candle and these two separate flames represent you as individuals. Then, using both flames, you light a third candle together. Often this is a larger candle. Lighting this third flame represents starting your married life together. We can use words the compare the light and warmth of a flame with the light and warmth of the love between you.

3 candles ready for the candle lighting unity ceremony a great symbolic action for a wedding

You have the option to blow out the individual candles to represent the end of your old life and the transition to a new stage. Or you can leave the separate candles burning, to represent that whilst you are sharing your lives, you remain separate people, with your own unique identities.


Sand layering unity ceremony

A sand-layering is lovely symbolic way to represent how separate individuals come together to make a couple, or by extension how individuals contribute to the whole family.  It is also lots of fun for children to get involved.

First you choose some coloured sand – one colour for each person you want to include. The coloured sand represents each person as an individual – their own unique set of talents, experiences, and potential. The sand is poured in layers of distinct colours.  Or by pouring at the same time, you can create a layer in which all colours are mixed together. Once the sand has been poured into a vase, the different coloured grains could never be separated again.  And this beautifully represents the permanent union of the marriage, and/or the family unit.

You can buy special glassware with stoppered necks, so that the layered sand is a lovely decorative memento to keep.  You might even choose to have the vase engraved ahead of time with your names and the date of your wedding. 

IMAGE CREDIT: Kerry Schofield Photography

Water Unity Ceremony

Pouring coloured liquids together is an alternative option with the same symbolic meaning.


Unity Ceremonies & Gift Giving

In summary, either the simplicity of giving gifts with meaning, or the visually impactful unity ceremonies described above, offer great opportunities to create a memorable and meaningful moment in your wedding ceremony. And if you’re still interested in more ideas, READ ON for my final blog post of this series with even more creative ideas.


How to include Friends and Family in your wedding Ceremony

14 creative ideas for how you can include friends and family in your wedding ceremony. My new guide is packed with inspiration to help you include all those you love most in the world in a relaxed but heartfelt ceremony!

Symbolic actions for family & community and symbolising the strength of your bond

Discover meaningful ways to recognise the importance of family and community in your wedding ceremony, or to symbolise the strength and permanence of your commitment.

Symbolic Actions – ideas for your wedding ceremony

In this first blog post of 3, I introduce the importance of symbolism in weddings and suggest some lovely symbolic rituals to create a special atmosphere right at the very start of your ceremony.

FEATURE IMAGE (top of page): Auguste Smailyte Photography  IG: @bite.hard FB: AugusteSmailytePhoto