Unity ceremonies and gift-giving – symbolic actions in wedding ceremonies
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. Symbolic unity ceremonies such as handfasting, sand-blending and lighting unity candles 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 cliched 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 lovely 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 one lovely little one 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 a VIP small person.
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!
uNITY CANDLE Ceremony
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.
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.
IMAGE CREDIT: Kerry Schofield Photography
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.
Water Unity Ceremony
Pouring coloured liquids together is an alternative option with the same symbolic meaning.
Both the simplicity of giving gifts with meaning, and these visually impactful unity ceremonies offer some great opportunities to create a memorable and meaningful moment in your wedding ceremony. And if you’re still interested in more ideas, my final blog post of this series (coming soon) will feature even more creative ideas.