Wedding symbols and traditions

There are many ways you can choose to personalise your wedding ceremony and to include your family and loved ones in your wedding day. Below are some optional details to include in your wedding ceremony or tailor to suit you.

If you have a different idea or family tradition you’d like to include in your wedding ceremony, please let me know.

Unity candle

The lighting of a unity candle is a relatively recent addition to traditional wedding ceremonies and is popular in the United States.

A unity candle ceremony uses two taper candles with a large pillar candle (the unity candle) in the centre. At the beginning of the wedding ceremony, a representative from each family (usually the mothers of the couple) lights the two taper candles. Later in the ceremony, the couple use the two taper candles to light the unity candle together.

The lighting ceremony may be accompanied by special music, or an explanation of the symbolism. In some circles, it is customary for the couple to save the unity candle and relight it on anniversaries.

Sample wording

“______ and ______, these two lighted candles symbolise your separate lives, your separate families and your separate sets of friends. I’d like to ask that you each take a candle and together ignite the larger one to flame.

While the individual candles represent your individual lives before today. This is a glowing reminder that in a true marriage, your lives are both individual and together as one.”

Unity sand

With similar meaning to the unity candle ceremony, a sand ceremony involves pouring different sands together to symbolise the the couple joining together or the joining of their families. This is a more suitable option when planning an outdoor wedding, as the breeze can stop unity candles from lighting outdoors.

The sand ceremony requires at least three small vials or vases, one for the couple to pour the sand into and two for the sand to be poured from. Additional vials can be used to include family members in the ceremony, such as children.

A quick online search will show you many options to tailor the sand ceremony to suit you. Couples may choose to use sand from their favourite beaches or in their favourite colours. You may like to order a personalised vase, picture frame or an hourglass to display in your home after the wedding as a reminder of the day you joined your lives together. Some families continue to add sand from their holidays to the sand from their wedding ceremony.

Sample wording

“______ and ______, today you make a lasting commitment to share the rest of your lives with each other. That commitment will be symbolised through the pouring of these sands.

Each of you comes to this relationship with unique strengths, vulnerabilities, and histories. As individuals, you are beautiful people all on your own. Yet when the two of you are joined together, you form something even more beautiful. Together, your strengths blossom, your vulnerabilities are cared for. As your sands are combined the separate colours blend together, forming new patterns and colour.

You have now joined your families together, creating a new family as you start your journey in marriage together.”

Polaroid camera ceremony

Including a Polaroid camera in your wedding ceremony is a simple yet fun way for couples to express their commitment to each other in their ceremony.

The couple take a photograph of each other, just after their vows have been spoken. After the wedding, the photos are taken home by the couple and can be put on display or kept in a safe place.

Some couples choose to move the photos around their home, leaving them in a location where their partner will find it.

The photos can be a reminder of the vows made and can also be used when the couple is at odds with one another as a way of saying that everything is fine (similar to offering an olive branch).

Sample wording

“______ and ______, you will now each take a picture of one another. While these will be only two of many photos taken today, they will be special to you.

They will be a reminder of the vows you have made today and will reflect an unedited, unique moment of your wedding day captured through the perspective of your partner.

Keep these pictures safe and when you look upon them, look back to this moment on this day and feel the love that you feel now for one another.”

Warming of the rings

This is a special way you can include your wedding guests in the ceremony. A ring warming involves offering your loved ones the opportunity to hold your wedding bands prior to the exchange of rings and imbue them with a wish, blessing or prayer for your marriage. By the time your rings make it onto your fingers they will be saturated with the love of your friends and family.

This is a wonderful option for couples who choose to have a non-religious ceremony but want to involve their religious loved ones. With a ring warming everyone will be welcome to take a moment to bring their own beliefs into your ceremony in a private but meaningful way.

You will need to put someone in charge of the ring warming, to explain to guests how it works and make sure that it runs smoothly. The rings can be passed around throughout the ceremony, with your ring chaperone keeping an eye on things to make sure the rings are moving along and will be ready when they’re needed.

If you have a larger guest list, you can offer guests the chance to warm the rings as they arrive, before taking their seat. You can also keep your rings together and safe for the ring warming by tying them together with ribbon or attaching them to an object, such as a ring cushion.

If this just sounds like too much trouble but you still love the idea, you can consider doing this with your close family, friends and wedding party prior to the wedding ceremony.

Sample wording

“ _______ and ______ will be exchanging rings as a symbol of the vows they make today. Wedding rings are the most visible sign of the bond they will share. A commitment to life, to each other and the future.

They ask that you, their family and friends, each take a moment to warm these rings, which will be passed around. As you hold them in your hands, make your wishes for the couple and for their future together before passing them onto the next person.

These wedding rings will not only be a gift from one to another but will be given with the love, support and wisdom of the closest people in their lives.”

Wine ceremony

This is similar to the unity candle and sand ceremonies, it’s also a really fun ceremony (especially for wine lovers) and can help to calm those nerves!

A wine ceremony involves the pouring of 2 bottles or glasses of wine into a decanter. The two wines are combined and then poured into two glasses for the couple to toast with and drink together. This ceremony symbolises how the parties to the marriage are two people with different characteristics and likes coming together and starting a new chapter.

Variation Option: Instead of combining two bottles of wine, the parties to the marriage can select one bottle (a shared favourite perhaps) and share a glass with one another. You may also like to raise a toast with your guests at the end of your wedding ceremony - ideal if your ceremony moves straight into a reception or cocktail hour.

Another fun idea, unity cocktail instead of wine, woohoo!

Sample wording

“A good wine, like a good marriage, is the result of many years of hard work. There is the unhurried nurturing of the vine and tender care of the grape, a thoughtful mix of ingredients and patient fermenting - yielding the unique flavours of each passing year.

So, let this first glass of wine that you taste together celebrate all that has brought you to this moment, expressing hope and faith in the commitments you have made here today. And let it symbolise for you how sharing the partnership of marriage not only doubles the sweetness of life, but also lightens the burden of its bitterness by half.”

Sample toasts

"Here's to the past, for all that you've learnt. Here's to the present, for all that you share. Here's to the future, for all that you've got to look forward to."

"May your love be modern enough to survive the times and old-fashioned enough to last forever."

"My wish is that your marriage will be a thing of beauty and a joy forever, always as beautiful as you both are today. And may the loveliness of your marriage increase with each year. Here’s to the newlyweds."

"A good marriage is at least 80 percent good luck and finding the right person at the right time. The rest is trust."

"A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person."

Love letter ceremony

This ceremony is a bit quirky, but very sweet and suited to wine loving couples.

Before your big day, gather a wooden box, a bottle of wine (or the drink of your choice) and write letters to one another, explaining your feelings as you prepare to start your new life together as a married couple. Seal your letter without letting your soon-to-be read what you’ve written.

During the ceremony, you’ll place the love notes inside the wooden box with the wine and seal it. You'll make an agreement to keep the box sealed until a special anniversary, or if you hit a rough patch or have your first fight as a married couple. Then, together you will open the box, pour the wine, read the letters, and remember what it’s all about.

Sample wording

“This box contains ______ and ______'s favourite bottle of wine. Inside they will now place letters they have written for one another. These letters describe the qualities they love about each other, the reasons they fell in love, and what they're looking forward to in their marriage. The letters are sealed and have only been read by the writer.

Should ______ and ______ ever find their marriage facing hardships, they will open this box, sit and drink the wine together, then read the letters to be reminded of the reasons they are together.

The hope is, however, that they won’t have a reason to open this box. If this is the case, they will open the box to share and enjoy on their 5 year wedding anniversary.”

© Copyright Celebrant Clair