I know …. the words “symbolic acts” and “rituals” sometimes conjure up strange images of intensely serious, cult-like or “witchy” practices which couples just can’t imagine being part of their wedding day.
So whilst some of the rituals are definitely steeped in history and many do carry a spiritual meaning, you can take a whole ritual or an element of it and personalise the experience to fit in with your style - it can be an amazing way to add a little something special to your ceremony, engage your guests and can also involve family, friends and children. Some you may have heard of are Handfasting, Unity Candle, and Jumping the Broom.
With a multicultural wedding, there’s even more to explore – little gestures from around the world that would be carried out as standard can be brought to life and modernised if needed, to represent, honour and educate a little about a family being introduced to a new culture. Think … an elegant Chinese tea ceremony, a crazy German log sawing, a romantic gifting of Welsh love spoons.
There are a multitude of ideas but here are my favourites although some of the best can be the ones we make up together – Tequila? Salud!
Handfasting is so old that its origins can’t be certain, but can definitely be traced back to Celtic and Druid ceremonies. It was performed to invoke the energies of the four elements which would create a circle around the bride and groom joined as embodiment of god and goddess. It’s said to be where the phrases “tying the knot” and “bound for life” come from.
2. Oathing Stone
Centuries ago in Scotland, young couples and their families would gather together near a stream, or along a rocky coastline, on their wedding day. Surrounded by the beauty of the natural world and the spirits and gods that resided there, the couple would clasp a stone in their hands and take their vows of love and devotion, sealing the marriage oath in stone. It’s most likely where the phrase “set in stone” comes from.
You will choose your own oathing stone. Pick one at a favourite outdoor spot, “your” beach, somewhere that means something to you. You can arrange for your stone to be etched or just leave it natural. This ritual is usually combined with your vows. You will take your vows while clasping the stone between you.
3. Sand Unity
The sand unity ceremony is a relatively modern tradition, sometimes referred to as “blending of the sands” and represents the coming together of a couple or a family. Each person pours a small container of sand (often different colours) into a keepsake vessel symbolising the combining of your hopes and dreams. There are some fabulously creative keepsakes on Etsy, frames, bottles, puzzles, and hourglasses. You can use sand that you have collected on the beach together or that members of your family or children have collected. It’s a great little ceremony for children to get involved in and it’s also often used for Naming Day ceremonies.
4. Lei Exchange
The Lei exchange is a beautiful Hawaiian tradition symbolic of love, affection and mutual respect for one another. Normally exchanged between the bride and groom, plus if wished, other members of the family to symbolize the joining of the two families
Leis have been used by Hawaiians for centuries to mark celebrations of many occasions, times of peace, births, stepping stones, and marriages, and to note very important events in people's lives. They are usually made of flowers, leaves, feathers and ribbons.
At weddings, a newly married groom and bride will exchange a lei to show their love for one another, and greet them into their hearts as their partner in life. As they gently drape the Lei over their new spouse's head and shoulders, they will give a kiss of Aloha, and welcome their partner with love into their soul.
5. “Warming” of the rings
This is a lovely way to include guests in the ceremony by having them “warm” or “bless” your rings. You can choose to include everyone (not suggested for large gatherings !) – send one ring down one side of the aisle and the other down the opposite side, giving each guest a chance to hold your rings and send blessings and positive vibes to you. It’s a great option if you have a mix of religious and secular guests as it gives them a chance to participate in a way that also means something to them.
An alternative is to select just your close wedding party and in this case, the celebrant can invite them to stand in a circle around the couple while warming the rings.
I’ve also heard of couples visiting guests prior to the wedding who can’t make it on the day – taking the rings with them to be blessed, perhaps elderly grandparents.
6. Anniversary keepsake box
At an agreed point in the ceremony, you will place meaningful items in a keepsake box – like a bottle of wine from the year you met, a copy of your wedding vows, a love letter, a wedding decoration, a scroll of your wedding script – your wedding guests can also add things as a surprise for you or a written message. Have a little short musical interlude for people to get involved, then you nail it shut and open it on your one-year anniversary.