Special Observances

A quick trip to the Internet will yield many suggestions for special observances within a wedding or unity ceremony. They range from the beautiful to the “are you kidding me?” and from the sacred to the silly. Here are a few that I have incorporated many times into weddings and celebrations.

The unity candle is one of most well know side ceremonies in the wedding. It is usually done with two taper candles and one large candle. The tapers are lit before the ceremony, sometimes by the mothers of the bride and groom. During the ceremony the bride and groom take the tapers and light the middle candle signifying two people becoming one family unit. Sometimes other candles can be lit in honor of children in the family. A unity candle in an outdoor ceremony can sometimes be a challenge. I recommend that a tea light in a votive holder to be lit and placed on the table in case the wind blows out the tapers and it is needed to ignite the wicks. A blown-out candle is only a minor inconvenience, and not an omen. It in no way reflects on the future prospects of the marriage.

The sand ceremony can be an alternative to a unity candle for some couples. Containers are needed -- one container to pour the sand into, and smaller containers that the sand is poured from. Plain or colored sand can be found at craft stores, or sand can be collected from beaches from prior vacation destinations, from the desert, etc. This ceremony can be created for just the couple or can include as many people as they desire. The bride and groom pour their two containers of sand into the vessel simultaneously. A small amount of sand can be left in each container to symbolize that although the couple is joined, both people remain individuals. If desired, other family members can be asked to pour a container of sand into the vessel. I have created a passage that is read while the sand is poured.

Hand-binding is also called hand-fasting. It appears in most cultures in one form or the other, and in many major religions. Its meaning is essentially the same from culture to culture and religion to religion, in that it is symbolic of the couple’s “oneness” and unity. The form I use is basically Celtic. I ask the bride and groom place their hands on top of each other, and then drape a decorated cord around them to symbolize that the couple has bound their lives together. We can also make a “sandwich” of hands when a couple has children they want to include in the ceremony as a symbol that everybody is now tied together as a family.

The rose ceremony is used to thank or honor guests or family members. A rose or other flower is handed to the honored person in the gathering. I usually write the reason for the rose presentation into the ceremony. In one ceremony, the roses were given to the co-workers in honor of a co-worker who had just passed away. Often the ceremony is used to thank parents and grandparents for being there for the couple throughout their lives.

Another unity ceremony is a wine ceremony. Three glasses – one empty, one with white wine, and one with red wine –are placed on a table. The bride pours the white wine, while the groom pours the red wine into the empty glass. They then sip from the glass of the combined wines. The desired effect is a pink wine, and often the color is much better than the actual taste. However, since the ceremony is symbolic, most couples don’t worry too much about how the blend actually works together except for the hue.

The love letters and wine box observance is becoming increasingly popular. The couple writes letters to each other expressing the reasons why they are here together to be married, and to share their words of promise and dreams for the future. These love letters are sealed, and neither has read what the other has written. These letters are sealed in a box during the wedding ceremony, along with a bottle of wine. The box is to be kept in a place of honor as a constant reminder of the couple’s love and commitment to each other. On their fifth anniversary the box will be opened, the wine shared, and the letters read aloud. Unless life brings a storm. Then the box is opened, and each person takes the letter that the other has written and goes to a separate room to read it. The couple will then be reminded of all of the things they felt when they first wrote the words to each other when love filled their hearts and left room for nothing else.

The lasso (el lazo): As part of the ceremony to symbolize unity, a large loop of rosary beads or a lasso (cord) is placed in a figure eight shape around the necks of the couple after they have exchanged their vows. It also is beautiful when made of entwined orange blossoms (which symbolize fertility and happiness). A double rosary lasso may also be given by one set of the parents and may be blessed with holy water three times in honor of the trinity. A special person/couple places the lasso around the shoulders of the bride and groom, groom’s shoulders first. The lasso may also be tied around their wrists. The couple wears the lasso throughout the remainder of the service. (The loop is symbolic of their love which should bind the couple together every day as they equally share the responsibility of marriage for the rest of their lives.) At the end of the ceremony, the lasso is removed by either the couple which placed the lasso on the couple, or the officiant. The lasso is given to the bride as a meme to.


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