‘Why did we perform that ritual around the oak tree? How does that help us become better human beings?’
‘Precisely because most people don’t perform rituals around oak trees anymore, and because performing apparently absurd rituals, you get in touch with something deep in your soul, the oldest part of yourself, the part closest to the origin of everything’ Paulo Coelho – Aleph
There are many symbols and rituals to include in your ceremony. Even the exchanging of rings is a ritual! I have included a few examples below, but talk with me about what you want as there are many ancient traditions we can call on. We can also bring together the desired symbols to make your very own meaningful ritual.
Hand fasting ceremony
Derived from Celtic traditions, hand fasting is where the bride and groom drape a bind (most couples these days use a ribbon) across their wrists during the marriage ceremony. This practice gave way to the expression, tying the knot. The ribbon is placed loosely across the couple’s hands to represent unity and the binding of their lives together. The couple often keep their ribbon as a symbol of their commitment.
Jumping the broom.
Jumping the broom was originally a ritual used to bring fertility. Particularly this ritual was used when couples didn’t have access to a proper celebrant or high priestess, couples wishing to move in together would undertake the jumping the broom ritual as a ‘make do’ to mark the occasion of living together and to induce fertility. Jumping the broom also has a long history in African and African american cultures.
Jumping the broom was not a custom of slavery, but is a part of African culture that survived American slavery. With slavery over and superficial hints of racial integration allowed, African-Americans could now have European-style marriages. Jumping the broom had nothing to do with Whites. Once Blacks could have weddings with rings that were recognizable by anyone as a symbol of marriage, the broom ceremony wasn’t required. During this time, jumping the broom fell out of practice from the stigma it carried, and in some cases still carries, among African Americans who wanted nothing to do with anything associated with that era. The practice survived, and made a resurgence after publication of Alex Haley’s book “Roots.” blackthen.com
Many African and African American couples include jumping the broom at the end of their wedding ceremonies as a tribute to old tradition. And even couples who do not actually jump a broom when they get married, often refer to, or at least recognize, the phrase to be synonymous with getting married in the same way most Americans associate “tying the knot” with getting married.
The candle ceremony is a symbolic metaphor for two merging families, or the union of two individuals, becoming one in commitment. The candle ceremony uses two taper candles with a large pillar candle (called the “unity candle”) in the centre. At the beginning of the wedding ceremony, a representative from each family (usually the mothers of the bride and groom) light the two taper candles. Later in the ceremony (usually after the formal vows), the bride and groom use the two taper candles to light the large pillar (unity) candle together.
In some circles, it is customary for the couple to save the unity candle and relight it on anniversaries.
When the ceremony is performed to symbolize the joining together of the bride and groom, the tapers may be blown out, to indicate that the two lives have been permanently merged, or they may leave them lit beside the central candle, symbolizing that the now-married partners have not lost their individuality.
The Rose Ceremony
During the Rose Ceremony there is an exchange of red roses between the bride and groom. The significance of the exchange is to demonstrate the ‘love’ between the wedded couple. Only two roses are required for the exchange, whilst the ceremony traditionally follows the official vow exchange.
The Hand ceremony
This can be a very simple and non-intrusive way to bring the richness of ritual to your ceremony. The bride and groom simply hold each other’s hands palms up. This represents the gift that they are to each other and their openness to receiving that gift, along with all the trials and tribulations life will have ahead of them. Their palms are a metaphor for many aspects of marriage, the toil, the nurturing, the supporting, the anointing and the sacrifice.
Warming the rings
A ring warming is when you give your guests the opportunity to hold and imbue your wedding bands with a wish, blessing or prayer for your marriage. By the time your rings make it back to you and on to your fingers they will be saturated with the love of your friends and family.
Depending on the type of ceremony you’re having there are a few ways to do it. The most common option is to pass the rings around throughout the ceremony and have a ring chaperon keep an eye on things to make sure the rings are moving along and will be ready when it is time. To make sure your rings stay together you could run a string or ribbon down the rows of seats, then as part of your ceremony you can have someone introduce the ring warming and start the rings on their voyage through your sea of guests. Other options would be to simply tie the rings together or to use a little dish.
A stone ceremony is a wonderful way to involve all of your guests. Small stones are given to each guest on arrival. During the ceremony, guests hold their stones and offer good wishes for the bride and grooms future.
You may want to ask your wedding guests to write their name and a word signifying their wish on the stone, such as love, happiness, health, strength, wealth, success, family, luck, friendship, patience etc.
The stones are then collected during the wedding ceremony by a family or bridal party member and placed in a jar or vase as a memento. A good time to collect the stones is during the Signing of the Register or as everyone files out of the wedding ceremony venue.
In a sand ceremony, the bride and groom pour various colours of sand from separate containers into a unity vase, symbolising the joining of two lives as one family. This special wedding ceremony captures the meaning of two lives becoming one and the sand filled vase becomes a symbol of a new life together and of the marriage. This can be a wonderful way to bring children in on the ceremony. If you have children and your families are joining, you may want the children to add their own sand as well.
This is a popular ceremony for beach weddings. I love the idea of using the sands from your favourite beaches as part of your ceremony or even combining the earth from the towns where you both grew up.