The unity ceremony most often occurs towards the end of a wedding, after the vows and ring exchange, and symbolizes the union of the Bride and Groom. Typically, the Bride and Groom each have an item that symbolizes their individual selves, and another item is used that represents the union of those individuals.
However, unity ceremonies can certainly represent more than the union of the Bride and Groom: they can symbolize the blending of many lives. If the ceremony involves other participants, such as the couple’s children or parents, then it will most likely take place towards the beginning of the wedding, before the Bride and Groom say their vows.
Unity: Candles and Sand
In the case of the unity candle, the Bride and Groom each light a taper (the individual) and take their separate flames to jointly light a much bigger pillar candle (the union). What I like about the unity candle ceremony is that it can easily be adapted to include other family members, such as the Bride and Groom’s children from previous marriages.
Sample wording for a Family Unity Candle Ceremony:
Officiant: “This candle you are about to light is a candle of family. Its fire is magical because it burns with the flame of a family joined in love. This candle before you is a candle of commitment because it takes # people working together to keep it aflame.
This candle is also a candle of unity because all must come together, giving a spark of themselves, to create the new light.
As you light this candle today, may the brightness of the flame shine throughout your lives. May it give you courage and reassurance in darkness; warmth and safety in the cold; and strength and joy in your bodies, minds and spirits. May your family forever be blessed. You may now light the candle.”
Another popular unity ritual is the sand ceremony, an excellent choice for an outdoor wedding, where candles may not work. The Bride and Groom pour separate containers of colored sand into a larger container, usually a vase or decorative jar. And like the candle ceremony, the unity sand ceremony is easily adapted to include other family members, with each person contributing a different colored sand from their own small container and mixing all the colors into a bigger vessel.
If you like the symbolism of a unity ceremony but want something other than a unity candle or sands consider one of these alternatives:
Unity in Glass: this is a very groovy interpretation of the unity theme in which the Bride and Groom pour colored glass crystals into a vase. The glass crystals are then sent back to the artist and made into a one of a kind sculpture.
Flower Ceremony: a beautiful ceremony to signify the blending of family members and friends, each participant places his/her individual flower into the unity vase. Here is sample language:
Officiant: “There are two kinds of family – the family you are born into and the family you choose through friendship and special relationship. ___(Bride)___ and ___(Groom)___ are blessed with both these families.
This ceremony seeks to honor the continuity as well as the growth and possibilities of those relationships. In honor of the love they feel towards the loving people in their lives ___(Bride)____ and ___(Groom)___ invite some of these special individuals to place a flower in this vase to create a garden of love for us all. Each flower represents an individual, the entire arrangement the interrelationship of these family members and friends. May your relationships continue to grow and blossom.”
Unity Cup: the Bride and Groom share wine from a single cup. Variations of this ceremony can be found in both Jewish as well as Southwest Native American traditions.
Love Letters and Wine Box: the Bride and Groom write love letters to each other which they place into a special box along with a bottle of wine. The box is sealed and becomes a “time capsule” that is to be opened on a predetermined date, such as the couple’s 5th anniversary, or in the event of hardships within the marriage.
Handfasting: whether the traditional Celtic version with ribbons consisting of thirteen colors or a simplified version using one cord, a handfasting can easily be incorporated into a modern wedding as a unity ceremony.
Here is sample language for a brief “Tying of the Knot” with a single cord/ribbon:
Officiant (holding the cord): “This cord is a symbol of your union and love. It signifies binding the hearts and souls of ___(Bride)___ and ___(Groom)___ but not to be of a possessive nature. The two ends represent your separate selves, but looped over into a knot you become one.”
(Officiant gives cord to the couple) “You may now tie the knot.” (Couple ties knot) “May this knot stay tied forever.”
If you’d like to include a unity ceremony in your wedding:
Before you set your heart on specifics be sure to talk to your officiant as well as a representative for the location where the wedding is being held. Your unity options may be limited by who is marrying you and where you’re holding the ceremony. For instance, in some locations fire codes may eliminate the option of candles.
Whatever your choice for your unity theme, be sure you include a dry run of the ceremony at your wedding rehearsal.
Blessings to you for a long and happy marriage!