A wedding is an expression of the personalities of the couples that are getting married. This sets the tone of your new life together. Below are some ceremonial traditions which you may incorporate one or two into your special day to give your wedding day a personal touch.
Bell Ringing Ceremony
In some wedding ceremonies the guest are also given small bells to ring along with the “Bell Ringer” or “Bell Ringers”. The smaller bells that the wedding guest hold throughout the wedding ceremony are again rung as the bride and groom kiss and then walk down the aisle. These bells are then collected or taken by the guests to the reception where they are again rung to invite the bride and groom to kiss throughout the wedding reception. The bell can be rung for one of two reasons to commemorate a loved one that has passed on or to announce the bride as she walks in.
The most important part of this Wooden Box Ceremony is the letter the bride and groom will write to each other expressing their feelings, why and how they fell in love and their hopes and dreams for the future because of their presence in their lives. The letters are then place in the box and nailed shut during the ceremony. There are only two ways to open up the box. The box is only opened for one of two occasions. The first, is if there is a time in your marriage where you feel that you are in danger of not saving your marriage, then you both as a couple open up the box, drink some wine together and then read the notes you wrote to each other. The theory is that those letters would bring you back to the day you were married and give you an understanding that the love you share is much stronger than the problem that exists at the time you opened the box. Secondly, the Wooden Box is to be opened on your 10th Wedding Anniversary. This too will allow you to rekindle that special love that you had prior to your wedding day.
Breaking the Glass Ceremony
Another ancient Jewish custom that can be incorporated beautifully into interfaith weddings is the "Breaking of the Glass". At the end of a Jewish wedding, after the pronouncement of the new status as a married couple, the groom traditionally stomps on a wine glass wrapped in a cloth napkin or towel. It is said "Just as it would be impossible to return the glass to its original condition; the lives of the wedding couple are forever changed." The popping noise marks the end of the ceremony and the beginning of the new life together. Immediately afterward, the guests break out into a joyous chorus of "Mazel Toy" (Congratulations).
Butterfly Release Ceremony
The butterfly symbolizes new beginnings and rebirths. Every release is unique and special just as every wedding and every moment of our life is unique and special. Releasing butterflies is a magical and unique experience that will put a smile on every guest's face. A butterfly release provides a memorable and photogenic conclusion. Their release is environmentally safe and helps in the restoration of the butterfly population.This part of the celebration is usually at the conclusion of their ceremony, after the pronouncement of marriage and often during the kiss.
Most often we think of marriage as the joining of two people to be wife and husband. In reality, marriage is often much more than that. It is also the coming together and merging of family and friends. When the bride and/or groom have children, it may be appropriate for the children to be included in the wedding ceremony. Children take great pride in their role for “their” wedding. Generally speaking, children will accept a parent's remarriage more readily when they feel included in the wedding ceremony. A commemorative gift is also a nice touch like a beautiful bracelet, a gold-banded birthstone ring or some other significant token of love.
The custom of the giving of wedding coins originated in Spain. Thirteen gold coins are given to the bride by the bridegroom, signifying his willingness to support her. Often presented in ornate boxes or gift trays, this represents the bride’s dowry and holds good wishes for prosperity. These coins become a part of their family heirloom. Symbolically, the Groom recognizes his responsibility as a provider, and pledges his ability to support and care for her. Acceptance by the bride means taking that trust and confidence unconditionally with total dedication and prudence.
Cord of Three Strands Ceremony
In a Cord of Three Strands Ceremony, husband and wife weave or braid three separate cords into one. Two of the three strands represent their separate lives and the third strand, always gold, represents God. In this symbolic act, they are declaring that they are combining their lives into one and asking God to be intertwined into the center of their marriage.
Crossing Sticks Ceremony
This is a lesser known African-American tradition. Couples demonstrate their commitment by crossing tall wooden sticks. By crossing the sticks, which represent the power and life force within trees, the couple expresses a wish for a strong and grounded beginning. If you decide to incorporate this tradition, you may choose large branches from both of your families' homes or from a place meaningful to you as a couple.
Cutting the Cord Ceremony
At the end of the ceremony, the eldest member of each family (who you remember were seated at the front at the beginning) held a ribbon across the aisle for [the couple] to walk through, symbolizing the “cutting” of their primary ties with the families who had raised them and their readiness to raise a family of their own. This tradition has its roots in Africa and also symbolizes the beginning of making a home together.
Dove Release Ceremony
Dove releases are a wonderful way to celebrate the love that joins you. Inserted into the ceremony after the kiss, the symbolism of the two doves winging off together into the clouds is a wonderful visual representation of a new marriage. If you use this small ceremony, forever after when you see doves, you will remember your beloved, the promises you made and the joy you have in one another's company. There are some things about doves that can deepen the meaning of your wedding vows and empower your marriage.
Hand Blessing Ceremony
Many customs have different ways of blessing the hands of the bride and groom. A hand blessing is a ritual that is meant to draw you closer to one another. It is believed that the hands are a connection to the heart, and a hand blessing symbolically brings two hearts together. This symbolizes the connection between the veins in the hands and the heart.
Hand Fasting Ceremony
The hands symbolize the following benefits Comforting, Living, Sharing, Working, Communicating, Building, Loving, Helping… In a hand-fasting, the couple’s hands are literally tied together to symbolize spiritual and physical unity as prayers and blessings are recited. In ancient times, hand-fasting was one of many forms of marriage. Originally, it was what we today would call an engagement ritual, or trial marriage. A couple agreed to stay together for a year and a day, and at the end of the period, they would either decide to make the marriage permanent, agree to another temporary commitment or separate. The intent of the ceremony under Brehon law was to protect individual and property rights and official recognition of any children of the union. In the ceremony, the officiant ties the cord around the wrists of the couple, and if the cord is tied in a knot, it symbolizes the permanent status of the relationship. This is where the term "tying the knot" originates from.
Hand Washing Ceremony
Water may also be used in a ceremonial washing of hands to purify them, before uniting one's hands in marriage with another person. In many cultures and religions, hand washing is a symbolic part of the wedding ceremony. The washing precedes the exchange of the rings and is meant to show the purification of the bride and groom before they enter into marriage. In Judaism, the origin of hand-washing relates to the book of Genesis in which Abraham washes the feet of three angels who visit his tent in an effort to welcome them and show his esteem. The Jewish daily commandment of hand washing in the morning and before eating stems from this. Hand washing “symbolizes the removal of impurity and renewed spiritual integrity.” In a gathering before the ceremony, the bride and the groom sit together as guests pour water over their hands. As they pour, each guest offers a blessing for the couple’s future.
Jumping the Broom Ceremony
This tradition most likely originated with an African ritual in which a broom is used to demonstrate that all past problems have been swept away. In African American history jumping over a broom was a formal and public declaration of the couple's commitment.. The broom, often handmade and beautifully decorated, can be displayed in the couple's home after the wedding.
Kola Nuts Ceremony
Kola nuts play an important role in African weddings. The nut, which is used for medicinal purposes in Africa, represents the couple's (and their families') willingness to always help heal each other. The nut is also a symbol of fertility, and is exchanged with family members during the engagement celebration. Many African-American couples incorporate the sharing of a kola nut into their ceremonies, and then keep the nut in their home afterwards as a reminder to always work at healing any problems they encounter.
Knocking on the Door Ceremony
Since marriage in African culture is considered the official joining of two families, a large emphasis is placed on getting family permissions and blessings before the wedding. In Ghana, the groom requests permission through the custom of "knocking on the door." Bearing gifts, he visits his potential in-laws accompanied by his own family. If his "knock" is accepted, the families celebrate and wedding planning begins. Or, simply plan an outing (like a brunch or dinner date) to bring both families together before the wedding and begin forming family bonds.
Lasso (sometimes called, "lazo") or rope is placed around the bride and groom's shoulders (groom's shoulder's first) in the form of an "8" (the infinity symbol) - after they have exchanged their vows - to symbolize their everlasting union. This is usually done by the officiant; however, family members can also take part in this ritual. The couple wears the lasso throughout the remainder of the service.
Many African-American couples incorporate a libation ceremony into their weddings as a way to honor their African ancestors. Holy water, or alcohol, is poured onto the ground in each of the cardinal directions as prayers are recited to the ancestral spirits, and names of those that have recently passed are called out. The libation ceremony can also be used as an opportunity to honor the elders in a family, asking them to pass on their wisdom and guidance.
While your wedding day is supposed to be a joyous occasion, there are times where the loss of a loved one may weigh heavy on your heart. We expect everyone we love and care about to be a part of our wedding, and with the loss of a parent or grandparent, their absence during your wedding ceremony may be felt. It has become a very common practice during wedding ceremonies to light a memorial candle to honor those who have passed on and are unable to be with you during your wedding day. Usually, the lighting of the memorial candle takes place before the lighting of the unity candle.
Ring Exchange Ceremony
The Ring Ceremony is perhaps the central, most popular aspect of American weddings. The rings represent the covenant between partners. As the ring is round and has no beginning and no end, the love between them knows no beginning and no end. The ring represents a sacred and binding covenant between both partners, and serves as a daily reminder of their love and devotion. The wedding ring was placed on the third finger of the left hand, as people believed there was a direct connection to the vena amoris, or vein of love.
Ring Warming Ceremony
During a ring warming, the couple’s wedding rings are passed among their guests, who are asked to say a prayer, blessing, or make a special wish for the couple over the rings while holding them. This intimate exchange injects all of the loving energy of the couple’s friends and family into the rings that they’ll be wearing for a lifetime. It makes for a very inclusive element of the ceremony and further connects the couple with their loved ones in attendance.
The Lazo Rosary symbolizes the unity of marriage as one body in Christ. The Lazo rosary can be kept by the couple as a reminder to pray together and as a wonderful keepsake of their wedding day. Some separate the Lazo into two rosaries. One rosary is given to the mother of the bride and the other to the mother of the groom. The mothers of the newly married couple are to use the rosaries to pray for their children's marriage.
In some cultures rings are not exchanged. The rose exchange is a simple unity ceremony where the bride and groom exchange roses. Each partner offers the other partner a single rose as a token of their love. Like the opened blossom of the rose, their hearts are open to the other in full devotion. Each partner then makes a promise to use a rose as a symbol of their love for one another in the years to come. When words may be hard to find, the gift of a simple rose will be a symbol that they are still loved by their partner.
Salt Covenant Ceremony
In a Salt Covenant Ceremony, bride and groom pour salt from their individual pouches to combine into one larger pouch. Many people believe salt to be a good luck symbol and consider it to be the purest of all earthly materials. It is used in many religious ceremonies as a symbol of purity. The symbolism was that the only way for the contract to be broken was for each person to be able to identify and extract their own individual grains of salt from the pouch of the combined salt; of course, this was impossible, thus the covenant could never be broken. Salt unifies, preserves, heals, purifies, loyalty, hospitality, protection, everlasting. In Biblical times when two people wanted to enter into a covenant of loyalty, they would recite the terms of the covenant, exchange salt from their pouches and shake them. Salt is considered a pure substance. When you perform the Salt Covenant, you are combining your individual grains of salt into one unity vial, symbolizing your united life. Your commitment to one another and to God cannot be broken unless you can separate your salt from your spouses.
Seven Blessings Ceremony
This ceremony specialty is self explanatory. Your friend’s, family and guests stand up and read each of these blessings … or write your own blessings. There are traditional blessings that come from the old testament that are frequently used in the Judaic tradition or you can modernize this ceremony and use your own unique blessings. The blessings can either be read out loud or placed in a vial for the couple to read later eg reception or anniversary etc.
In early Australia, our convict forebears and many of our early settlers could not afford the normal symbolic presentation of rings at a wedding ceremony. To confirm their vows, instead of a ring or rings being given and received, the bride and groom cast a stone each into a nearby river or ocean - thus symbolizing their remaining together forever while the tides of time ebbed and flowed over their lives.
Tasting of the Four Elements Ceremony
In a ritual adapted from a Yoruba tradition, the bride and groom taste four flavors that represent different emotions within a relationship. The four flavors typically used are sour (lemon), bitter (vinegar), hot (cayenne), and sweet (honey). By tasting each of the flavors, the couple symbolically demonstrates that they will be able to get through the hard times in life, and, in the end, enjoy the sweetness of marriage.
Tying the Knot Ceremony
Handfasting is a general term for the symbolic binding of hands in matrimony. It is a marriage ritual popular in numerous cultures outside of the United States. Historically, it was popular with the Celts and various Pagan communities. Hands are tied together loosely with a decorative sash or cord to signify the marital union, and then removed. Prayer beads are sometimes used instead of a sash or cord. In some African tribes, the bride and groom have their wrists tied together with cloth or braided grass to represent their marriage. To symbolize your own unity, have your officiant or a close friend ties your wrists together with a piece of kente cloth or a strand of cowrie shells (symbols of fertility and prosperity), while affirming your commitment
Unity Candle Ceremony
Three candles are placed on the altar. The two side candles are each lit representing the individual lives of each partner. The center candle is lit by both partners during the ceremony, signifying their new life together as "One". This beautiful ceremony has become a standard in many American weddings in many faiths.
Unity Sand Ceremony
The Sand Ceremony represents the joining of two lives into a new into a new dimension of unity. It is similar to the Unity Candle ceremony. Instead of candles, each partner has a vial of sand which represents their childhood and life before marriage. During the ceremony, each partner pours his or her sand into a larger vial to represent their new status as a married couple. It is also the blending of the two families. Much as the sands can never be separated neither can this marriage be separated. You may also add children to this ritual. They may pour into the larger vial also this symbolizes to the children that they are all one family and a product of the marriage as well.
Vow Renewal Ceremony
Couples do vow renewals for a number of reasons such as there wasn’t much money for your first wedding, and now you want a more elaborate wedding. You eloped or had a service with a justice of the peace and now you want a traditional ceremony. You've had some rocky times in your relationship, and would now like to reaffirm your commitment to one another. I know of one couple that renews their vows every year because they think it is romantic. Lastly some couples do a vow renewal to commemorate a big anniversary 5th , 10th 25th etc. Whatever your reason do what is right for you.
In some Native American communities, drinking from a goblet of water sanctifies the union. Water is a basic element, without which there would be no life. A two spouted water jug designed for this purpose may be used. The Wedding Jar is then displayed in the home as a reminder of one's vows. The couple each pours different colored water into a single glass, creating a third color.
The bride and groom each take a carafe of wine and pour it into a single glass, which they both drink from. Visually one can use a red and a white together which will make a blush which is a new beginning. This is a matter of preference. Couples can use the same color wine. Symbolically the wines can not be separated and they will not taste the same without the other.