Unity ceremonies are a staple in today's weddings. Couples love being able to use this ceremony as a symbol of joining their families together. It adds another element to a "standard" ceremony (which sometimes lasts only 15 minutes), and is a great way to include close family members.
Traditional unity ceremonies surround candles. The after the MOB (Mother of the Bride) and MOG (Mother of the Groom) come down the aisle, they light a candle (usually a single taper each) located to the side of the altar. Each candle represents the family of the Bride or Groom. After reciting vows, the couple will each take another, smaller candle or stick, light this with their family's candle and then both light the unity candle (large candle in center) together. This symbolizes the joining of their families. Sometimes they blow out the family candles, symbolizing leaving their families to create a new unit. Sometimes they leave all candles light, usually indicating not just the creation of one new unit but the joining of all families. Then they return to the altar to exchange rings.
Many, many new options exist to express yourself in a unity ceremony. A whole host of unity candle products are on the market. You can pick a variety of themes for your candle (are you an Irish bride - grab a candle with green trim and a shamrock charm; are you having a beach wedding - how about a candle that looks like seashells?). I challenge you to unite the theme of your wedding, your interests, and your creativity to include your own unique unity ceremony.
Here are some examples:
* Wine ceremony: parents fill family wine glasses and then you both pour into a joint cup and drink; or parents and couple all drink from one glass.
* Flower ceremony: MOB and MOG each carry a bouquet down the aisle, placing it in two waiting large vases. The Bride and Groom each take a flower from their family bouquet (or break off a flower from the bouquet) and place them together in a smaller vase or bud vase.
* Colored Water ceremony: Have three vessels on the table; one empty and two filled with different colored water. The MOB and MOG will each add more water to family vessel (carrying in attractive cup down the aisle) or they can throw in flower petals, shells, etc. Bride and Groom will fill a main vessel with the water from their family vessels. Points to you if you can join the two colors together to create one of your wedding colors! When all else fails - try to create blue - something blue for your wedding day.
* Sand ceremony: This has become very popular for beach weddings or nautical/beach/sea-themed weddings. Again there are family containers of sand that are combined to join one body of sand. You can use all natural-colored sand, or you can highlight the mixture by choosing two colors of sand.
* Concrete ceremony: Sounds a little too out there? With careful planning, this ceremony will have a lasting effect! Task a close friend or relative, not in the wedding party, to be in charge of this unity ceremony. The easiest way is to buy a standard garden stone-making kit at a local craft store. These usually come with a cement mix, tray and decorative items. Have your attendant prepare the cement mix and place it in the tray on a table just before the ceremony starts. If you wish, create a decorative holder for the cement tray (this will certainly make it look nicer), and ask your attendant to carry the tray or have the MOG and MOB carry the tray in together. The Bride and Groom will interlock hands and create hand prints in the cement. After the ceremony, have the attendant remove the tray and give it some finishing touches (write your names, the date, and put in some stones, etc.) Also make sure to have two towels on hand to quickly wash off! In this instance, it will take more planning and more patience. You will probably need to do this ceremony after the giving of rings (and make sure NOT to use your ring hand). But you will come away with a beautiful stone that symbolizes your union, that can stay in your house or in your garden for the rest of your lives.
* Butterfly or Dove release: Consider gathering your parents and all releasing butterflies or doves together. When they hit the sky, they will all be united, symbolizing the joining of your families. Work with your professional planner, as their are logistics involved in both of these releases. Especially with butterflies, many stage regulations exist for purchasing and you have to have the right weather conditions. (I'm butterfly-released certified, so if you have a question email me!)
Less of a unity ceremony, but still a beautiful symbol of the joining of families, consider this: Have the MOB and MOG each bring an 8" square piece of their wedding dress. Take a pin for your dress, or a pin provided for the ceremony, and join the two pieces together. You might also consider pinning them symbolically to your dress (whether on the outside for a minute, or underneath the bottom portion of the skirt). You can also consider doing in this in private, before your wedding - a beautiful gesture to both your mother and future mother-in-law. In the same manner, ask the Father of the Groom (FOG) and Father of the Bride (FOB) to both bring a handkerchief and join those with a pin or tie tack.
If either of you have children, you can include your children in the unity ceremony. Ask one or more of your children to bring up a ribbon. They will bind your hang together, symbolizing their blessing on your union. It is best to do this after you exchange rings!
In all instances, even if you perform the traditional candle unity ceremony, do two things:
1) Pay close attention to the setup of your ceremony. If you will have a table next to the altar, make sure that you ask the MOB and MOG to light the candles, etc. while standing BEHIND the table (and facing the guests). As well, when you light your join candle, make sure you do so from BEHIND the table! It is a beautiful sentiment, and I hate having to watch couples' backs from the audience. Place the table on a riser to allow people to see it better. Leave amble room behind the table for everyone who will participate. (The pictures will be better if you do this as well!)
2) Put your stamp on the unity ceremony. If you use candles, wrap them in the colors of your wedding, have them monogrammed, have a candle printed with a personal message, part of your vows, etc. Millions of options exist for personalization. If you will do a sand ceremony, make sure that the vase you use ties in with the theme of the wedding. Rent beautiful table linens when you do the rentals for your reception. If you will have a child bind you hand with ribbon, ask your child to write a message on the ribbon or ask guests to sign their names (symbolizing the support of everyone present). Use a unity candle passed down from a family member. Or even MAKE the candles while having wine and cheese with your bridesmaids (it isn't as hard as you think).
Regardless of your choice, put your personal spin and creativity into your unity ceremony. The breaks in your ceremony for readings, for personal vows, for this ceremony are the ways that you will show your personality as a couple. The more you put in to this special moment, the more it will reflect in the pictures and in your memories as the years go by.