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How to incorporate a unity ceremony into your wedding

Updated: May 3

What are Unity Ceremonies?

A unity ceremony is often an action or ritual that would be performed during your wedding ceremony and it would be something that is symbolic of two people joining their lives together. Another term you may see this referred to is symbolic actions.

In real terms, the exchange of rings is a unity ceremony as there is no legal requirement to exchange rings during your wedding, it is merely a tradition and the ring is a symbol of your marriage.

Why would I choose to have a unity ceremony?

A Unity ceremony is often a really lovely touch to add to your wedding that makes it a bit more unique and personal to you. Whatever you choose to perform to show your unity can be tweaked and personalised to you. If you are a romantic couple, who like to show love I’d say a unity ceremony could be perfect for you. However if you are a couple who are not so big on public displays of affection, you may not like the public symbolism of a Unity ceremony.

Types of Unity Ceremony

There are many symbolisms you could use to show your unity within a wedding, some might be quirky whereas others might be based on cultural traditions and it is entirely your choice as to which one might suit your wedding. Here are some examples that you might like to consider;

Sand Ceremony

I have to say, that sand ceremonies are a firm favourite of mine. Very simple to perform and very visual. If you have children who you’d like to be involved in your ceremony too, this would be one I would always suggest you consider.

Each of you picks a colour of sand that will represent you once poured into a vase. During your ceremony I would explain how the unity ceremony will work and what it symbolises as we go through the actions. Often I talk about how the sand represents who you are and celebrates your unique values – at which point I describe your unique values as you pour a layer of your coloured sand.

This is repeated for each person that is to be represented in the vase; whether just the couple, or to include children, parents or other guests.

You could include as many people and colours of sand as you wish, however if you are going to go all out and invite 50 + guests to add some sand, I would suggest each are adding a couple of spoonfuls of one colour to the vase, rather than individual colours for each person.

Tie the Knot / Handtying / Handfasting

Handfasting is a full blown ceremony steeped in history and ritual and includes all the elements such as earth, air, fire and water. The couple are bound by ribbon during this ceremony.

A simpler, modern version, that is very common recently, is a handtying ceremony; which has derived from the tradition of handfasting but is less symbolic of the elements.

The couple would be bound by the hands or the wrist during the exchange of their vows – very symbolic of being joined by marriage. My own personal take on this unity ceremony is to then “tie the knot” in these ribbons at the end of the vows – by pulling the loose ends of ribbon and releasing hands. Very visual and fun! Ribbons can be placed by your celebrant or by special members of your family or friends so this can be a way of incorporating others into your ceremony too.

See my etsy page to purchase a braided handfasting ribbon >> click here <<

Planting seeds or trees

This is a particular favourite of those who love the outdoors. After your vows you would perform a planting; either in the ground or in a pot. Planting something would then be metaphorically compared with marriage, how both need to be nurtured and cared for in order to grow, strengthen and bloom year on year.

Flower / Rose Ceremony

This is a lovely ceremony to incorporate flowers and other guests too. There are many variations of this ceremony;

Guests will come forward and present the couple with a flower which is added to a vase – this could be just two guests (Mothers for example) or you could end up with a full floral display or bouquet from all your congregation. The meaning behind this could be to show the love and support you have around you, that will remain throughout your marriage.

Alternatively, a flower can be taken from an arrangement or bouquet and presented to each of the Mothers as a way of saying thank you for accepting you into their family.

Wine sharing

A wine sharing ceremony could be used as all sorts of symbolism. Sharing wine could be representative of you sharing your lives together, or sharing your possessions, or sharing your family and friends. It can also be used as a way to be accepted into each family.

Here’s my favourite way of performing this one;

A relative from each of the couple pours wine into a glass. The glass is then offered to the opposing partner to drink from (ie in this case grooms father passes to the bride to drink from and vice versa). Drinking from the glass is shown as a thank you for accepting me into your family.

Both the couple then pour their drinks together into another glass – and then they share and drink from the same glass. This is representative of sharing your lives together.

Cocktail Mixing

This is another popular unity ceremony, it’s quite a lot of fun, plus you get to drink a cocktail!

The ceremony is performed by you each adding the ingredients to your cocktail shaker and each ingredient is given the representation to marriage – for example you might say sweet sugar syrup and sour lemons are added to represent the good (sweet) times and the bad (sour) times. Vodka is added for some strength, rum added for some spice and ice for a smooth cool ride through your future.

You could use all sorts of ingredients and find a way of likening each ingredient to marriage.

Love Letter Ceremony

Some couples have so much they want to say or promise to each other that they might not want to publicly announce in their vows. In this case, I suggest they write a letter to each other and these will be sealed during the ceremony, placed into a keepsake box and locked away to read a few days / weeks / months later – but better still, lock a bottle of something nice in there and pledge to open the box on your first anniversary!

Oathing Stone / Rock

The couple with say their vows over an oathing stone
Couple hold an oathing stone

If you have heard the term “set in stone” this has come from the oathing stone.

It was once believed that promises made over the stone would be stronger and last longer. In this ceremony the couple found a very unique stone on one of their outdoor adventures and both grasped this as they made their vows to each other.


These next examples are not really symbolic of joining, but they are lovely touches nevertheless.

Ring Warming Ceremony

At the very beginning of the ceremony I would be presented with the wedding rings which I then pass to a guest in the front row. The rings are passed between each and every guest until they arrive back with your bestman / ring bearer. Each of the guests are encouraged to pour a little bit of love into the rings by way of a wish, a prayer (a short one) or just happy thoughts. This is a really sentimental way to incorporate all the people you love into your ring exchange.

Whilst the rings are being passed the rest of the ceremony continues, in the hope that the rings make it back in time before your ring exahange!

You could present the rings in a beautiful box, or tie them together with ribbon or even lock them onto a padlock and ensure the key is safely kept by your bestman!

Heartbeat Ceremony

Again, this ritual would involve every one of your guests. I would ask them all to hold hands with the person next to them ensuring that the back row link together so there are no breaks in the link. The couple would then squeeze each others hand – and pass it on. i.e. If you are squeezed on your right hand, you pass on a squeeze with your left and the squeeze passes throughout the link. This squeeze will travel like a heartbeat throughout the whole congregation until it reaches back to the couple again. A little heartbeat Mexican wave!

If you fancy having a truly unique ceremony, why not contact me to chat it over?

Calls are free and without obligation to book.

A picture of Kelly Hawes, a modern Celebrant based in Hertfordshire
Kelly Hawes Celebrant

Kelly Hawes

Modern Celebrant


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