Secular Unity Ceremonies

Unity Ceremonies are used to symbolize the joining of two people, two families, or both. They are a great way to insert a sense of ritual into a secular wedding ceremony and most Unity Ceremonies result in a keepsake from your wedding day. There are many variations on traditional unity ceremonies that can include children and family as well.

Unity Ceremonies are typically placed after the Vows and Ring Exchange within the overall wedding ceremony as an extension of the vows and a visible display of the couple’s commitment to each other. As each partner plays out their role during each Unity Ceremony, the officiant will offer the guest commentary on the significance and symbolism of the ceremony and their actions during it.

If you would like to include a traditionally religious wedding element into your ceremony, but don’t like its religious connotations, we can write a secular version of almost any tradition, no matter its origin. Likewise, if you both share an interest that you wish to highlight, we can create a custom Unity Ceremony around it, at no additional cost.

Unity Ceremonies can be included in Personalized and Custom ceremony options. They are not available for Budget or Elopement ceremony options. Please ask for further details when you meet with the Officiant.

Options

Anniversary Wine Box

Great wines and great relationships improve with each passing year. The “Anniversary Wine Box” unity ceremony will serve as a lasting reminder of the commitments made to one another and is a great option for wine lovers. Heartfelt letters, encapsulating your thoughts and feelings on your wedding day are closed away in a wine box to be revealed on your first anniversary. During the ceremony, the officiant will share the significance of the ceremony with your guests while you both use a hammer and nails to seal the letters and wine in the box.

An alternate version uses two locks, wherein each partner takes possession of a key, meaning that they cannot open the box unless each unlocks their individual lock. Another alternative is to use a single lock. If you like the idea of the ceremony but are not a fan of wine, substitute a bottle of your favorite beverage instead.

You can find wine boxes as well as instructions for building your own online. We will provide you with preparation instructions for the ceremony.

Items Required:

  • A sealable box or container large enough to hold a bottle of wine
  • Hammer and nails (or locks)
  • Letters from partners to each other
  • Small table (Request from venue)

Anniversary Letter Box

Much like in the “Anniversary Wine Box” ceremony, letters, encapsulating your thoughts and feelings on your wedding day are closed away in a box to be revealed on your first anniversary. The main difference is that only the letters are sealed in the box and no wine is included. Any box or container that can be secured with nails or secured with locks can be used, opening up the possibility of using something special to you.

Items Required:

  • A sealable box or container
  • Letters from Partners to each other
  • Small table (Request from venue)

Tying the Knot

“Tying the Knot” is a primary wedding ceremony whereby a couple ties a fisherman’s knot as a symbol of their unity as a married couple. During this ceremony, the couple attaches large cords together with special knots that will slide together when each rope is pulled, resulting in the Fisherman’s Knot. The theme is that, like a fisherman’s knot, marriage strengthens and supports the couple through life and, like this particular knot, their marriage only grows stronger under pressure. This is a fun Unity Ceremony that often results in an impromptu tug of war.

Items Required:

  • Two lengths of thick rope
  • Small table or object to hold the rope during rest of ceremony (Request from venue)

Love Locks

The Love Lock Ceremony is of Chinese origin but no one knows how or when this ancient custom began. The use of two padlocks with keys symbolizes opening your hearts, your lives to one another. Your partner is the key that has made this love possible.

In a Love Lock Ceremony, each partner locks their individual padlocks together as one. They may then assure that the keys that first opened their hearts can never be used to separate what has been joined in their wedding. Typically, the locks are closed on a hasp on a decorative plaque. The keys are tossed into a place from which they can never be retrieved, such as a body of water located at the wedding venue or perhaps one that is special to the couple.

As an alternative to being thrown into a body of water, sometimes the keys are buried in a meaningful location, melted in a fire, or are kept and displayed as a reminder of the love that brought them together. Another alternative is to add a lock for a child as well.

Items Required:

  • Two Padlocks with Keys
  • Plaque with Hasp
  • Plate Display Stand to hold plaque during the ceremony
  • Small table (Request from venue)

Handfasting

Handfasting is a simple and traditional ceremony used in Irish, Scottish, and Welsh weddings, which goes back to the medieval and renaissance period. You may have seen it practiced in the movie Braveheart.  It involves the binding of hands together as a visible display of the joining of the couple. Handfasting is a declaration of intent where the couple clearly states that they are marrying of their own free will. The pageantry of Handfasting makes it a favorite of couples and guests alike.

A total of four bindings are made where each wrap of the binding symbolizes important commitments of marriage, such as alleviating each other’s pain and sharing in each other’s laughter. In an alternative Pagan version, each binding represents a cardinal compass point or one of the primary elements of fire, water, earth, and air.

The binding cord can be made of cord, braided ribbons, cloth, or any material flexible and limp enough to wrap multiple times around the couple’s hands. The cord should be 10’ long in order to be able to complete all the wraps with the ends dangling. Metal bangles or other objects can be tied to the ends of the cord to keep the ends hanging down and to add to the display. The Officiant will tie the cord in a special way at the conclusion of the wedding ceremony and present it the couple for photos or as just as a keepsake.

Items Required:

  • Binding Cord – 10’ long
  • Small table (Request from venue)

Salt Covenant

During ancient times, salt was a valuable commodity that was not easily obtained. The term “salary” comes from the Latin word “salarium”, originally denoting a Roman soldier’s allowance to buy salt and people of the day often carried their salt in small pouches. As most people could not read or write at the time, agreements and promises were often sealed by a salt covenant. Each person would take a pinch of salt from their pouch and place it in the pouch of the other. This agreement could not be broken unless an individual could retrieve their own individual grains of salt, which of course is impossible.

During a Salt Covenant Unity Ceremony, each partner takes a pinch of salt from a pouch or container to place it in their partner’s container, creating a covenant to never break their vows.  Whether you use a pouch or some other container, the Salt Covenant is a fun way to symbolize your commitment to each other. Some couples will go further and use some of the salt to season their food during the meal.

An alternate version is to have both partners place salt in a decorative salt cellar that they can then use in their home after the ceremony, either as decoration or as a practical kitchen tool. Some online sellers offer a kit specifically for this purpose.

Items Required:

  • Salt
  • Salt pouch, container, cellar
  • Small table (Request from venue)

Tree Planting Ceremony

A Tree Planting Ceremony is a great way to tie in your love for nature with your love for each other. Whether the couple plans to plant the tree in their backyard and watch it grow as their family grows or intend to keep the tree in a pot in their house, this ceremony brings the green to your wedding.

During the ceremony, the couple adds soil and water to the pot the tree resides in, giving it the elements it needs to grow strong and healthy. This mirrors the intent for a relationship that stays strong and healthy as it grows.

Containers are used to keep hands and clothes from getting messy during the ceremony and the potted tree can be moved to the reception area for the subsequent celebration. For those who might have their wedding take place where they live, the tree may alternatively be placed in the ground where it is intended to grow.

Items Required:

  • A small tree
  • Pot for tree
  • Containers for soil and water
  • Trowel for smoothing out soil (optional)
  • Small table (Request from venue)

Wine Ceremony

Through the centuries and across many cultures, wine has been a part of the wedding tradition. A wine ceremony has many variations may symbolize the blending of two lives into one or two families into one.  Regardless of how a couple chooses to use wine, it can add a touch of elegance to the moment.

Wine Blending

By blending sweet and dry wines together, it can be used to symbolize the marriage bond that persists in times and joy and in sorrow. Two carafes of wine are poured and blending into a central glass that the couple will each sip from during the ceremony. White and red wine can be substituted to create a visual blending.

Blending Families

Parents can easily be included in this unity ceremony with each set of parents selecting a bottle of fine wine to bring to the ceremony. After joining the bride and groom at the front, the fathers uncork the bottles. The mother of the bride pours a glass for the groom and for herself and her husband. At the same time, the mother of the groom pours a glass for the bride and for herself and her husband. All drink a sip of wine after the parents raise their glasses to the couple to toast their success.

Fruit of the Earth

In this wine ceremony, a single glass of wine is placed on a table, from which both the Bride and Groom will both drink when signaled by the officiant. In this glass are the symbolic fruits of Mankind and Mother Earth. The years of our lives are compared to a cup of wine that is poured out for the sake of labor, honor, and love. The officiant will speak of the many days you will sit at the same table and eat and drink together and the experiences you will share. This ceremony works well with those attuned to nature as well as naturalistic beliefs such as those held by Pagans and Wiccans.

Personalized

Wine ceremonies are versatile and can be crafted to symbolize different things for each couple. Allow me to create a ceremony that represents the sentiments you wish to convey to your guests!

Items Required:

  • Wine
  • Carafes and wine glasses
  • Small table (Request from venue)

Tasting of Four Elements

Adapted from a tradition of the Yoruba people of southwestern Nigeria and Benin, it is said to represent the promise to love your partner “for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.” Vinegar, lemon, cayenne pepper, and honey are traditional choices used to represent the bitter, sour, hot, and, of course, sweet parts of life and a new marriage.

The “elements” can be held in bowls, shot glasses, on spoons or any containers of your choice. You may use whatever food items you wish to represent the different elements and “stunt” elements can be used to represent tastes that both partners may not be able to eat, such as paprika in place of cayenne pepper.

Items Required:

  • Foods, liquids, or spices representing bitter, sour, hot, and sweet.
  • Four Containers or spoons
  • Small table (Request from venue)

Sand Ceremony

While some may find this ceremony a bit too much on the arts and crafts spectrum, it is undeniably a hit when including younger children in your unity ceremony. Different colors of sand, each representing a different person, are poured into a container, blending together in a pattern representing the blending of your lives.

Container choices can include bottles, mason jars, vases, shadow boxes, or clear containers of your choice. There are even kits available online that include an hourglass as the central container.

Items Required:

  • Colored sand – a different color for each person involved
  • Containers to hold the colored sand before the ceremony
  • Central container to hold poured sand
  • Small table (Request from venue)

Canvas Painting

Create a work of art to commemorate your marriage! Use paint to symbolize what can be achieved by working together as partners in marriage. The painting can be simple or more complex but either way, you will have a keepsake to hang on the wall in your home as a reminder of your special day and your commitment to each other.

Items Required:

  • Blank canvas
  • Art paint
  • Brushes
  • Wipes to keep your hands clean
  • Tall easel or a small easel on a table (Request from venue)

Jumping the Broom

With its roots in African American history, Jumping the Broom is a time-honored wedding tradition in which the bride and groom jump over a broom to symbolize a new beginning and a sweeping away of the past. It can also signify the joining of two families or offer a respectful nod to family ancestors. For all of these reasons, jumping the broom can be a wonderful addition to your ceremony.

Brooms for this ceremony are typically made with a wooden handle and natural bristles, but they’re kept as treasured keepsakes and probably never actually used to sweep the floor. A broom itself represents cleanliness, the hearth, family, and a leap of faith into marriage. The couple concludes their ceremony with a jump over the broom, taking a leap of faith into their marriage and new lives as married partners.

Items Required:

  • A broom, usually decorated with flowers

Thumbprint Heart

A great way to preserve part of your special day is with a Thumbprint Heart ceremony. You and your partner both press your thumbs onto an ink pad and then place them on paper in a way to create a heart to symbolize your love and devotion to each other.

The wedding date, the couple’s first names, and sometimes a short phrase capturing the intended sentiment are printed onto the paper in preparation for the ceremony. The paper is fitted into a frame and the frame, with the glass removed, is set up in anticipation of the ceremony. At its conclusion, the glass is returned to the frame to protect the contents. The frame can then be displayed at the couple’s table or some other area of the reception venue.

This is also a great way to include children in the ceremony with each child creating their own special heart to accompany their parent’s heart.

Items Required:

  • Paper, with names and date printed on it and a space left for the heart
  • Small picture frame (in proportion with the size of the heart)
  • Red ink pad
  • Wipes (to clean your fingers)
  • Small table (Request from venue)

Descriptions for the following Unity Ceremonies coming soon!

  • Time Capsule
  • Breaking the Glass
  • Family Puzzle
  • Sandwich
  • Celtic Oathing Stone
  • Bread Breaking
  • Eternity Flowers
  • Cocktail
  • Science-Based Ceremonies – volcano, glow, water
  • Quaich
  • Shadow Box
  • Sky Lanterns
  • Flower Exchange
  • Lego Heart
  • Branding