Special Ceremonies and Blessings
Adding a special ceremony or blessing to your wedding ceremony can add a special touch to the occasion. There are many reasons you may choose to add such ceremonies or blessings. For example:
• To show unity as husband and wife
• To include children in blended families
• To express appreciation
• To demonstrate the importance of moving away from parents
• To show the importance of family
• To demonstrate the importance of community
• To offer thanks to the owners of the land
All the above situations have different intentions and may be expressed through unique rituals.
Rituals commonly used in marriage ceremonies
• Unity Candles
• Sand ceremony
• Hand fasting ceremony
• Releasing doves/butterflies
• Rose ceremony
• Wine ceremony
• Water ceremony
• Wishing stones ceremony
• Tea Ceremony
• Crystal Ceremony
The Unity Candle
This is one of the most common ceremonies. The bride and groom each take a lit candle and simultaneously light a third larger "unity candle." They may blow out their individual lights, or leave them lit, symbolizing that they have not lost their individuality in their unity. Stores are now selling elaborate unity candle setups, including a candelabra that holds the central unity candle higher than the others. You may also have your unity candle personalized with your names and the date, allowing it to be a keepsake from your wedding.
Variations: All guests are given a candle, and the first guest's is lit. Guests pass the flame until all are lit, and then the bride and groom together light their unity candle. This variation typically includes a proclamation that this ceremony represents the unity of friends and family supporting the couple in their marriage.
The wedding sand ceremony, or unity sand ceremony, is becoming ever more popular. It can replace the unity candle or be used after it in the wedding ceremony. In original sand ceremonies, the bride and groom would toss handfuls of sand together into the wind. The grains were combined and unable to be separated, symbolizing unity and eternity. The sand ceremonies of today can be performed in a way that honours both of the families and then kept always as a treasured keepsake.
Popular alternatives include the Bride and Groom pouring different coloured sand into a shared vessel, and significant members of each family pouring different coloured sand into a single glass or vase to represent the coming together of two families.
The celebrant would say the following:
“Today Groom and Bride wish to seal their marriage with a Sand ceremony, creating an everlasting symbol for their home. Please move to the table. The vessel that the Bride and Groom have chosen for this ceremony symbolizes the protection and nourishment that they will provide to each other in their marriage. Groom and Bride freely pour their sands into this vessel knowing that they can never be separated, just as the grains of sand in this vessel will never be returned to their individual containers.”
Hand Fasting Ceremony
The hand fasting ceremony dates back to the time of the ancient Celts. It was used to acknowledge the beginning of a trial period of a year and a day during which time a couple were literally bound together - hand fasted. It was however a temporary agreement which could be made permanent after the trial period if both parties agreed.
Nowadays, the hand fasting ceremony is only used symbolically, as marriage according to the law in Australia is a lifetime commitment. The bride and groom’s hands are joined together, usually holding hands so the wrists and pulses are touching, with a ribbon or symbolic material looped over the bride and groom’s wrists and tied by the celebrant or a friend. The words spoken usually express that the couple are bound by their love and commitment for one another and like the cord, which has two individual ends, they are two individuals. Yet, in essence, they are one.
The bride and groom usually remain joined by the looped ribbon until after the marriage vows are exchanged - not for a year and a day! The final tie being done loosely so the ribbon/s can be removed easily while still remaining tied.
Doves choose one partner for life and make this commitment until death. The white dove has been used throughout history as a symbol of Love, Peace, Purity, Faithfulness and Prosperity. It is said that if doves are seen on your wedding day, a happy home is assured. The celebrant would say the following as the doves are set free:
“These birds released here today represent the love and commitment you have given to one another this day. From this day forward, whenever you see a white dove, may you be reminded of this moment".
Legend of the Butterfly (For Butterfly Release)
According to an American Indian Legend, if anyone desires a wish to come true they must first capture a butterfly and whisper that wish to it. Since a butterfly can make no sound, the butterfly cannot reveal the wish to anyone but the Great Spirit who hears and sees all. In gratitude for giving the beautiful butterfly its freedom, the Great Spirit always grants the wish. So, according to legend, by making a wish and giving the butterfly its freedom, the wish will be taken to the heavens and be granted. We have gathered to grant this couple all our best wishes and are about to set these butterflies free in trust that all these wishes will be granted.
A simple unity ceremony where the bride and groom exchange roses. Other variations include the families exchanging roses, the bride and groom exchanging roses with their families, the bride and groom exchange roses then presenting their mothers with the roses.
As an alternative to the exchanging of roses, the groom presents the bride with a rose and the bride presents the groom with a vase of water. The bride then places the rose in the vase, symbolising their joining together and growth as a married couple. Some couples choose to place this vase as a centrepiece on the bridal table.
The Wine Ceremony can be divided into two parts. Part One is the presenting of the two individual carafes filled with red and white wine (or sweet and bitter). Part Two can follow the exchange of vows and involves pouring of the two separate wines into a single glass and drinking of the combined wine by the wedding couple. The celebrant may say the following:
"This ceremony represents two individual lives now combined like the two wines into one single life. The drinking of the combined wine signifies the commitment you now make to live your lives as one family. May you remember this day of commitment you have sealed with drinking of the new wine joining your lives as one."
Similar to the sand ceremony, the couple each pour a different colored water into a single glass, creating a third color representing their unity.
Wishing Stones Ceremony
This ceremony involves the bride and groom, bridal party and guests. Each person at the wedding is given a stone, which is cast into a body of water nearby.
Although this ceremony is best conducted near a river, lake, pond or beach, it can easily be adapted to include a large bowl of water. As each stone is cast into the water, the person casting the stone makes a wish or blessing for the wedding couple.
The rippling effect of the stone hitting the water is a symbol of the wish or blessing being granted.
This ceremony was created to show respect for the family. Historically, after they exchanged vows, the couple would serve tea to the groom's family (the bride would have served tea privately to her own family that morning). Today, many couples choose to honor both the bride and groom's families by hosting tea ceremonies for both sets of parents.
See website http://www.bconlineshop.com.au for examples of resources which may be used for some of these ceremonies.