There are a range of unity rituals which are based around similar principles so I’m going to talk about all of them together. The basic idea is that two things which exist perfectly on their own create something unique, stronger, brighter together and when they have been brought together they can never be separated. What a beautiful way to express your commitment to each other. This principle can be extended in many directions and I’m more than happy to create a new unity ritual which includes things which are important to you.
Unity Sand Ceremony
For the Unity Sand Ceremony both of you choose a colour of sand to represent you – it could be your favourite colour, or one of the colours you’re using for your decorations. Personally, I like to use the meanings of the colours that I also use in handfasting so they can represent your personalities or attributes which you feel are important in a marriage. You then take a clear glass vessel – could be a heart shape, a vintage vessel, a test tube or conical flask or the bottle from your favourite tipple! There are lots of possibilities. During the ceremony you take it in turns to pour your colour sand into the vessel creating a unique pattern (reminiscent of the souvenirs you used to get at the seaside). When the vessel is completely full then the stopper or cork is sealed with wax maintaining the pattern.
Symbolically you exist as two individuals which have your own personalities and colour and aren’t dependent on the other. When you bring your identities and strengths together you support each other and create something beautiful and unique together which is impossible to replicate. If you tried to separate you again then it would be as impossible as separating the grains of sand.
This is a fantastic ritual to use if you want to include other members of the family (parents, grandparents or children) in your ceremony as you can all have different colours of sand and the symbolism still works perfectly across the generations. I have also used it for a naming ceremony when the ‘special adults’ had sand colours as well as the baby and the parents and also for a family ceremony when the children being adopted had their own version of the family vessel as well as a reminder of the commitment their adopting parents were making to them that day and forever onwards.
I am working with one couple who are collecting a small amount of sand from beaches which are important to them, rather than having coloured sands, and another who are using a glass teapot as their vessel as they love Steampunk and tea! I’m always on the lookout for interesting glass containers to reflect my couples’ interests and personalities – it just takes a little imagination!
Unity Candle Ceremony
The Unity Candle Ceremony although a more modern option connects to a fundamental human belief in the importance of flame and fire. Since ancient times natural flame has been a part of many rituals and ceremonies and there is something very special about candlelight. We recognise that warmth and light from the sun are the foundation of life, and fire seems to hold a particular fascination and reverence for us. A single flame can light up the darkest of caves and can give hope and strength in even the most difficult of circumstances. Passing on a flame, keeping a flame alight is a symbol of hope and unification, as can be seen by the Olympic flame.
The unity candle ceremony symbolises the bringing together of two lives, demonstrated by the two flames, with the recognition that those two lives do not become one, but the light that they can produce together is far greater than the light they can produce on their own. By bringing our lives together, and committing to developing and growing within that relationship, supporting each other to be the best possible version of ourselves that we can be enables us to have a greater impact on our families, our friends and our communities. At no point do two people become one person, we stay as individuals like the two candles, but out unity of purpose is like the joined flame.
The basis of the ceremony is that each of you takes your candle or taper, lights it from the wedding candle and then standing either side of the Unity Candle (a larger candle) you bring your flames together to light the wick. Then the individual candles are replaced in their holders. Often the candles are decorated with words or designs which are relevant to couple. There are many variations that can be introduced to make this symbolic ritual even more personal, individual and meaningful. The individual candles can be lit by your parents before being passed on to you. If you have children then they can also have a candle which they light from the Unity candle, symbolising the connection between parents (step-parents) and children (step-children).
I recently conducted a ceremony where each of the guests lit a candle, and the couple ‘picked up’ the flames from all of these candles before bringing their flames together to complete the heart, symbolising the love and commitment of all of the guests being part of the love and commitment of the couple. I have also passed a flame from person to person through all the bridal party and groomsmen ending with the couple’s candles being lit by their children. I’ve created a version to include the couple floating nightlights on a swimming pool in memory of absent loved ones, and the connection they have with the couple. The Unity Candle Ceremony is simple but powerful, and very flexible so it can truly reflect you as a couple.
The Gin Ceremony
This is one of my favourites at the moment and it often catches the imagination of couples! With so many fantastic flavours of gin available you can have great fun tasting them all to find the two which represent you both. Then as part of the ritual you both pour your chosen gin into a glass, stir it around and then take turns to drink from it. Symbolically the two drinks which work perfectly on their own are being brought together to create a unique gin made from the two personalities both of which can still be tasted but cannot be pulled apart.
I love using a double handed Scottish loving cup (quaich) for this and then sending it around to all your guests to drink from, which is a wonderful way to involve everyone in your ceremony. Alternatively you can have separate shot glasses of the premixed gin to be handed out to everyone!
This ritual is also not limited to gin – you can use whatever drinks you like – providing they mix well and taste good. So chocolate milk and brandy would be a very tasty option! You can use a red and a white wine, two non-alcoholic drinks or even two flavours of tea if you love a cuppa. I have used a mint liquor and a strawberry liquor which definitely divided the crowd!