Today's Bride

Popular Unity Ceremony Customs

Photo by Josh Wood Weddings

Photo by Josh Wood Weddings

Naturally, the vows tend to be the most memorable part of a wedding ceremony. Here, the bride and groom make their solemn promises to each other in a beautiful and touching moment. During the vows, there are a variety of customs – sort of “a ceremony within a ceremony” – that the couple can incorporate to leave a lasting impression for both them and their guests. The following rituals are among those used to enhance ceremonies: The Unity Candle Lighting: This is a popular choice for both religious and non-religious ceremonies because it is non-denominational and has no religious significance. A unity candle set consists of two slender candles (called tapers) and a large center candle. They are usually white candles. The two outer candles represent your individual lives before today, while the large inner candle represents your new life together as a unit. As the bride and groom each take a single candle and light the center candle, they will extinguish their individual candles. Usually, the bride will blow out the groom’s taper candle, and the groom will blow out the bride’s taper candle. This represents the closing of the chapters in your individual lives and the beginning of new chapters as husband and wife! While a popular choice, the unity candle is not recommended for outdoor ceremonies.

Unity Candle Set by AllLavenderandLove on Etsy

The Blessing Stone: This particular ritual is designed to take place at the end of the wedding ceremony, usually after the pronouncement. When guests arrive at the ceremony, they are each given a polished stone. As guests hold them during the ceremony, they are infused with the love, good wishes and heartfelt blessings that each of them are experiencing. At the end of the ceremony, your guests are invited to move to the water’s edge for the casting of the blessing stones. The ripples, which cross and re-cross one another, represent the love and good wishes for not only the couple but for anyone with whom attendees come into contact. While this is perfect option for an outdoor ceremony site, there is an indoor variation that uses a vase to gather the stones instead of tossing them. Overall, this is a great way to include everybody in attendance. The Unity Sand: This acts as an alternative to the Unity Candle Ceremony as it is similar in its symbolism. The couple’s relationship is symbolized through the pouring of two individual containers of sand (representing their individuality) into one container representing their union. If you are having a beach wedding, this particular ritual is a must! The Indian Wedding Vase: This type of ceremony is similar to that of the unity candle. During your ceremony, each of you drinks from the vessel as a symbol of two individuals whose lives are becoming one.

Indian Vase by woodbineantiques on Etsy, photo by Angee Alvis Photography

The Henna Ceremony: Before the wedding, a Moroccan bride has her hands and feet painted with henna tattoos to represent good luck, protection and the transition from unwed woman to wife. The Chocolate & Wine: The combining of the chocolate and wine represents both the bitter and sweet moments you will experience in together. This enhancement can be placed anywhere in the ceremony, but many couples choose to have it just before their wedding vows. To pull this off, you simply need two glasses of red wine to represent the bitter and two chunks of milk chocolate to represent the sweet.

The Wine Box (also known as the “Love Letter” Ceremony): Before the wedding, you and your groom write a note to each other about why you fell in love and how you feel today.  Then at the ceremony, the Officiant explains the wine box ceremony, and in front of everyone, you both put their love notes and a bottle of your favorite wine in the wine box. The box is then locked, and you vow to open it up on an anniversary year of your choice or during a rocky point in the relationship. Opening it will bring you back to your wedding day and serve as a reminder of why you fell in love in the first place.

Wine & Love Letter Box by MadeByAmberandEarth on Etsy

The Breaking of the Glass: This particular custom is usually included in Jewish wedding ceremonies as it represents the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. During the ceremony, the groom is offered a glass on a wooden pallet or wrapped in a cloth napkin; he then smashes it with his foot. The breaking of the glass symbolizes that just as glass can be shattered easily, so can the bond of marriage. Many times couples save the pieces of glass from the ceremony in a symbolic box. The Butterfly Release: The butterfly symbolizes a new beginning, rebirth and transformation.  What better way to celebrate the beginning of a new life together than with the releasing of butterflies at your wedding? The butterfly release usually takes place at the conclusion of the ceremony, after the pronouncement. It can be done in different ways – you can read a special poem or include the guests and/or just the bridal party – the choice is yours. No matter how you choose to release your butterflies, this ceremony is a beautiful, unusual and exciting way to celebrate the beginning of your new life together. Remembrances: These serve as either a silent or verbal way to remember those loved ones who have passed or are, consequently, unable to be there with the couple on their wedding day. Because of the personal feelings that surround this event, couples can choose to do remembrances in a variety of ways. They might invites guests to leave a flower or memento on an empty chair in the deceased individuals honor, or they might want to have a poem or reading of a prayer said. Keep in mind that there are no hard fast rules when it comes to ceremony customs. Whatever ritual you choose – or even if you choose not to include a ritual – the ceremony structure should be 100 percent you! Need help putting your ceremony ideas together? Visit for Officiants and Ceremony Site staff who can assist you! For more tips about ceremonies and beyond, download our entire free wedding planner by becoming a member at!

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