This page contains a list of traditions & rituals you may want to incorporate. Please note that this page is copywrited, as some have copied & tried to pass this information off as their own knowledge.
Traditions intended for the beginning of the ceremony:
These are normally performed Just after I have congratulated the two of you & welcomed your guests.
Photo Courtesy of Ken Sykes Photos
O'Henry Hotel, Greensboro, NC
A Special Recognition of the Mothers:
Queen Victoria, I the late 1800s, asked all the poets in her realm to create an entire language of flowers—hence the red rose means “I love you with all my heart & soul”. While the language includes all flowers, the pink rose means “joy & gratitude”. If the groom gives a pink rose to his wife’s mother, & the bride to her husband’s mother, they are expressing their joy that they’re being married, & also their gratitude that their families are joining, as well. Long-stemmed roses or rose plants may be used, depending on season & the thumb-colors of the moms. It’s a great start to a wedding ceremony!
The Cambodian Cord
An ancient Cambodian fable states that, when two people are born who are meant by the Fates to be together, they are joined by an invisible red cord. (Red, in the Far East, is a color of celebration, often worn by brides). As the infants grow up, the cord shrinks; when they become teenagers it shrinks further &, when the moment comes that they are intended by the Fates to meet, the cord has shrunk so much that they are standing face-to-face! I then take a length of red cord that was blessed & given to me, during Seminary, by a monk who works directly with the Dalai Lama, & tie a knot in the center of that cord. When I do, I make a wish out loud for your joy & success in your marriage—or whatever comes to mind! I then pass the cord to my left & every single person at your wedding makes a knot in the cord & a silent wish for your in your marriage. When the last person has tied a knot & made a wish, I drape the cord over the bride’s shoulders as a memento of all the people who wished you well as they witnessed & blessed your wedding. You’ll never know who tied which knot or who made which wish—but you’ll know that every one of them is there in that cord! You can use it as a bookmark, frame it, keep it however you like—but it’s a fantastic memento of those who wish you all the best that life has to offer!
Traditions involving just the two of you:
The Victorian Rose Ceremony:
Aesthetic Images Photography
Costumes by Tina Cecil - Sew What's Up
Castle McCulloch, Jamestown, NC
In the late 1800s in England, the poets created an entire language of flowers, in which every single flower had a specific meaning (it wasn’t always romantic–giving someone a chrysanthemum meant you wished they were no longer on this earth!). In that language, a red rose had only one meaning: I love you with all my heart. You exchange single red long-stemmed roses–their first gift to each other as husband & wife, even before their rings.
I ask you to choose a place in whatever home you have that is designated solely for red roses. They can be given on anniversaries as a recommitment of vows, on birthdays & so on... I also remind you that, realistically, there will be times over the next five or six decades when it will be hard to find the right words to express how you feel. When that happens, put a red rose in that special place. Your spouse will then know that the needed words have, in fact, been said. I then will ask you to memorize exactly how you feel–in your heart, but also in your body--& ask you to take a moment to memorize that feeling. Because that is exactly the feeling, in both heart & body, that I want you to be able to bring back every single time you see a rose in that special spot–next year, or forty years from now! You also then have your very first roses as a married couple to dry & place in a book, to use the petals for potpourri, or whatever you wish.
The Common Cup:
An exchange of wine or juice is an ancient marriage custom, also called the Anam Cara, symbolizing—among other details I’ll give at the ceremony—your willingness to share what is sweet but may, on occasion, be more bitter. It also, among other factors, celebrates your equality, & represents the Celtic interlace—the continual intersection of body, mind & spirit in all our lives.
White Rock Doves choose a mate, to whom they remain faithful for life. They share a commitment, & love being home together. Following the wedding ceremony, the release of these "love doves" is a perfect way to begin your life together as husband & wife. As you exit the ceremony, family & friends can assemble to watch the splendor of your love & commitment symbolically take flight on the snow white wings of these doves. The pair of doves circles in the air & then fly off together, symbolizing the beginning of your new life together.
Jumping The Broom:
With roots in the African-American community of the United States during slavery, but used among couples of all races & belief systems. At the end of the ceremony you both jump over a decorated broom laid on the ground before you. The straw end represents the brushing away of all your old cares & worries. The strong handle represents the power of your commitment to each other, & the straight, unconditionally-committed path you will follow together in marriage. Some say that whoever jumps the highest will be the boss of the house!
Planting the Seeds for your Future:
This is used more for weddings that take place in the Spring, but is actually used all year round.
You each have a fabric pouch filled with soil (vermiculite, actually) & either a sprinkling of seeds or two plants that grow well together but are not identical.
We take a beautiful, functional flower pot and have each of you empty your packet of soil & seeds, or plant your bulbs or flower, into the flower pot.
I then water the combined soil, seeds or plants. You then keep this inside or outside your home & watch the perennial plants grow & flourish as you do!
Joining of the Waters:
Inspired by the Buddha’s discovery that there is Unity in all things. You each bring a small jar of water from a place that has great meaning to you as an individual. Together, you pour your water, representing you as individuals, into a decorative glass container with a cork or seal. I shake the bottle & describe how the water drops are now combined & inseparable, why it’s important to stay fluid in a world where the surest factor is change, how two tributaries may struggle to reach the river but, once combined, have unlimited power to overcome any obstacles in their path…& more. For beach lovers & water sports lovers, this is a great choice!
The Wisdom of the Seven Spices:
A great choice for cooks—or those who love to eat! As with flowers in Great Britain, certain spices in the Middle East have specific meanings. Rosemary, for example, stands for prosperity. In this tradition, you each hold a drawstring bag (about 3”x 3”) while I place each of seven specific spices into those bags, spooning different amounts into each as I am led. All seven spices represent qualities for a long & happy marriage—emotional & material prosperity being just one of them. After the ceremony, you each shake your bag, creating the right mix of those qualities for you. On your wedding night, you each place your bag under your pillow, to make that proportion of qualities part of your subconscious. On anniversaries & other special events, you first shake the bags (because you’ve grown & changed, even since the day before, & thus your balance of qualities will change) & place them under your pillows again. If travel keeps you apart, the traveler takes his/her bag along, keeping you together in your dreams! And, between all those special events, these bags make fantastic sachets!
Native American Blanket:
Prior to your speaking your vows, your mothers wrap you in a special blanket that you will use on your marriage bed—in the Cherokee tradition, it is a bright blue blanket with a star in the center & feathers all around. The blanket symbolizes your marital home, & you speak your vows while wrapped, facing each other, in this blanket. Later, when it graces your bed, you will always remember that, within this blanket, you spoke the vows that make you husband & wife.
Traditions that can include just the two of you, or others whom you choose to include as well:
The Hand Fasting Ceremony:
An ancient tradition which binds the couple for as long as they are on earth, in addition to their eternal spiritual commitment. The symbolism of the three-strand braided cord is described in detail. As one example, the three strands of the braid represent each of you as individuals (because you must remain an individual when you are married; that is why you fell in love I the first place!) & the third strand represents this new being called “us”—in which you are always yourself, but you are also always part of something larger—your marriage.
This tradition is also easily expanded to include children of the couple, in which each child (of whatever age, whether male or female) is given a sterling, hemp or leather braid to be worn as a necklace or bracelet/wristlet. I explain that, while the adults’ braid stands for marriage, the braid he/she has just been given represents the birth parent, the step parent, & the child (of whatever age), who turns this from a wedding into the formal creation of a new family! Just as a tightly-woven braid is stronger than one loosely-woven, so the family must retain its strength by the individuals remaining so closely interwoven that one can barely tell where one begins & the other ends. The child/ren is reminded that, however big they grow, wherever life takes them, they will always be an essential part of this family.
The parent usually hands the jewelry to the new step-parent, who then fastens the necklace or bracelet/wristlet around the neck or wrist of the one(s) who have turned this from a wedding ceremony into the creation of a new family!
The Unity Marbles Bowl:
You choose a bowl of thick glass that you would enjoy having in your home. If the ceremony is to include just you two, select two different colors of the flat marbles used for flower arranging. If parents, grandparents &/or children are included, each of them receives a small bowl of marbles that is a different color from everyone else’s. Some couples ask each of their guests to toss a small handful of marbles into the bottom of the Bowl before they are seated, which the explanation coming later. If just the two of you are included, you pour your different-colored marbles into the Bowl, I mix them together & explain—among other factors--that, by joining your lives, you have created a mosaic; a work of art. When other generations are involved, the eldest goes first, laying the foundation for the ceremony—an honor bestowed because, without them, you two would literally not exist! Parents’ & step-parents’ marbles represent, among other factors, that they have colored your lives, helping create your own tastes & thus your attraction to & desire to marry the person standing across from you. Children help color your lives just as you help color theirs.
Photo Courtesy of Rhonda Lentz
Bicentennial Garden, Greensboro, NC
I remind each individual that he or she represents two families—a mother & father--& thus the number of colors in the vase is actually multiplied by two…sometimes as many as sixteen or twenty families are joined in this bowl. I then mix the colors together to remind you that, every single day, you should live that day as though you are, with your life, creating a mosaic; a work of art. Whenever change comes, put your own hands in & change the design. You can change it again the next time an event, small or large, takes place in your life. YOU are an ever-changing work of art. While there is much more to this ceremony, you will always have the colors that your loved ones placed in that Bowl on the day of your wedding &, as time goes by, those colors will become loving memories of those who will always be with you in Spirit.
Greek crowning, the Hispanic Lasso… these are just a few of the worldwide traditions that we can discuss which might be just perfect for your wedding!
Giving Gifts to the Children:
Giving a braided chain works very nicely as an extension of the Handfasting Ceremony in particular, but Hand Fasting does not have to be performed in order to give braided jewelry to the children.
As noted above, a braided chain–necklace or wristlet, silver or leather–is often a most appropriate gift to children of virtually any age, as a token for them of the day their parent and step-parent exchanged rings. I like to explain that they’re being given a gift in the form of a braid because their new family is like a braid–one strand is the mother, one strand is the father, and the third is the children. And, just as in a strong braid, in a strong family you cannot tell where one strand begins and the other ends, because the very strength of both the marriage and the braid is in the intertwining of the strands. If is a lovely, and potent, reminder for both boys and girls.
Of course other gifts can be given, as well. A silver picture frame to hold a photo of the new family is often a good choice for children of all ages, as one example.
Traditions often celebrated toward the end of your wedding ceremony:
Blessing the rings: We tend to lose track of the meaning of the wedding ring itself. Blessing the Rings is a lovely & important rite. I explain the meaning of wedding rings & the reasons why the rings themselves are so precious. A blessing is pronounced over the rings before you slip them onto each other's fingers. Thus the exchange of sacred objects is, itself, made sacred.
Breaking the Glass:
With centuries-old roots in the Jewish community, this tradition is also used among couples of all belief systems because of its powerful meaning. The glass is wrapped in fabric &, at the end of the ceremony, the groom smashes the wrapped glass with his foot to cries of "Congratulations!" & "Mazel Tov!" Breaking the glass symbolizes a number of things. Among them: the many shards of the glass represent the fact that you used to be two separate beings with separate boundaries, but now that you have married & broken the glass, you can't tell where one ends and the other begins!
The Readings I Include:
Throughout your ceremony, I often include readings between traditions--a broad range, written by both men & women from all traditions, over a period of hundreds of years. You can choose from contemporary, traditional or religious pieces, or any combination of the above. Your “song” may have lyrics that provide lovely poetry for a reading. The choices are infinite. Your guests may come up & give these readings, as well: they are not just observers; they are participants. Their very presence is a blessing to your vows.
Even if your guests hear readings or see rituals they have never before experienced, they will feel comfortable because the entire ceremony will be blessed in Sacred Space. They will feel the Unconditional Love all around them, and know at the deepest level that they are witnessing something extraordinary.