UNITY and other RITUALS
WHAT IS A RITUAL?
“Rituals” are basically anything in the ceremony where we have, in some way, some sort of participation – both physically and/or with words.
A ritual can be just for the two of you, as a couple – or you might like to include others; your child/children, parents &/or friends.
We describe a unity ritual as something within your ceremony where we are physically and symbolically showing what it is that you are both doing, in regards to joining in marriage. It is a showing of “unity” (hence the name!).
There are many different types of unity rituals which can be included in your ceremony. From a traditional Candle-lighting... through to a Sand ceremony or even a tree-planting.
Other types of rituals are when there is either a physical element, an action performed, or some sort of participation from other people. For example; a Remembrance where a candle is lit, a Blessing of the wedding rings, a Butterfly release – these are all rituals.
Rituals may also include cultural traditions, for example; Japanese Tea ceremony or Greek Stafana
HOW MANY RITUALS CAN WE INCLUDE IN OUR CEREMONY?
There is no set number or limit to what you can include within the ceremony itself. The main point which I always say is to be mindful of “why” you are including the ritual. What is it that you are wanting to symbolize – is it your union as a couple? Is it the creation of a family (including children)? Or is it the recognition of the wider family/community of your parents/siblings and/or friends?
You do not have to be limited to one ritual within the ceremony – you might like to have (for example) a Candle-lighting to show your marriage union, and then a Sand ceremony to include your children or friends.
Or, a Sand ceremony for just the two of you – and then a Celtic Hand-Fasting (including some family & friends) and as an introduction/prelude into your personal vows.
Or, a Remembrance with candle lighting (for loved ones who have passed away), a Ring-warming (to include all your guests), and a Tree-planting (for a showing of unity).
HOW CAN WE INCLUDE FAMILY & FRIENDS?
It’s always lovely to include as many people as possible within the ceremony itself. We feel that as you may have asked your family & friends to be a guests at your wedding – it’s nice to have some (or even all!) of them play a part.
As with anything, participating in a ritual can be a small act, or something on a grander scale. It can be by an individual, or as a group with all of your guests.
For example for a Unity Candle Lighting ritual, here are three different possibilities;
How can we include others? (continued)
Just yourselves performing the ritual – by lighting your own individual candles, and also your unity candle.
Having parents or friends lighting your individual candles, and later just the two of you lighting the unity candle
Having ALL your guests lighting small candles, which ultimately are used to light your own candles – and then the unity candle
WHAT RITUALS ARE SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?
Being a parent, I always recommend that you be sensible when deciding if your child or children should be actively & physically involved with anything within the ceremony itself. Age plays the most important part in deciding what the child/children could be doing.
Discuss your plans with your child/children and see what they might like to do – and how much they would like to be included & involved with proceedings. There is no point trying to encourage them to participate if they really don’t want to – this would only cause stress and anxiety – both with yourselves & your child.
For examples of what they might like to do;
There are things they can do which is highly involved (a reading), or very minimal involvement (being given a gift).
Some ceremony rituals are suitable for all ages.
For younger ones, I do not recommend candles – as wax is extremely hot, can drip & burn.
UNITY CANDLE LIGHTING CEREMONY
The candle ceremony symbolizes the unity between the couple and the merging of two families.
Traditionally, there are three candles. Two smaller identical tapered candles – representing the couple as individuals. And, one large pillar candle – signifying the joint couple.
The ritual itself is normally split into two parts;
Firstly two family members or close friends (of the couple) will each light one of the side candles. This can take place early in the ceremony – perhaps prior to the vow or exchanging of rings; as the Bride & Groom are still considered as “individuals” in the proceedings. A short piece of music can play while the initial lighting is taking place, so as to not take away from the ritual.
Later in the ceremony, the second part of the candle lighting takes place. This could be done after the vows are exchanged – prior to any documentation signing, or the couple are pronounced as married.
The couple each take one of the side candles and together they light the larger main candle. They may then blow out their individual side candles to symbolize the extinguishing of their two single lives. Or, they may keep those candles burning to symbolize that their individuality is not extinguished, even though they are united in marriage.
Again, while this part of the ritual is taking place, a special piece of music or song could be played.
When the couple complete their part of the ritual, they could take a few minutes up by the candles to exchange a few words together, while the music is playing, prior to returning to their positions for the remainder of the ceremony. Or they can take a flower that was placed by the candle and present it to their mothers at this time.
Example wording for Candle Lighting Ceremony:
(Officiant): (Names of family members’/close friends’) will now light two individual candles, symbolic of the individuality of (name & name) and their families here at the beginning of this ceremony. The individual candles represent all that makes each of you the wonderful and unique person the other admires and respects. The Unity candle in the centre symbolizes the union of your lives, families, and friends, as well as your shining commitment to each other, and to a lasting and loving marriage.
Representatives move forward, aided if required by a groomsman, and light the individual candles.
(Officiant): Earlier in the ceremony, (Names of family members’/close friends’) lit two individual candles, symbolic of their individuality. The two outside candles of the candelabra have been lighted to represent their lives to this moment. They are two distinct lights, each capable of going their separate ways. To bring bliss and happiness to their home there must be the merging of these two lights into one light. From now on their thoughts shall be for each other rather than for their individual selves. Their plans shall be mutual, their joys and sorrows shall be shared alike. As they each take a candle and together light the centre candle, they will extinguish their own candles, thus letting the centre candle symbolize the union of our lives into one flesh. As this one light cannot be divided, neither shall their lives be divided.
Now (name & name) will light their single uniting candle, symbolic of the light of their love and unity to the world from this day forward.
GUEST CANDLE CEREMONY
A candle ceremony is another nice way of connecting the love of your family and friends. It's like a Unity Candle Ceremony, but instead of just uniting the two families, it unites the whole room.
Each guest is given an unlit candle as they enter the ceremony room. At the designated time, the officiant or the bride and groom light the candle of someone in the front row. They, in turn, pass the flame to the person next to him or her, who in turn passes it to the next person. When everyone's candle has been lit, the last person passes the flame to the bride and groom, who use it to light a central candle.
It's wonderful to do this right before the procession, so that your guests don't have to worry about fire danger and dripping candle wax for too long.
The Guest Candle ceremony can be used in both small and large guest numbers. In fact, the more people, the more impressive the result – as we ask guests to hold their candles up at the end, so your photographer/videographer can get a group shot with yourselves at the front of the room.
Example of Guest Candle ritual;
(Officiant): During this ceremony, (Name & Name) have asked that we symbolize the unity of family & friends by a candle lighting ritual.
Without the help, love and support of their families and all of you, their very dear friends, they would not be here today to celebrate their marriage. Without your encouragement, friendship, love and guiding light, they would not be the people they are today. So, they wanted to acknowledge that you are all their community of support that will surround them and light their way in the next part of their journey together.
As two families and groups of friends become one, and two soulmates become husband and wife, we invite everyone gathered with us here today to join us in unity for this special occasion. In the spirit of friendship we ask that you take your candles and, in a moment, we will have them all lighting. We are going to ask you to light the candle next to you, like with the rings, we will pass a flame to symbolize light unified by (Name & Name’s) love.
(Officiant): So first, (Names of helper #1) are going to go to the back of the room and light a candle each. Please, can you all, very carefully, pass the flame to the person next to you… bringing the flame forward to light all the candles.
(Music whilst people light their candles)
(Officiant): (Names of helper #2) will now come forward to light the couples individual candles.
And they, in turn, will now combine this symbol to create a new light of their own through marriage. By sharing the light from their union today, with everyone in the room, they pledge to always hold their friends and loved ones close and to use their marriage to bring joy to others.
(step forward to light unity)
Officiant: (Photographer) is now going to have you all take a group photograph.
(Photographer: Coordinates group picture)
Officiant: Thank you everyone! Please, very carefully, can you all extinguish your candles.