Amid all the planning you’ll do for your wedding, one decision that may come up is whether or not to include a unity ceremony on your special day. A unity ceremony is a symbolic ritual included in your nuptials that represents the joining of two people into one union. They can range from traditional, religious or secular, and they can also be formatted to include family or even friends.

Jenn Thalman, Utah-based wedding officiant and owner of Weddings by JennBrook, often incorporates unity ceremonies into the weddings she officiates. When she initially meets with a couple, one of the questions she asks is if there are any cultural, religious, spiritual or personal beliefs they want to incorporate into their wedding, and they go from there. Unity ceremonies offer endless creative potential for couples seeking a unique and personal experience. The most important thing is that the couple feels like the experience is perfectly fitted to them.

Jenn Thalman. Photo by Haley Nord.

One of Thalman’s top suggestions for couples is to steer away from doing something just to please their families. “I encourage couples to do what they really want,” Thalman says. ”Do what you want. Steer away from what your grandma tells you you have to do.” So, make the day your own – it belongs to you. As you think about what unity ceremony speaks to your love story, here are 11 ideas we’ve gathered, including some insight from Thalman. And don’t forget that you can think outside the box on these. “Any unity ceremony can be customized if you get creative and make it your own,” Thalman says.

1. Wish Lanterns

This unity ceremony is perfect for a nighttime wedding. Or fit it into the end of your wedding day, rather than during the ceremony. The couple releases a floating lantern into the night sky together to represent their love and wishes for their future. They may even write those wishes and sentiments on the lantern before they release it. Thalman suggests this as a great way to incorporate family and friends, giving them lanterns as well to write their wishes for the couple before sending them out into the universe.

2. Wine Blend

In this unity ceremony, the couple takes two different kinds of wine and combines them into the perfect blend. From there the two can sip on their own, make a toast or have a bottle sealed for their anniversary. This can be altered to use beer or tea, as well.

unity ceremony
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3. Unity Candles

One of the most common unity ceremonies, lighting a unity candle represents the joining of two families as the couple take two separate candles and light a center candle at the same time. This can also incorporate family, by having the mothers of the two light the separate candles before the couple takes them to light the center. Thalman says she has also incorporated the vows from the Corpse Bride, in which lighting a candle is part of the wedding ceremony, into this unity ritual for couples who love the Tim Burton film. Or, if you’re having an outdoor wedding, you can scale up the ceremony by lighting a bonfire together, rather than a candle.

4. Lasso Ceremony

The lasso ceremony is common in Hispanic, Filipino and Latin cultures. During the wedding ceremony, the couple has a rope, flower garland or even a long rosary wrapped around their shoulders, twisted in the middle to form the shape of an infinity symbol. It can be placed by the officiant or any other pair the couple designates, like the godmother and godfather. Thalman recalled one particular wedding she officiated that applied the lasso ceremony as being particularly moving. As the bride’s family only spoke Spanish and the groom’s family spoke English, the ceremony was able to unite the two families.

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5. Planting

For this ceremony, the couple together plants a tree, a succulent or any other plant they want. The couple may also use dirt from both of their hometowns in the pot, or opt to simply water a tree together if you don’t want to risk smudging your wedding best.

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6. Handfasting

Handfasting derives from an ancient Celtic wedding tradition, where the hands of the two are bound together during the ceremony to represent their unity and the welding of two into one as they literally tie the knot. Thalman says this has been great for couples who have discovered some Celtic or Scottish heritage they feel drawn to and want to honor. But don’t be afraid to stray from tradition. “I think handfasting is one of the things that we get the most creative,” says Thalman, who included Buddhist scarves in her own handfasting ceremony to signify her and her husband’s spiritual journey. More recently, Thalman is collaborating with a vendor, Sage Adornment , to create a custom set of handfasting cords for a couple that have established a set of eight principles for their life together that align with eight chakras. Other customizations include draping the cords or scarves in a way so that when the couple pulls the ends, it forms a knot that only grows stronger with each tug. 

7. Anniversary Capsule

For this unity ceremony, couples can gather mementos of their love and time together, maybe even a bottle of wine, and write love letters to each other to seal into a box that they will open on their fifth, 10th or 20th anniversary. They can also invite friends and family to contribute notes and pictures.

Unity ceremony
Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock.

8. Sand Pouring

In this unity ceremony, the couple takes turns pouring two different colored sands into a vase to represent the combining of two lives into one. “A sand ceremony is a great unity ceremony, and I love to do those when someone comes from different areas,” Thalman says. She recalls one sand pouring ceremony with a couple that met in Florida and married in Utah, using sand from the two states in the ceremony. Another variation to this ceremony is using different colors of glass crystals that can then be sent to a glass-blowing studio to be made into a unique piece of art and sent back to the couple.

Photo Courtesy of Adobe Stock.

9. Log Cutting

In this German tradition, the couple uses a two-person saw to cut a log together, representing their first trial they must overcome together.

10. Circling

Besides breaking glass, circling is another Jewish tradition that traditionally involves the bride walking around her groom seven times, a number that carries Jewish symbolism through both Biblical reference and the seven Jewish wedding blessings, though in modern times often both spouses take turns circling each other.

Unity ceremony
Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock.

11. Hand or Feet Washing

Another symbolic unity ceremony option, the couple may choose to wash each other’s hands or feet to signify respect and caring for one another and a clean start to their new married life.


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