Rituals at a wedding can add so much. At most weddings, the ritual exchange of rings is a focal point. Below are many other ideas.
Breaking the Glass:
In this ritual, the groom seals the marriage with the breaking of a glass. The breaking of the wineglass is, among other things: a symbol of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem; a representation of the fragility of human relationships; and a reminder that marriage changes the lives of individuals forever. It's also the official signal to shout, "Mazel Tov!" and start partying. There's no law putting the man's foot to the task. In fact, both the bride and groom can break the glass together with one swift stomp in unison.
Doves choose one partner for life and make this commitment until death. The white dove has been used throughout history as a symbol of love, peace, purity, faithfulness and prosperity - so fitting for a wedding ceremony.
Traditionally an Irish custom, a hand fasting ceremony involves lightly binding together the couples hands with ribbon or cord to symbolize the coming together as one. It’s a beautiful symbol of the meaning of marriage, and a bonus feature, is that it allows you to incorporate your wedding colors or theme in just one more way!
Jumping the Broom:
Originating in the deep South when slave weddings were not permitted, this alternative ceremony incorporated jumping over a broom to symbolize jumping from single to married life, and sweeping away the old to welcome the new. Today, couples find their own meaning for this practice, commonly substituting a different item for the broom, including a decorated pole, a row of flowers or even stones.
Passing the Sign of Peace:
In the spirit of love and unity, the bride and groom can asked that their guests pass the sign of peace. For those not familiar with this ritual, simply offer a handshake to you neighbor, with the words “peace be with you.” If you feel so inspired, a hug or a kiss would be most appropriate as well.
Ring Warming Ceremony:
For smaller weddings. Incorporate all of your guests into your ceremony by including a ring warming ritual. Your rings are tied together, or to a ring pillow, and passed through the hands of everyone in attendance. As each guest receives the rings, they give their quick blessings and well-wishes for the couple.
Sand Ceremony (also can be done with salt, spices, water, wine, flowers, seedlings, etc):
Sand or salt from two separate vessels are combined to symbolize the joining of two lives in marriage. With sand, many couples prefer to use two separate colors and layer them in a glass vase or bottle, which creates a unique pattern and can be displayed in their home somewhere special for years to come. Salt is a great one because the couple can then use it when cooking special dishes throughout their marriage, and salt is known for adding flavor to life and for bringing out the sweetness in things. It's also known for its energy-clearing properties, so it can symbolize a fresh start or new beginning that way. Some couples prefer to reserve a small amount of whatever they're combining in their individual vessel, to symbolize that although they are joining their lives, they remain unique individuals. You can also do this same type of ceremony, with similar meanings and messages, using whatever speaks to you, be it wine, water, flowers, a different spice, pebbles, the planting of two seedlings together . . . the options are endless, its totally affordable and fun to personalize! For a great link to a "salt covenant" ritual, click here.
Also known at the “Seven Steps”. Here, traditionally the bride’s sari is tied to the groom’s kurta, or a sari shawl. He leads, her pinky linked with his pinky, in seven steps around the fire, as the officiate chants/speaks the seven blessings or vows for a strong union. With each step, they throw small puffs of rice into the fire, representing prosperity in their new life together. This ceremony seals the bond forever.
For outdoor ceremonies. There a few ways to bring significance to this idea. First, the bride and groom fill the pot separately with dirt. This can be special soil from each person's hometown, from a current shared home, a special, favorite spot, etc. Once the pot has been filled with some dirt, and the tree has been placed, the bride and groom water the tree together. Again, the water can also come from two separate locations, such as a river or lake near one's hometown. Alternatively, the bride and groom can plant the tree using dirt, then have two family members carry the water, wash the couples hands, and then water the tree, symbolizing the unity of the two families, as well as the unification of the couple.
Water, Wine and Bread:
In this ritual, the couple shares water, wine and bread. Water for purity, clarity and fluidity. Wine for joy, sweetness, and forever ripening passion. Bread for sustenance, grounding, the commitment it takes to knead the dough, and the patience it takes for it to rise in its own time.
From Hindu and Buddhist Traditions. In both traditions, the pouring of water over joined hands of the couple purifies and blesses them. In this rituals, parents, or other special loved ones pour water over the joined hands of the bride and the groom. A bowl of rose petals can be used to catch the water. This represents being bathed in water that has traveled around the world. The water has been snow, rain, vapor, and clouds. The water is a symbol of marriage, inviting the couple to be flexible whenever necessary. It reminds us to work together, so the thirst of love is always quenched.
In this ceremony, the couple shares a glass of wine from a single cup. It serves as a reminder to the couple to never be too busy to stop and savor the sweet moments in life, and to always find reasons to celebrate. Sharing from a single cup reminds the couple to also share contentment, fulfillment and peace from the one "cup of life". May the joys be heightened, and the bitterness sweetened, as all of your moments ahead are enhanced by love and true companionship.
Wine and Love Letters:
It’s great to incorporate an element into your ceremony that will live on for the rest of your marriage, and the Wine and Love Letters idea does just that. At your ceremony, place a favorite bottle of wine, a love letter from each written to the other and even your vows in a box. Seal it shut and don’t open it until your first anniversary. On that anniversary, open the box, drink the wine and read the love letters and then replace all of the above with new ones to be opened the following year. It acts as a time capsule of your marriage, with special letters from every anniversary.
The two small candles symbolize that you are both entering your marriage as individuals and will not lose your identities. Rather, you will use your identities to create and strengthen your relationship through your marriage. The center candle represents the union of your lives, your commitment to each other and to a lasting and loving marriage. Unity candle ceremonies may be done with a fourth candle, that represents God/the Universe/Spirit...that which gives us light. Individual candles may be lit from the "God" candle, then together, they will light the unity candle. Alternatively, with a three-candle setup, parents, or family members can be included to light your individual candles, and then together as a couple, you can simultaneously light the unity candle.