Ancient or Modern Customs to Include in Today’s Wedding Ceremony

A contemporary popular addition to the wedding ceremony today is to include an ancient or modern custom between the Bride and Groom, usually the custom is either a cultural tradition or meaning to it such as Handfasting, Unity Candles, Sand Ceremony, etc.

Handfasting An ancient wedding ritual often associated with Celtic or Pagan roots. Today the Handfasting ritual typically consists of tying the right hands of the couple to be to be married with a ribbon, chord or sash while they exchange their vows. (See Blog for more information of this special ceremony.)

The Unity CandleUnity Candle Wedding Ceremony The Bride and Groom each take a lit candle and simultaneously light a third "unity candle." They may blow out their individual lights, or leave them lit, symbolizing that they have not lost their individuality in their unity. Due to this popular trend, there are many websites now selling elaborate unity candles, these can even be personalized with your names and date of your wedding.

Sand CeremonySand Ceremony The Sand Ceremony is very popular in California since sand is abundant from the desert to the ocean. Two vessels of sand are poured together either into a third keepsake vessel as a reminder that now joined together they make one and can never again be separated as before. Alternatively, after the grains of sand have been combined they can be tossed into the air or breeze representing the coming together of your lives to symbolize unity and eternity. The vessels and sand can be purchased online, or simply use the California beach or desert sand.

Rose Ceremony A simple unity ceremony where the Bride and Groom exchange roses. Other variations are when the Bride and Groom exchange roses with their families or the Bride and Groom exchange roses then present their mothers with the roses. Often a rose (or other flower) can be placed on an empty chair to symbolize the presence in spirit of a relative no longer living.

Water Ceremony A similar concept to the Sand Ceremony. The couple each pour a different colored water into a single larger glass, creating a third color and symbolizing their new union. If the Bride or Groom have children each child can be included by adding smaller glasses of the same color water as the parent into the larger vessel symbolizing the union of the new family unit.

Wine Ceremony The Bride and Groom each take a carafe of wine and pour it into a single glass, which they then both drink from.

Breaking the Glass Breaking The Glass Ceremony A Jewish wedding tradition when the Groom stomps and smashes a glass, usually in a white decorative sack, which is placed in front of the couple. After the glass is broken, the guests shout out "Mazel Tov", Hebrew for Good Luck! There are many different explanations for the breaking of the glass such as the fragility of the glass suggests the frailty of human relationships or that the bond of love between the newly married couple may be as difficult to break as it would be to put together the pieces of this glass!

Lasso Ceremony The tradition of the Lasso (or Lazo) is prominent in the Hispanic culture, Hawaiian and some Asian cultures. The Lasso is placed around the Bride and Groom's shoulders, usually by the Officiant. Alternatively, it can be placed over by parents or the Best Man and Maid of Honor.  It remains around the couple until the completion of the ceremony at which time it will then be removed by whomever placed it over them. This is then kept as a keepsake. It can be made of rosary beads and referred to as the wedding rosary which is actually two individual and complete rosaries which meet and become one before the crucifix. It can also be made from flowers as in a Garland or Lei, or with ribbon, decorative and colorful beads, shells or whatever is symbolic to the couple.

Garland Ceremony or Lei Ceremony The Bride and Groom exchange garlands of flowers. This is a common part of Indian weddings, where the ceremony is called varmala or jaimala, and represents a proposal by the Bride and acceptance by the Groom. It also represents their new unity, blessed by nature. In Hawaian weddings, the Bride and Groom typically exchange leis. The families may also exchange leis with the couple. Leis represent the love and respect you have for the person you are giving it to, and the unity of the new family.

Celtic Oathing Stone Taken from the ancient Celtic custom of setting an oath in stone, this evolved into the marriage ceremony when the Bride and Groom, either holding or putting their hands together on a stone, would pledge their wedding vows to each other. In the Scottish tradition an oath given near a stone or water was considered binding. Some believe the phrase ‘set them in stone’ came from this custom. Etching the stone was part of the ritual and, in so doing, making it a sacred symbol. In some areas of Scotland, these bridal stones can still be found today. For the modern version of this ceremony, the source of an Oathing Stone, what minerals are in it, its color, or other characteristics are not as important as what is said over the stone. A stone brought from Scotland would be very special but one collected by the couple together would also be appropriate. The stone can be washed and scrubbed. To prepare the stone for the ceremony almond oil can be rubbed over it, then wiped and rubbed to a satin sheen. Etching the stone with your initials and the date of your wedding makes it a beautiful keepsake. Today, the inclusion of an Oathing Stone while exchanging wedding vows can be very powerful.

Truce Bell The Truce Bell is blessed by the Officiant after the wedding ceremony and then presented to the Bride and Groom. The couple is then asked to ring the bell as they reflect thoughts of each other and their future life together. The couple then keep the Truce Bell in their home as a reminder of their vows to one another. When arguments arise, the bell is put to its intended use. One of the quarreling couple rings the bell to call a truce in the argument. This signifies a truce and an end to the disagreement. The Bell of Truce originates from west Ireland peasant traditions, believed to be derived from St. Patrick's Bell of Will. St. Patrick believed that bells were important to his ministry, and helped him in performing miracles. He is said to have been buried with the iron Bell of Will he carried. Today, it stands on exhibit in Ireland's National Museum.

Circling There are many interpretations behind the symbolic walk before or after vows are exchanged, a ritual engaged by many different cultures. It has been said that the Bride walking in a circle around her Groom creates a magical wall of protection from evil spirits, temptation, and the glances of other women. It is also said that the Bride walks around her Groom in order to create a protective light around the new family circle where primary duty and loyalty shifts from parents to each other.

In Eastern European ceremonies, after the Bride and Groom have exchanged vows they circle the altar to symbolize their first steps together as husband and wife.

In the Jewish tradition, after the Bride and Groom first enter under the traditional canopy, The Chuppah, the Bride circles around the Groom seven times, representing the seven wedding blessings and seven days of creation, demonstrating also that the Groom is the center of her world.

Today, the Bride and the Groom can circle together or around each other, demonstrating independent and complementary orbits. Sallie Albertina, Wedding Officiant, (760) 327-5927


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Sallie Albertina
Palm Springs Wedding Minister

Sallie Albertina

PO Box 5481
Palm Springs, CA 92263-5481

Contact Me

Phone: (760) 327-5927
Email: Sallie Albertina


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