We've already taken you through the ins and outs of planning a civil or humanist ceremony, but there are some unity rituals that many humanist wedding ceremonies incorporate. Symbolism has always been big in wedding ceremonies, and this is no different - each unity ritual has its own sentiment and meaning behind it, and you can pick and choose (along with your celebrant) which ones best fit you as a couple, your ceremony and your wedding.
We've picked seven of the most common unity rituals we see - here's what's involved!
1. Hand-fasting ceremony
This is probably the one unity ritual that's taking over all the others in popularity over the last few years. It involves quite literally tying the knot, and it's actually one of the oldest rituals around, coming from Pagan wedding ceremonies. Hand-fasting involves joining the couple's hands and wrists using vines, ropes, cords or ribbons, tied up into a knot. It's actually often said that's where 'tying the knot' came from.
Usually you do this towards the end of your wedding ceremony as a final promise from one person to the other to bind your lives together. You can add further meaning by putting some thought into the material you're using for the ceremony - for example, if you still have the clothes you wore for your first date, a strip of fabric from them would be a perfect addition to the ceremony, or if your parents have something from their wedding, it might be nice to include that.
There are various kinds of knots, which your celebrant should be familiar with, for example infinity knots, fisherman's knots, trinity knots, etc. Each has its own meaning so, symbolically one may suit you more than then others, so it's worth looking into if you enjoy the potential for levels of meaning in these types of ceremony.
2. Wedding ring warming
A wedding ring warming ritual is a super lovely way to involve all your guests in your ceremony. Basically it involves, in one way or another, offering your loved ones the chance to hold and imbue your wedding rings with good vibes, good wishes, or good prayers for your marriage. By the time the rings make it to you placing them on each other's fingers, they should be saturated with your loved ones' love and well wishes.
The most common option is to have your rings passed around throughout the ceremony and have your ring bearer keep an eye as they go around to make sure they'll be returned on time for your bit. If you have a large guest list, this might prove a problem, so it can be a better option to leave your rings hanging on the way into the ceremony with a notice for people to 'warm' them as they arrive, before they sit down. If you're worried about the whole process, some people keep it to their parents and wedding party. It's up to you!
If you have a particularly religious family but aren't religious yourself, this is sometimes a nice way to bridge that gap, as every guest is given the opportunity to bring their own beliefs into your ceremony in a private but meaningful way.
3. Candle unity rituals
The unity candle ceremony or ritual is one of the most well-known ceremony ideas, and is not dissimilar to parts of more religious ceremonies. You'll need three candles for this - one for yourself, one for your partner and a third 'main' candle. The main candle is lit, often by a member of your family, and then the couple light their candles from it. If you want to involve more family members, they can light their candles from it also.
An alternative to this is where the couple light each other's candles and then together they light the main one with their candles at the same time. The merging flames symbolise their unity, strengthened love and shared lives. Often then, again, other family members will light candles from the main candle.
If you're planning an outdoor ceremony, however, be aware that you may need to factor in the breeze and how that will play into your candle lighting - the symbolism of your candle going out mid-ceremony just won't do at all!
4. Sand ritual
The sand ritual is a super simple yet really meaningful one - it's all centred around two becoming one. The couple mix two different colours of sand into one container, symbolising their lives and hearts coming together. As you can imagine, it would be a nightmare to re-separate the mixed sand afterward, similar to how difficult it would be to break the couple's love.
It's a particularly lovely one for couples with children to do, as you can get your kids involved in pouring their own sands in, or if you'd prefer, you could get other members of your extended family involved, all with the idea that it's symbolising two families coming together. As well as the lovely sentiment, if you choose a beautiful vase to pour your sands into, you'll be left with a gorgeous keepsake after the wedding.
5. Salt ritual
Similar to a sand ritual, this is a ceremony that involves the combining of individual grains of salt into one vessel during the ceremony. Why use salt, then? Salt has long been considered to be a pure substance and representative of good luck. During ancient times, agreements and promises were sealed by a salt covenant, where each person would take a pinch of salt from their pouch and place it in the pouch of another - the idea was the agreement couldn't be broken unless the person could retrieve their own grains of salt.
There are no real hard and fast rules for this ritual at a wedding - the basic premise is similar to the ancient version - you and your partner carry some pure (non dyed or coloured) salt to a larger container and you both pour your salts into it until they are intertwined and inseparable.
Salt has a tendency to stick together in humid conditions so if you're getting married in summer or in warmer climes, you can still use this ritual but it's best if you go for larger grained salt like rock salt, so the ritual runs smoothly.
6. Jumping over a broom
Similar to hand-fasting, jumping the broom is usually saved for towards the end of your ceremony. Originating as an African American tradition that came about when slaves weren't permitted to marry, and instead jumped over a broom as a way of ceremonially uniting. The idea is that as the couple jump over the broom, they physically and spiritually cross the threshold into matrimonial bliss. It marks the beginning of building a home together, and symbolises the sweeping away of the old and welcoming of the new.
Whoever you put in charge of the broom will hand it to one of you (traditionally the groom, but you do do! Who says there even is a groom?), who will make sweeping gestures to eliminate any negative energies, before passing it to the other partner who will lay it on the ground in front of the pair of you. Your guests will count you in to jump, and once you have, you kiss, before walking down the aisle together. Cute!
7. Wine box ceremony
This is a lovely little time capsule ritual! You can use any box you like, but usually couples have a custom box made (these can be found in abundance on places like Etsy), and inside the box on the day, you place a nice bottle of wine (or a tipple of your choice), and individually sealed love letters to each other. Neither of you get to see what the other has written, until you open the box on your fifth wedding anniversary (or another date of your choosing!). The letters should talk about the good qualities you find in each other, the reasons you fell in love, the reasons you chose to get married, and any other lovely titbits you wish to share.
Many couples choose then to display the box in their homes until the anniversary, as a constant reminder of their commitment to one another. If you endure a time of hardship together before the chosen opening date, it's suggested you should open the box, enjoy the bottle of wine, and read each other's letters to remind you why you fell in love and got married, and allow you reflect on what's most important in whatever situation you find yourself in. Hopefully you won't ever find reason to open it prematurely, but life happens! Regardless of when you open it, it's sure to be positive reminder of why you committed to one another in the first place.