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The Beauty & Symbolism of Unity Ceremonies
One of the beautiful symbolisms of the Wedding Ceremony is the Unity Ceremony. This portion of the Ceremony takes place in a variety of forms, all symbolizing the unity of two people, and sometimes the connection of those two people with God.
In this post I will discuss some various forms of Unity Ceremonies I have seen throughout my videography career, and post a video example of each so you get a better idea of what that type of Unity Ceremony will look like. A link to a site with ceremony wording will also be provided so you have an idea of the symbolism, and also what your officiant should say.
Table of Contents
The Lighting of the Unity Candle
One of the oldest and most obvious choices for a Unity Ceremony is the lighting of the Unity Candle.
The symbolism of this ceremony is that you and your spouse come from separate families (the separate candles). The mothers usually light each of the individual candles to better represent the households that you each come from.
The bride and groom then take each lit candle and light a larger, center candle, representing the new household that you and your spouse are creating.
The light of the candle also holds religious symbolism of God’s light shining on your marriage and your new household.
Here are 3 variations of the Unity Candle. From left to right, a standard Unity Candle set customized with the couple’s names, a Unity Candle on a stand, and a floating Unity Candle. All have the same symbolism, it just depends on your style.
This video shows a Unity Candle Ceremony that starts with some wording by the officiant that describes the process of the ceremony. The couple then lights the center candle with their individual candles.
This video shows a Unity Candle Ceremony in action, but there are no words of explanation to go with it.
The Sand Pouring Ceremony
While I would not recommend doing a Sand Pouring Ceremony, it is still a widely popular Unity Ceremony that you may find to be worth looking into.
Sand Ceremonies have deep symbolism in the joining of two people to become one. You each have your own container of different colored sand from which you take turns pouring into a central container. The sand becomes mixed and is never able to be separated, just as you and your spouse are never able to (or should not) be separated.
If you decide to take part in this ceremony, I would suggest a larger, and probably glass, central container to pour the sand into. The picture frame versions (see below) are light and skinny, which means they are easily tipped over by wind, and easily missed while pouring into. A larger, weighted, central container with your initials or names engraved on it will serve you better not only in the short term (not tipping over during ceremony) but in the long run (not tipping or spilling when moving it to your house, or any other location you move to).
Here are 3 variations of the Sand Ceremony Vessels. From left to right, a picture-frame version with names engraved (sometimes a picture of the couple is here instead), a central vessel with a unique shape, and a standard vessel with 3 vials to pour from. The 3 vials is a variation on the 2. The 3rd vial can either represent your inseparable acceptance of God in your marriage, or if you have children entering the marriage, the children can each have their own vial to indicate their importance in the newly formed union.
This video shows a Unity Sand Pouring Ceremony that was successful, including an explanation from the officiant.
This video shows a Sand Pouring Ceremony that didn’t go so well. The image got covered in sand and the frame tipped over in the end. This is why I would recommend other Unity Ceremonies over Sand Ceremonies.
God’s Knot Unity Ceremony
God’s Knot symbolizes God being a large piece of your marriage. There are 3 ropes, one representing you, your spouse, and God. The ropes are braided together and tied at each end, creating a strong bond. This metaphor comes from the passage in Ecclesiastes that states “a cord of three strands is not easily broken”. Sometimes this saying is written out of the frame for the knot. Other times it is written out on cards that are given to the guests so they understand the symbolism with you.
unity ceremony god’s knot of love
In addition to the guest cards (affiliate link, left), the officiant would recite the passage from Ecclesiastes while you and your spouse tie the ropes together. They would also explain the symbolism and the commitment you are making to allowing God in to strengthen your marriage.
Here are 3 variations of The God’s Knot. From left to right, a standard God’s Knot with a loop so you can hang the rope on a door or mantle, a God’s Knot with a backboard stand and the Ecclesiastes passage written on it, and a more intricate version of the 2nd knot, complete with a cross cutout to help create deeper symbolism of your connection with God.
This video shows a couple creating the God’s Knot the old-fashioned way. This turned into more of a God’s Rope, but the principle is still the same!
The Unity Braid – Cross
The Unity Braid – Cross ceremony definitely brings God into your marriage as ropes representing you and your spouse are tied together with a rope representing God to form the shape of a cross. This comes from the passage in Ecclesiastes that states “a cord of three strands is not easily broken”. The symbolism here being that if you let God into your marriage, you will have a much stronger relationship and a better chance of making it.
The cross-shape of the ropes drives this point home, and makes a great mantelpiece for the new household that you are forming. The Unity Braid – Cross is a variation of the God’s Knot discussed in the previous Unity Ceremony.
For the ceremony the officiant would recite the passage from Ecclesiastes while you and your spouse tie the ropes together to form the cross.
Here are 3 variations of The Unity Braid – Cross. From left to right, a standard unity braid cross without a frame, a Unity Braid – Cross with a frame, “The Cord of 3 Strands” saying, and a customized initial on the front, and a larger version of the second cross, with a longer version of the quote, the wedding date, custom initial, and what appears to be a sturdier wooden frame. You can also choose which wood-type and rope colors you want.
This video shows a Unity Braid – Cross Ceremony. The officiant walks the audience through the symbolism as the couple tie the strands together to form the shape of the cross.
The Unity Painting
The Unity Painting is something I have only seen at one wedding that I have filmed. The couple go up to a canvas, grab a brush, and dip it in some paint that is already set out for them. For the sake of time, the painting is usually something simple like two sides of one heart.
You need to be really careful with this one. Paint is messy and drippy, and if you are up there wearing white, there is a large possibility that you could get paint on yourself.
On the other hand, if you are an artistic couple, this Unity Ceremony may be right up your alley!
Here are some supplies that you would need to make the Unity Painting happen. You would also need some kind of stand or easel to prop the canvas up on while you paint.
This video shows a Unity Painting Ceremony. Great if you are an artsy couple. Not so great if you aren’t careful with a paint brush. Huge mess potential!
The Wine Box Ceremony
The Wine Box Ceremony has always seemed like a cool idea to me. You buy or make a wooden case that is large enough to hold a bottle or two of wine. During the ceremony you open the box and you and your spouse place letters that you have written to each other inside with the wine. They then shut and seal the case.
If there is ever any hardship within the marriage, the couple is to open the case, drink the wine, and read the love letters that they had written to each other before they were married to help them through their hard time.
Other variations of this include opening the case every anniversary, reading the letters and writing new ones and adding a new bottle of wine for the next anniversary. This is so the couple can make sure to reconnect and remind each other how much they love each other at least once per year.
A longer variation of this is if there are no hard times in which you need to open the case, you open it anyways on your 5th wedding anniversary, read the letters, enjoy the wine, and reset the box up with new letters and wine for the 10th wedding anniversary.
Here are 3 variations of the Wine Box Ceremony. From left to right, a longer, thinner box large enough for 1 bottle of wine and the letters, a square box with enough room for 1 bottle and 2 wine glasses, and a wider box that can hold 2 bottles of wine. All look like they can be engraved with personal information.
This video shows a couple participating in a Unity Wine Box Ceremony. They seal love letters to each other in the wine crate that can be read during bad fights or on anniversaries.
The Wine Pouring Ceremony
Similar to the Sand Pouring Ceremony, the Wine Pouring Ceremony holds the symbolism of taking two separate things and combining them in a way where they cannot be separated. Just as you can’t separate grains of sand, you can’t separate two different wines once they have been poured together.
This is a great alternative to sand pouring because it is a lot less messy. I ran across this ceremony in the last wedding that I filmed because the venue that the couple were getting married at didn’t allow fire, so they were unable to do a Unity Candle like they had originally wanted.
Once you pour the wine together, you can either save it for an occasion to drink, like an anniversary, or you can just keep it in the container as a decorative reminder of your unity as a couple. Some of the central vessels come with a stopper for the top so you can store it for a longer period of time. Others are just a glass that you two can share during the ceremony.
Here are 2 variations of the Wine Pouring Ceremony. On the left we have a set that would be for drinking the wine once it is poured into the central wine glass. On the right we see more of a vessel for storage with a topper to keep the wine from spilling or evaporating over time.
This video shows a Unity Wine Pouring Ceremony. The couple wanted a Unity Candle, but the venue didn’t allow fire, so this is a great alternative!
The Lovelocks Ceremony
The Lovelocks Ceremony involves the couple placing a padlock in the shape of two hearts onto either The Tree of Life or some other type of frame with a place for the couple to later add a picture of them placing the lock on. The lock symbolizes the locking of your love together with your spouse, it a way that cannot be undone.
The key for the lock is either thrown away beforehand, or disposed of ceremonially during the proceedings. In a wedding that I filmed, the couple tied the keys to balloons and let the keys float away. The point being that the keys would be lost forever and nothing would be able to unlock the lovelock. It didn’t turn out the best, as you can see in the video below, but the symbolism was still there.
Another variation of this ceremony is that the parents of the couple can also place their own locks on the bottom of the tree, adding their love and support for the marriage to the symbolism of The Tree of Life.
Here are 3 variations of The Lovelocks. From left to right, a single lock that you can use on a frame you create yourself, a frame with a place for a picture of you locking the lock, and a place to put the lock, and the most common Tree of Life where you place the Lovelock in the middle of the tree.
This video shows a Lovelocks Unity Ceremony that mostly goes right. You just can’t take it as a bad sign when the balloon taking your keys away pops on a nearby tree.
The Tree Planting Ceremony
The Tree Planting Ceremony is a great way to show your love to one another while also helping with the environment. This ceremony involves a small tree, already potted and ready to go. The couple often will take dirt from each of their parents yards and sprinkle it around the tree as the officiant reads off an explanation of what is taking place. The couple will then water the tree together. If you want to skip the dirt stage of this, you and your partner can just water the tree together.
This ceremony gives you a reminder through your entire lives of your wedding day, your growing love, and your connection with not only your past lives with your families, but also with Mother Nature and the world. Ideally you plant the tree in the backyard of the new house you buy together and watch it grow as your marriage grows with it.
Here are some items you will need to complete the Tree Planting Ceremony. From left to right they include a watering can to show the unity part of the ceremony, some soil, and mason jars to hold the dirt from your parents’ yards.
This video shows a Unity Tree Planting Ceremony that starts with some wording by the officiant that describes the process of the ceremony. This couple chose to have the tree already planted in the ground. Usually the tree is in a planter so the couple can plant it at their new home. This was a good alternative though, because the wedding was at a parent’s farm, less likely to be sold than the first house the couple may get, so they will have access to the tree longer.
This video shows a Tree Planting Unity Ceremony where the tree is in a portable container so the couple can replant it in their own yard at a later time.
The Unity Cross Ceremony
The Unity Cross symbolizes, much like several of the other Unity Ceremony types, the couple coming together as one with each other, and with God. The cross is usually in two separate pieces, symbolizing each of the partners to be wed. The pieces come together and are pinned to one another with three pins that symbolize God holding their marriage together.
There are other variations of this in different shapes other than a cross. One other common shape is the Unity Heart. This shows the strong foundation of the groom (the outside of the heart) and the complex inner workings that fill the heart that represent the bride (the inside). The piece is still held together with a pin that represents God being the glue in the marriage.
Here are 3 variations of the Unity Cross. From left to right they include cross with complex inner workings to make a very beautiful piece, a cross with simpler inner workings, and a Unity Heart. All hold the same symbolism, other than the Unity Heart highlights your love more, and the Unity Cross highlights your religious beliefs more.
This couple chose to do a Unity Cross Ceremony. The beautiful, wooded setting lends itself to the symbolism and meaning of becoming one with God through their marriage.
The Unity Sculpture
This section will be a little different because I don’t have videos of this ceremony taking place, nor does Amazon have any products for sale for this ceremony.
The Unity Sculpture Ceremony that takes place during your wedding will go a lot like a Sand Pouring Ceremony would. You will be taking individual vials and dumping the contents into a central vessel to symbolize your unity. The difference is that instead of sand, you will be combining colored glass beads.
Companies like Unity In Glass will provide you with the beads, and when your wedding is over, you ship the glass beads back to them, and they will use the same beads that you combined to make a glass sculpture, bowl, or vase. What you get back is a beautiful art piece that can be aesthetic, functional, or both! It will also be an eternal reminder of the combining of you and your spouse into holy matrimony.
Be ready to shell out the money for this Unity Ceremony though, as pieces can run anywhere from $449 on up to $778. Unity in Glass also allows you to order the beads now for $150, with the intention to purchase the glass sculpture within the next 12 months after your ceremony. This will give you a little flexibility in finding the money to complete the piece!
All of these images belong to Unity In Glass, and all of the images link to the Unity In Glass website. I would like to reiterate that these are not affiliate links, and we do not get a commission from any sale purchased through Unity In Glass. This company is just the best example of The Unity Sculpture Ceremony we could find.
BONUS: Combining Equipment Bags
While I was planning to only write about 11 Unity Ceremonies, I filmed a unique one recently that I couldn’t help but mention. Baseball fans listen up, this may be the one for you!
The baseball-themed wedding I filmed this past Saturday did what they called “Combining Equipment Bags”. The couple each had their own small bag with baseball equipment in it, and as the Harry Caray officiant explained what was going on, the couple took the equipment out of their own bags and placed in a larger 3rd bag.
The symbolism behind this ceremony is that as individuals you are a part of your own team, or the team of your family, and you are now joining a new team that you are starting with your new spouse. This Unity Ceremony could reasonably be done with other sports as the theme as well.
Wording for The Combining of Equipment Bags Ceremony can be seen in the video below.
My guess is that if you are fan enough to have a sports-themed wedding, you probably already have the equipment to pull this off, but if not, here are some affiliate links to help get you started.
This video shows a Baseball Equipment Bag Unity Ceremony. The couple had a baseball-themed wedding, so this fit perfectly with what they had planned! I hope it inspires others to think outside the box and really make a Unity Ceremony that is unique to them. If you do, let me know and I may add it to this list!
I hope that this guide has been helpful in helping you pick the perfect Unity Ceremony for your wedding. If you know someone else who would find this guide useful, we would love for you to share it!
As always, I am open to suggestions on other Unity Ceremonies that can be added to this list to help make the guide more robust! If you have a Unity Ceremony in mind that isn’t on this list, sound off in the comments below, and I will look into getting it added!