There are lots of ways to have a wedding ceremony, and all sorts of old and new traditions you can incorporate so that your wedding is more significant than the standard recitation of your vows followed by a ring exchange and a kiss. Below are some of the wedding ceremony ideas that stood out to me as the most individual and fun rituals incorporated into weddings I have photographed.
I love handfastings. I’m not ashamed to say it all began from watching the elopement scene in Braveheart many years ago as a young girl and thinking, “This is the most amazing wedding I have ever seen.” (I was 12, gimme a break!) But I still love the handfasting ritual. Catholic ceremonies often incorporate a version of this, where the couple’s hands are wrapped and blessed in the priest’s cloth. A true handfasting a little different, originating in Celtic culture and symbolizing two people being bonded together. There are vows said during the handfasting the way there are during a ring exchange. Some couples even opt to forego a ring exchange and only do a handfasting. The cord that is used can be made from colors or materials that are significant to the couple, and if the knot is tied correctly, it will remain tied even when the couples hands are removed. This handfasting ritual is where the phrase “tying the knot” originates. My clients Autumn & Eric incorporated a handfasting ritual into their October masquerade wedding, and it was such a pleasure to behold.
2. Washing of Hands
This is a very rare kind of wedding ceremony ritual, and can involve washing of the hands or your feet. Feet washing stems from the biblical story of Jesus washing his disciples feet, an act of service. Outside of Christianity, hand washing as a ritual is popular in multiple cultures due to its symbolism of becoming clean and starting afresh. This is why I love the hand washing ritual for a wedding, religious or secular, since it’s the start of a new chapter, putting your past flaws behind you and committing to grow together.
The ritual itself consists of each person getting married having their hands (or feet) washed and dried by their partner.
3. An Anniversary Box
Michelle and Tony decided that during their intimate beach wedding they would create an anniversary box. The box contained a bottle of wine and during the ceremony Michelle and Tony placed letters they had written to each other in the days leading up to the wedding. the box was locked as part of the ceremony and Michelle and Tony will open it on their first anniversary to read the letters to each other and share the bottle of wine.
4. Honor Guard to Pass the Rings
Allison & Jonathan did something really cool as part of their ring exchange ritual. They didn’t have a ring-bearer, nor did they decide to entrust both rings to one person to hand to their officiant at the time of the exchange. Instead, they had each ring with one member on each side of their wedding party. Then, at the time of the ring exchange, the officiant requested that their Honor Guards (their bridespeople and groomsmen) pass each ring down the line to Allison and Jonathan while she spoke about the importance of the love, values and support that the Honor Guard represents in each of their lives.
5. Family Puzzle
This is another great wedding ceremony ritual for blended families, or parents with children who are getting married after a long time together: a family puzzle. During their ceremony, Amy & Ryan, together with their baby and Amy’s two children from a previous relationship, put together this beautiful wooden puzzle that is now on display in their home. Each of them had a piece that represented them, and some hilarity ensued when they couldn’t quite get the pieces to fit properly because they hadn’t practiced beforehand! So now the puzzle has an extra-special memory attached as well as holding a special symbolism in their lives.
6. Tree Planting
I love nature, and a lot of my clients do as well. Nichola & Marc included a very special nature-themed ritual into their ceremony with a young tree. Toward the end of their ceremony, their officiant invited Nichola and Marc to each add a bit of soil to the pot of a sapling tree that they would later plant in the yard of their home. The officiant spoke about how the each of them adding the soil symbolized what each of them will bring to this marriage, and how the tree being planted represents their choice to put down roots together and that their commitment to each other will help the marriage grow strong through the years. Nichola and Marc chose to get married at a brewery, so the actual planting happened later, but I could see this being a perfect addition to a backyard wedding ceremony.
7. Jumping the Broom
This expression is a familiar one to mean that a couple is getting married, but it’s rooted from a tradition where as part of the ceremony a couple would literally jump over a broom. This tradition was historically common as the established practice for marriage ceremonies among slaves, though it’s also been known in other parts of the world as a ceremony for creating a common-law marriage and forming a household together, often with the broom propped up in the doorway of the couple’s actual home. Nowadays, the ritual is seeing a resurgence among African American couples as a symbolic gesture of creating their home together after the formal part of their ceremony. I was really happy when one of my early 2018 couples, Amanda & Charles told me a few days before their wedding that they would be jumping the broom since I had never seen the ritual before. It was obviously a super fun moment for them, too, since they were grinning from ear to ear while doing it! The broom they chose was a beautifully decorated one and now the broom is a treasured keepsake from their ceremony that they can display in their home alongside their wedding photos.
8. Unity Sand
Okay, so maybe this one isn’t as unique as some of the others, but it is a favorite alternate for a unity candle. Many of my couples choose to include a unity sand ritual as part of their wedding ceremony. This addition to a ceremony is perfect for couples and for the blending of families, like Mari & Anthony’s unity sand ceremony bringing together Anthony and his son with Mari and her two children.
I would love hear about some other unique wedding ceremony rituals that you’ve seen or that you’re thinking about incorporating into your big day. Drop me a comment below to tell me all about it, or if you’re thinking of including a ritual like the any of the ones above now that you’ve heard about them! Head on over to my Intimate Weddings page if you want to see more beautiful ceremony ritual photos and get inspired about your ceremony!