Wedding ritual: How to create your own

Down with the same tired wedding rituals that you saw at every wedding last summer. Enough with the handfastings and sand ceremonies! It is time to get original and create a wedding ritual for your ceremony that feels authentic to you and your love.

The purpose of wedding rituals

Rituals are described as actions that serve as a bridge between our outer and inner worlds. They allow the emotions we feel within ourselves to be connected with the physical actions that we undertake. This is exactly the purpose they serve in your wedding ceremony. In fact, your ceremony is one massive ritual comprised of rituals. Most wedding contain some of all of these rituals: “giving away” the bride, exchanging vows, exchanging rings, the blessing of the couple, even the final kiss. There are also additional, less common rituals that are also used to symbolize the purpose of the wedding ceremony.

For example, a sand ritual consists of the couple combining two different sands together. The sands can be of different colors or of different origins, whichever the case, the sands represent each person within the couple. The sands represent their upbringing, family, culture, language, friends, personalities, and much more. The act of combining the sands symbolizes the combining of the two lives of the couple. Furthermore, the act represents the impossibility of ever undoing the intertwining of their lives, just as it would be impossible to separate the sands once they are mixed.

Bride and groom pouring sand into a jar for a sand ceremony at a wedding ceremony in Portugal.
Sand ritual

Another example of the purpose of wedding rituals is seen in the handfasting. Though it comes from Celtic origins, handfastings occur in the wedding ceremonies all over the world. The fasting of hands together is the physical manifestation of binding two people, two families, and two communities together. A wedding binds together a couple and their families, a handfasting ritual brings that sentiment into the physical world.

Handfasting of two lesbian brides by a wedding celebrant as a wedding ritual in a wedding ceremony in Portugal.
Aguiam Wedding Photographers

Ok, so now that we understand the purpose of rituals in wedding ceremonies, let’s get to how you create your own wedding ritual.

Creating your own wedding ritual

Ideally when you are contemplating creating your totally original and unique wedding ritual, you have an experienced celebrant to guide you. If you don’t yet, get in touch with our team at Your European Wedding Celebrant and we will be happy to help!

Now, the first step to creating your bespoke wedding ritual is to focus on what you want the ritual to represent. The significance of wedding rituals generally fall into two broad categories:

  1. The combining of two lives or families, or
  2. The acceptance to share this new life.

Handfastings and sand rituals are examples of the first category of rituals. An example of the second category would include a wine ritual. This ritual takes many forms. When signifying the acceptance of a shared life, a glass of wine or wines is shared between the couple. It is meant to symbolize that they will experience it all, both the good and the bad, together.

Bride and groom partaking in a wine ritual within their wedding ceremony as an example of a wedding ritual.
Aguiam Wedding Photographers

It is important that you understand what you want your ritual to represent so that you can understand how you want it to look and feel. Next is thinking about what are the elements or the outcome of the ritual.

Elements & outcome of your wedding ritual

Many times couples come to us knowing they want to incorporate wine into their wedding ceremony, it’s Portugal after all. Other times couples say that want something that will involve all of their guests, all 250+ of them sometimes. And other times, couples tell us the outcome the want, like a hand-blown glass sculpture, but they don’t know how to work it into their ceremony.

These couples are lost because they went out of order, they didn’t first think of the symbolism they wanted from their ritual. Instead they skipped straight to the fun part. Now that you have thought about what you want your ritual to symbolize let’s consider the elements of the ritual.

The elements should be reflections of some part of your relationship. Did you and your partner meet and connect over shots of tequila? Or maybe it was at a skydiving drop zone in Florida? Alternatively to how you met, think about what you do now as a couple. Do you love to travel to exotic locations together? Or do you paint together? Love to curl up with a good book together? Or are you the most dedicated set of doggy parents ever? There can be multiple elements of your life together that you want to highlight. If that is the case, narrow the list down to two or three options because it may be possible that including a ritual around one element may not be possible.

Putting together your wedding ritual

Now that you know what you want your wedding ritual to symbolize and what element of your life you want to include, now is the fun part. Putting it together into a ritual.

I can’t actually tell you how to do it, because every situation is different. However, what I can do is explain to you couples and situations I encountered and how we made it work. My hope is that this will bring you inspiration for your very own wedding ritual.

T & K: glass ritual

T & K are an incredible couple. T from Canada and K from Belgium, they now live in Switzerland where they are agents for football players. They told me all about their life, which is made up of very strong familial connections, friends who are family to them, and enjoying life to the fullest, usually in the shape of a shot of Jager.

Pedro Vilela

When we got to talking about their ceremony they mentioned that they wanted to include a part where glass got mixed together. They liked this idea because they adore hand-blown glass. We could have just done a variation on the sand ceremony, with the two of them mixing different colors of glass together. However, given how important all of their guests are to them, I thought it would be fun to include everyone. Below is the description of the set up for the ceremony and then the script that I read around the ceremony.

At the entrance to the ceremony, there was a small table with a large, empty vase, around that were shot glasses filled with broken glass of different colors. Myself and the wedding planner were there to greet the guests and invite them to pour a shot of the broken glass into the vase. We promised all would be revealed during the ceremony, which had everyone intrigued. Once all the guests were seated I proceed to the ceremony space with the vase full of broken glass, along with two more shot glasses. When it came time, this is what I said…

T & K, before I pronounce you married, there is one last thing we must do. Upon everyone’s arrival, you were asked to pour a shot of broken glass into the container that now sits beside T & K. You may have wondered what the devil was going on or why there was no jaggerbombs in those shot glasses, but worry not, your efforts were not in vein.

As I said before, everyone here is part of the life that T & K have built together and so it seems appropriate that all of you are now part of the art that T & K are creating. I do not use ‘art’ in the abstract, but in the very literal sense. At the end of this wedding ceremony, this vase of glass will be sent to a local glassblower who will take these broken and fragmented pieces and turn them into a work of art that will take a place of pride in T & K’s home and forever remind them of this day.

Pedro Vilela

I think this a beautiful analogy for life. Times come when everything around us feels broken and unsure, but with a little love (and a very hot furnace), something beautiful can be made. T & K, it is now your turn to pour the last bit of glass into this container. And I ask you, when your finished piece of art arrives to your home, that you promise to always look back on this day, remembering how, just like your art, it brought a little piece of everyone here together.

K & M: tying a knot

K & M are a wonderful couple. K is Canadian and M Irish, they meet in Toronto and there connection was nearly instant. Fort the year before their wedding they traveled the world together. They had adventures all over Asia, Europe and South America. It had fundamentally changed them and solidified the strength of their bound.

The Framers

When I spoke with them about their wedding ceremony they told me they wanted to exchange something, but not rings. They weren’t big fans of wearing rings. They weren’t sure what it could be, nothing to expensive or breakable, just something meaningful to exchange. Having just returned from southeast Asia myself I thought of the piece of white cotton that monks tie on the wrists of devotees. I suggested the idea, which they adored, really liking that they would be tying the knot, but in a less traditional way.

For the day K & M procured two handmade tie-on bracelets to exchange and I used the following wording to introduce their exchange.

Kiri & Mick, you have chosen to symbolize the exchanging of your vows with the giving and tying on of bracelets. While tradition may tend towards the giving and receiving of rings at a wedding ceremony, there is a rich tradition across many cultures of exchanging bracelets that one ties on.

There is the Rakhi Purnima festival in India, which is celebrated with the exchange of red and gold bracelets. It is spoken of as the ‘golden thread that ties two hearts.’ Or if one is in Thailand they may witness the tying of the sai sin by a Buddhist monk. The sai sin is a simple piece of white cotton, symbolizing purity, which is tied around the wrist to provide protection and good health to its wearer. And let us not forget the old adage of ‘tying the knot,’ which in years gone by did in fact see the bride and groom physically tying a knot to symbolize their union.

The Framers

So today, Kiri & Mick, you continue this rich tradition with the tying on of each other’s bracelets. These bracelets borrow many symbols from their forebears, of which I spoke. Your bracelets symbolize the deep and true friendship that you share; they symbolize your desire to keep safe and protect one another; they symbolize the connection that links your hearts together; and most importantly, with the tying of these bracelets, they now symbolize the tie that binds your lives to each other.

Final words

I hope this article has helped you feel empowered to create your own wedding ritual. But if you feel you still need a bit of help, don’t be afraid to reach out to our team of celebrants, we’re here to help!

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