Rituals and Symbolic Gestures in the Wedding Ceremony

Sample Ceremonies

There are many symbolic gestures that can be included in the wedding ceremony. Some come from traditions associated with the heritage of the Bride or Groom and others from spiritual and religious rituals. Please click on the titles below for a sampling of the ceremony

Officiant: We conclude this ceremony with the Breaking of the Glass. In Jewish tradition, the Breaking of the Glass at a wedding is a symbolic prayer and hope that your love for one another will remain until the pieces of the glass come together again, or in other words, that your love will last forever.  The fragile nature of the glass also suggests the frailty of human relationships. Even the strongest of the relationships is subject to disintegration. The glass then, is broken to “protect” the marriage with this prayer: 

May your bond of love be as difficult to break as it would be to put the pieces of this glass together again. 

Officiant: Ladies & Gentlemen: After the groom breaks the glass, I invite everyone to shout “Mazel Tov!” which means “Good luck and Congratulations!”

(The Officiant or Best Man places the glass on the floor next to the Groom.  The Groom breaks the glass with his foot and everyone shouts “Mazel Tov!”)

For many centuries, the White Dove has been a symbol of Peace, Love and New Beginnings. As a romantic gesture, you may have two white doves released during your ceremony. They will fly upwards, maybe circle above us a few times, and then fly home together, as a pair. This symbolizes our newlywed couple setting off on their journey in life together, in harmony.

The White Dove Ritual can be added to your wedding ceremony script for an additional fee. We recommend Kaila's Love Doves, an independent contractor. 

Kaila's Love Doves
Please note: Kaila's Love Doves fly from April through the first week in November.

Winged Flight (poem for reading)

From today this winged love begins its flight
across the skies of time.
It will fly above the bounds of earth
and beyond the edge of now,
for when hearts and minds come
together as one,
the union takes mere mortals
to places never been.
The flight of love will allow you to
challenge your wildest dreams.
Side by side you will explore the
endless possibilities of your shared world
And your journey will soar and fly
with bearings sound and direction true.
May your winds be favorable
and your skies remain clear
as you guide your shared flight
towards the rising sun,
for in the dawn of each new day
you will find the light to guide your way.
May you enjoy your journey
along the way, and may you feel
the gentle guiding presence of others
who share the skies with you,
the place of freedom,

The Unity Candle Ceremony is a popular wedding tradition that symbolizes the bride and groom blending into one family. The two outer candles represent your individual lives before today. They represent all that you are from your vast experiences, and they represent your individual families. As you each take a single candle and light the center candle, you will extinguish your individual candles. Although this ceremony is traditional in nature, you can customize it to become a unique and creative part of your wedding. The Unity Candle Ceremony is a popular choice for both religious and non-religious ceremonies because it is non-denominational and has no religious significance. If you are creating a new family you may want to include the children in the lighting of the Unity Candle. Often this is done by having the bride and groom light the candle for the children and then everyone lighting the center candle together. This is an excellent way to involve children from a previous marriage.

Traditional Ceremony

In the Rose Ceremony, the Bride and Groom give each other a Rose. Two roses are all that is necessary. In the old language of flowers, a single red rose has always meant "I love you". The Rose ceremony gives recognition to the new and most honorable title of "Wife and Husband".

The Rose Ceremony Script

"Your gift to each other for your wedding today has been your wedding rings - which shall always be an outward demonstration of your vows of love and respect; and a public showing of your commitment to each other.

You now have what remains the most honorable title, which may exist between a man and a woman - the title of "husband" and "wife." For your first gift as husband and wife, that gift will be a single rose. In the past, the rose was considered a symbol of love and a single rose always meant only one thing - it meant the words "I love you." So it is appropriate that for your first gift - as husband and wife - that gift would be a single rose.   Please exchange your first gift as husband and wife.   In some ways it seems like you have not done anything at all. Just a moment ago you were holding one small rose - and now you are holding one small rose. In some ways, a marriage ceremony is like this. In some ways, tomorrow is going to seem no different than yesterday. But in fact today, just now, you both have given and received one of the most valuable and precious gifts of life - one I hope you always remember - the gift of true and abiding love within the devotion of marriage.

Special Touch: Here is new special touch to add this ceremony. As the couple exits the alter area some will often walk to their mothers and present the rose buds to them immediately following the ceremony. The groom hands the mother of the bride his rose, and the bride hands her rose bud to the groom's mother, whispering "I love you," or "I'm happy to be a part of the family," (perhaps a brief hug would be nice) before proceeding with their exit - knowing that love is not love until you give it away! This is a nice way of involving the mothers in the ceremony. It might be a more authentic and charming not tell the mothers you will be doing this — let it be a surprise. Be sure to tell the photographer. You will want to capture this special moment.

For the Officiant: The lighting of the Family Unity Candle symbolizes the blending together of two homes into one home, two families into one family, (number of family members) hearts into one heart, and many colors into one rainbow. Just as you light your candles together, so may your love for each other light up your lives, both individually and together as a family.

Option A

The Groom’s children jointly light the Groom’s candle and the Bride’s children jointly light the Bride’s candle. Then the Bride and Groom take their respective candles and jointly light the Unity Candle.

Option B

The Bride and Groom light the Unity Candle first with their individual candles, then take the Unity Candle and together light each child’s candle from that flame.

Option C

The Bride and Groom light each child’s candles, and together they all light the Unity Candle as a family. You will need candles for the Bride, Groom, and each child represented, in addition to the Unity Candle.

The Blending of the Sands is a beautiful and meaningful unifying ceremony from Hawaii that symbolizes the joining together of the Bride and Groom or the blending together of their families. There are two versions offered; one for the couple and one for the family.

Glass containers are needed for the Bride, Groom, and each child represented (when children are included). Each container is filled with different colored sand, representing each individual’s uniqueness. (Optional: the Officiant also may hold a vase filled with sand. He may begin the sand ceremony by pouring a layer of neutral colored sand ceremony text, the Bride and Groom (and each child) pour their individual containers of sand into the Unity Sand Vase. They may wish to leave a small amount of sand in each container to symbolize that, although they now are joined as one, they still retain their own individuality.

Version 1 – The Couple

(Groom) and (Bride), today you are making a commitment to share the rest of your lives with each other. Your relationship is symbolized through the pouring together of these two individual containers of sand. (Groom), through the sands of time you have grown into the person you are today. This container of sand represents all that you were, all that you are, and all that you will ever be. (Bride), through the sands of time you have grown into the person you are today. This container of sand represents all that you were, all that you are, and all that you will ever be. As you each hold your separate container of sand, it symbolizes your lives prior to this moment; individual and unique. Now as you blend the sands together, it symbolizes the blending together of your two hands, two hearts, and two lives into one. (The Bride and Groom combine their sands into the Unity Sand Vase.) Just as these grains of sand can never be separated again, so may your lives be blended together for all eternity.

Version 2 – The Family

(Groom), (Bride) and (Children), today you are making a commitment to share the rest of your lives with each other. Your new family relationship is symbolized through the pouring together of these individual containers of sand. One represents you, (Groom), and all that you are as husband and father. One represents you, (Bride) and all that you are as wife and mother. The other container(s) represent(s) (Children) who make(s) this family complete. As you each hold your separate container of sand, it symbolizes your lives before today. Now as you blend the sands together, it symbolizes the blending together of your hand, your hearts, and our lives into one family. (The Groom, Bride, and Children combine their sands into the Unity Sand Vase.) Just as these grains of sand can never be separated again, so may your lives be blended together for all eternity.

Creative ideas:

  • The Unity Sand container, as well as the Individual containers, may be a vase, vial, bottle, jar, heart shaped, or any other shape glass container.
  • Choose a color of sand that reflects your unique personality.
  • Melt some wax to seal the Unity Sand Vase, which also will hold the sand in place, and then seal it with a cork or a lid. 
  • Have your names, initials or weding date etched into the glass of the Unity Sand Vase for special wedding keepsake and a reminder of your union. 

Have you ever wondered where the words “tying the knot” come from? The expression “tying the knot” refers to the traditional Celtic marriage ritual of Handfasting. Handfasting is an ancient Celtic word for wedding, and was recognized as a binding contract of marriage between a man and a woman before weddings become a legal function of the government or papal responsibility of the church. After the wedding vows and ring exchange, the couple’s hands were bound together with a cord that was tied in a “love knot,” signifying the joining of their lives in a sacred union. Today, Handfasting is a symbolic ceremony to honor a couple’s desire for commitment to each other, and to acknowledge that their lives and their destinies are now bound together.

Handfasting Ceremony Script

(The Officiant holds up the cord and addresses the couple with these words): Please hold each other’s hands, palms up (her hands resting in his), so you may see the blessing they are to you.

(Groom) and (Bride), this cord is a symbol of the life you have chosen to live together. Up until this moment you have been separate in thought, word, and deed. But as this cord is tied together, so shall your lives become intertwined. With this cord, I bind you to the vows that you made to one another. With this knot, I tie you heart to heart, together as one.

(The Officiant wraps the cord loosely around the Bride’s and Groom’s wrist to tie a “love know” and says:) (Groom) and (Bride), the knot of this binding is not bound by the cord, but rather, by your own vows of love. For, as always, you hold in your own hands the making or breaking of this union. May this “love knot” always be a reminder of the binding together of your two hands, two hearts, and two souls into one. And so are you bound, each to the other, for all the days of your lives.

(Cord may then be removed and placed on the altar. Many couples choose to keep the “love knot” as a memento of their new union created that day.)

NOTE: The Handfasting tradition coordinates well with reading “These Hands” and “Blessings of the Hands”

READING: These Hands

These are the hands of your best friend, young and strong and full of love, that hold you on your wedding day as you promise to love each other all the days of your life.

These are the hands that will work along side yours as you build your future together.

These are the hands that will passionately love you and care for you throughout the years.

These are the hands that will hold you when fear or grief fills your mind, and, with the slightest touch, will comfort you like no other.

These are the hands that will give you strength when your struggle, and support and encouragement to chase down your dreams.

These are the hands that will tenderly hold your children, and help keep your family together as one.

These are the hands that will, countless times, wipe the tears from your eyes, tears of sorrow and tears of joy.

And lastly, these are the hands that, even when wrinkled with age, will still be reaching for yours, still giving you the same unspoken tenderness with just a touch –
A touch from These Hands.

Blessing of the Hands

O God, bless these hands that are before You this day. May they always be held by one another. Give them the strength to hold on during the storms of stress and the dark of disillusionment. Keep them tender and gentle as they nurture each other in their wondrous love. Help these hands to continue building a relationship founded in Your grace, rich in caring for Your people, and devoted in reaching for Your perfection. And may you always hold (Groom) and (Bride) in the palm of Your hand, protecting them and guiding them in the way they should go. Amen.

Minister: Today we Celebrate Love in a very special way with the release of butterflies to signify a new beginning for (Bride) and (Groom).

The butterfly symbolizes new beginnings, freedom and happiness. For just a moment, think silently of what you would wish for (Bride) & (Groom).

We have gathered together to grant this couple all our best wishes and are about to set these butterflies free in trust that all these wishes will be granted.

The butterflies will now be released to carry forth the good news of your promise of love and commitment for each other.

(Release Butterflies while Minister reads the following)

Learn to Fly

- Written by Larry James

Like a butterfly emerges
And unfolds its graceful wings,
A marriage grows and it develops
With the love each partner brings.
Your flight through life together
Is what you make it, so reach high
Spread your wings and learn to soar
As if with wings of a butterfly
Share together life's great adventure
Now the two of you are one
Shower your lover with butterfly kisses
Your infinite journey has just begun
Be a lover, friend and playmate
Learn to listen, laugh and cry
God has given you your wings,
But, you teach each other how to fly.

newlyweds kissing