Symbolic Ceremonies and Rituals

Symbolic Ceremonies or rituals are becoming more popular in Independent Celebrant Led Ceremonies. They can be used to symbolise unity, love, support, fun and the special bond between those partaking in the ceremony.

There are many different types of symbolic ceremonies or rituals some of which I will explain below. Some have historical ties and are considered traditions while others are much more modern. 

You are welcome to have any symbolic elements in your celebration when choosing me as your Independent Celebrant. This includes religious aspects, spiritual aspects or secular. I am happy to assist or support any faith or belief system within the ceremony and I do my utmost to be inclusive. 

Handfasting Ceremony

Handfasting is believed to be an ancient traditional Celtic ceremony and dates back to 7000 BC. In Ireland a couple would have a handfasting ceremony to signify their intention to become married. The handfasting would be performed by a priest for the couple. After the ceremony the couple would usually live together as they had expressed that they wish to become legally married. This became more recognised in the 1700s when there was not enough officiants available to carry out all the marriages so handfastings become widely used to symbolise the couple’s intent to marry which would usually last a year and a day. The couple would legally get married when they could do so by an officiant. 

Nowadays, handfasting ceremonies are becoming an increasingly popular way of using symbolic ceremonies as they are a beautifully visual way of literally “tying the knot”. The colours of the ribbons or cords used in a handfasting represent different things. There are some typical representations for the colours. However, it is totally the choice of the couple or polyamorous pod to decide what colours they wish to incorporate. As well as what they personally mean to them. I will list below the most common attributes for the colours but this is not at all definitive:

Silver: creativity, inspiration and protection

Gold: longevity, intellect, prosperity and wealth

Black: success, wisdom and vision

White: peace, purity and truth

Grey: balance and neutrality

Brown: grounding, home and talent

Pink: unity, romance and truth

Purple: health, healing, power and spiritual strength

Blue: patience, calmness and fidelity

Green: luck, fertility, nurturing and prosperity

Yellow: confidence, balance and harmony

Orange: kindness, attraction and encouragement

Red: love, passion, courage and lust

Sand Ceremony

Sand ceremonies are a beautifully visual way to express and show your unity and the coming together of your families. This stunning ceremony can be included in weddings, naming ceremonies or vow renewals.

You can include coloured sand representing different virtues or symbolising each person involved in the ceremony. There is a central glass bottle, which is usually ornate so you can display it in pride of place in your home. Each chosen member of the sand ceremony will take it in turn to pour about two thirds of their coloured sand into the central bottle. This creates a beautifully layered effect. Each and every sand ceremony creates a truly unique and meaningful keepsake of your special day. After everyone has poured their individual layer everyone pours their remaining sand in together to symbolise the coming together and combining of them all.

This is a great way of using symbolic ceremonies to show the uniting of a couple or of a family. Especially in such cases as an adoption ceremony, a wedding ceremony were children are involved. Plus, the children will love being able to get involved and physically be able to partake in the ceremony. A sand ceremony is a great way to incorporate children in a ceremony. They can have their own bottle of sand to pour into the central bottle and can be given the choice of colour to make them really feel involved. They may need a guiding hand to help them pour and perhaps a box to stand on depending on their height, but it is a beautiful way to include the children. 

Unity Candles

The use of Unity Candles in a ceremony has a fairly unknown origin. It is believed to have originated in the 1970s at American Christian weddings. However, it does not specifically have any religious meanings and can be used by anyone wishing to symbolise their unity and the coming together of their families. 

A Unity Candle Ceremony is a truly beautiful way of symbolising the coming together of a family or couple and can be executed in different ways depending on the space and the wishes of the people involved.

Typically there is one larger central candle and multiple smaller candles which represent each person taking part. Each person takes it in turn to light their candle and then all together these candles are used to simultaneously light the central Unity Candle.

Children can be included in the Unity Candle ceremony if they are standing with an adult and are old enough to be careful and sensible around the candles and flames. The suggested earliest age is seven but this is very subjective to each child. I would not advise for younger children to partake in this ceremony.

Wine Ceremony

Drinking wine as part of the wedding ceremony goes back to ancient Mediterranean countries. It is believed to have Christian ties with the wine potentially representing the blood of Christ as it does in Holy Communion. Many people choose to incorporate Wine Ceremonies to signify the unity of two individuals or two families.

Often in this ceremony each member of the couple have a different bottle of wine of which they pour into one central cup simultaneously. The wine blends together representing the two individuals becoming one. They each take a turn to drink from the central cup. Some couples make a toast (or three) to celebrate their past, present and future.

A Wine Ceremony could also be included in certain Naming Ceremonies such as a Re-Naming Ceremony or Coming Out Ceremony. As long as the person or people involved are legally old enough to drink alcohol this celebration can be incorporated. 

Cocktail Ceremony

Symbolic ceremonies don’t have to be traditional, a modern twist on the Wine Ceremony is a Cocktail Ceremony! Fond of a gin, tequila or anything in between? Why not use a beautiful Cocktail Ceremony as part of your special day. This is a great way to celebrate a wedding or vow renewal. 

Whichever elements you choose to incorporate can represent different aspects of your relationship or personalities. The spirits could represent your strength as a couple while the bubbles of the mixer, or champagne, could be for the excitement and fun along with the zesty and lively citrus tones from the flavours incorporated. 

Cocktail Ceremonies can be totally unique to you and you can be a great time experimenting until you find the perfect blend.

These Cocktail Ceremonies can be a great way to get your guests involved too. Don’t forget they don’t have to include alcohol if that’s not your thing.

Crystal Ceremony

It is believed that crystals hold energy and different types of crystals are believed to hold different types of energy. Each crystal is thought to have different attributes and properties. Some help to calm and ground someone, support love and relationships and even healing or aiding with certain ailments. There are certain crystals that could be useful in this crystal ceremony and it would be useful to discuss the potential options with celebrated people.    Here are a couple of examples:

Rose quartz is a very popular crystal for love in relationships as well as self-love and friendships.

Green aventurine is a stone symbolising love and luck and can help a new stage of the relationship by supporting and embracing change.

There are many more options for the celebrated people to choose from too.

During the ceremony I have an incense stick burning so that the people involved can cleanse their crystal of choice over the smoke and put their shared intentions into it. I ask that the family and friends also think positive thoughts and project their well wishes for a long and happy marriage onto the couple and the crystal. This I caveat by explaining that I realise that this is not everyone’s ‘cup of tea’, but please enter into this with an open mind and positive thoughts. I suggest using a beautiful, medium sized crystal for this so that it can take pride of place in the home as a reminder of their commitments, support and love they have from their family and friend  

Ring Warming Ceremony

A Ring Warming Ceremony is a simple but soulful ritual. The wedding rings for the couple or polyamorous pod get passed around to all of their friends and family. The loved ones each bestow their love, support and well wishes into the rings. When they return back to the rightful owners they are charged with all the positive energy and love for their future together.

The passing around of the rings can take place while a meaningful, chosen piece of music is played or a reading or poem is being read.

Jar of Hope Ceremony

For a Jar of Hope ceremony the family and friends, as well as the celebrated people will write down messages on slips of paper. This happens prior to the ceremony. During the ceremony the jar is passed around so everyone can place the message in. A message can the be picked out when they feel they or their relationship needs a boost. The messages could be simple advice or affirmations such as “believe in yourself, you are wonderful”, “never go to bed on an argument”. Or they could be ideas for a date night or expressing the love they have for the person or people and how great they are. The idea is to help them through any rough patches using the supportive words from their loved ones.

A decorated jar will be passed around the guests who can pop their notes inside. Meanwhile a chosen piece of music is played or a reading is being performed.

Jumping the Broom

Jumping the broom has a variety of different connotations and potential origins.

Data shows that jumping the broom dates back to the 1700s with the Roma community in Wales. The Roma communities were not able to be legally wed so they used to hold ‘Besom weddings’. This is where the couple would jump over the broom to signify their relationship and unity. It was believed that if one of the pair accidently touched it while jumping over the broom their marriage was to be hopeless. The marriage could even be annulled by jumping backwards over the broom again.

Another historical meaning is from America in the slavery period when slaves were not able to become legally married. So, they used jumping the broom as a way to signify their union. This is an important part of history, the act of jumping the broom shouldn’t be taken lightly without understanding the history.

Pagans and Wiccans sometimes include jumping the broom in their wedding ceremonies too. This is to symbolise sweeping away any old, negative energy and bringing in the new. As well as representing making of their new life and home together. The broom is also said to symbolise the balance of the female and male energy.

A couple may choose to include jumping the broom to pay their respects to those who suffered during the slave labour of America. It may be chosen to symbolise getting rid of old energy, bringing in new, positive energy into their lives and homes.  A couple may also choose to show, unity and potentially to renounce witchcraft in their relationship, lives and home.

Breaking Glass

Breaking the Glass in a wedding ceremony is originally a Jewish tradition. It is believed to symbolise the collapse of the Temple of Jerusalem. This in turn strangely lead to the eventual growth of Judaism. As the Jews were exiled out of Jerusalem and moved to Babylonia fulfilling a prophecy which had been envisaged.

Others choose to believe that breaking the glass represents the fragility of marriage. Showing how the couple should come through any bad times together, supporting one another.

Another meaning is the hope that the couple will remain happily married for as long as it would take to pick up all the individual pieces of glass and put the whole thing back together again completely.

A couple could choose to include the breaking of the glass in their ceremony if they wish to represent their relationship. Acknowledging that it may be fragile, but that they will work through the tough times together. Or it could be for a multi-faith couple to use this ritual as a way of symbolising the breaking down of any faith-based barriers and preparing to unite their lives together. Another reason for using this ritual is to honour their Jewish beliefs, traditions and heritage.


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