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Marking Togetherness
Beyond the Unity Candle

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you simply, without problems or pride:
I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this,
in which there is no I or you,
so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand,
so intimate that when I fall asleep it is your eyes that close.
~ Pablo Neruda

rose wedding ceremonyBy now, surely everyone's familiar with the unity candle, but did you know there are other unification ceremonies to choose from when planning your wedding?

Unification ceremonies are not only a symbol of togetherness, they're also flexible elements of a wedding. These ceremonies can be "opened up" to include important family members, such as the bridal couple's parents. Children from previous marriages can play a part, as can the entire congregation in a smaller wedding. Candle and rose ceremonies are common choices for adapting in this way.

Unification ceremonies can also be "stacked." It's not unusual to find a wedding that includes a hand and water ceremony, for example, or a wine and rose ceremony. Some couples play music during these ceremonies and others don't.

The timing of unification ceremonies varies by wedding, but they most often take place directly before or after the exchange of vows. These ceremonies may be especially important in non-religious weddings, which may end too quickly otherwise!

Now you will feel no rain,
for each of you will be shelter for the other.
Now you will feel no cold,
for each of you will be warmth for the other.
Now there is no more loneliness,
for each of you will be companion for the other.
Now you are two persons,
but there is only one life before you.
Go now to your dwelling place
to begin the days of your life together.
May your days together be good and
long upon the earth.

- Apache Blessing -

Let's look at some alternatives to the Unity Candle ceremony:

Rose Ceremony The rose ceremony is a flexible, informal ceremony especially suited to an interfaith or non-religious wedding, not to mention a garden wedding! In the rose ceremony, bride and groom exchange a single rose as their first married gift to each other. They are asked to recall this symbol of their love during the more trying seasons of marriage.

Hand Ceremony In the hand ceremony, the bride takes the groom's hands in hers, palms up. The officiant invites her to view his hands as a gift, and says: "These are the hands that will work along side yours, as together you build your future, as together you laugh and cry, and together you share your innermost secrets and dreams."

The groom then takes the bride's hands, palm side up. The officiant says, "They are the hands that will passionately love you and cherish you through the years, for a lifetime of happiness, as she promises her love and commitment to you all the days of her life."

Knot Ceremony In the knot ceremony, the mothers of the bridal couple are given a cord, which the officiant later asks them to give to the bridal couple. The couple ties a lover's knot, which they may save to look back on later.

Sand, Water and Wine Ceremonies These are all mixing ceremonies suited to a Unitarian or interfaith wedding. The sand ceremony is said to stem from Apache customs, and is popular in beach and desert weddings. In each case, the bride and groom pour sand or liquid from two separate vials into one. In the wedding wine ceremony, they drink the mixed wine.

A nice touch is to have the bride pour white wine while the groom pours red. You can then serve rosé at the reception to remind everyone of the ceremony. The water ceremony is, basically, an alcohol free wine ceremony. Food color, or any edible dye, is added to two separate water holders and then mixed together.

A newer twist on this is the fruit drink ceremony where the bride and groom mix two juices to create a new, blended juice that can be shared with all of the guests.

The Salt Covenant The salt covenant is an ancient tradition, well-described in the Bible, and appearing regularly in Indian-national and Jewish weddings. Like the Jewish Huppah, the salt covenant (a mixing ceremony with ancient connotations of loyalty, protection and hospitality) is beginning to show up in non-Jewish weddings as well.

The Foot-Washing Ceremony The foot washing ceremony is a fascinating, solemn custom emphasizing the couple's devotion to each other. The newlyweds wash one another's feet as a symbol of their love and a promise to take care of each other. While this ceremony can be done by either the bride or groom, the symbolism only holds if both enter the marriage with humility. If only the bride washes the groom's feet as a token of her servitude or only the groom offers the humble service, it says something entirely different about the relationship.

This short article hasn't covered all the unification ceremonies: there are bread-sharing ceremonies, circling ceremonies, broom jumping ceremonies, and probably more ceremonies that are being invented right now.

However, if you feel a unification ceremony might make your wedding more meaningful and personal, consider these alternatives. Don't forget that you can use more than one!

More about unity candle ceremonies around the Web:

From sand to science: 14 unity ceremonies to symbolize your new partnership

Unity Candles and Other Unity Ceremony Ideas

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