With the rise of throwing tradition to the wayside, more and more couples are opting to customize their wedding ceremony to suit them best. Don't panic we're not going to ask you to throw away the rings, but if you are looking to add something else significant and special to your ceremony then read on! We’ve chosen five of the best alternative ceremony ideas around that can be easily slotted into even the most traditional ceremonies. Remember, all of these rituals derive from a myriad unique and interesting cultures. So, in order to respect the beautiful culture it came from, whatever alternative ceremony ritual you choose, the first thing to do is research it's history and origins.
Image by Libby Neder Photographer
We can’t be completely sure where wine at wedding ceremonies came from, though wine does have strong, symbolic meaning in scripture. There are many variations of the wine ritual at weddings. One such idea includes the couple pouring white and red wine into a marriage carafe, creating a “Rose” wine, which is a symbol of love. The carafe is either poured into one glass or two depending on preference and drunk together. In the case of two glasses, the couple could cross arms, drinking from one another’s glass. The couple above has taken the "well known" unity ceremony and made it truley personal by swapping out wine with a light and dark beer.
Hand fasting rituals have been seen in many cultures across thousands of years, including but not limited to Mayan, Hindu and Celtic cultures. It involves using a rope to bind the couple’s hands together upon the end of the ceremony, symbolizing their final life-long pledge to one another. In modern weddings, various knots are used depending on preference and cultural heritage. Knots to consider are:
- The Fisherman’s Knot – Also known as the ‘True Lovers Knot’, it forms one of the most durable bonds out there.
- God’s Knot – Using three cords, it symbolizes the bond between the couple and their shared belief in God.
- The Infinity Knot – Of Celtic origin, it involves the couple making and infinity symbol together with the crossing of their arms and tying a knot at the crossover.
- The Mystic Knot – From Feng Shui practitioners, this knot is believed to bless the couple good luck, harmony and longevity.
- The Trinity Knot– Also known as the Triquetra and is believed to date back to 600AD amongst Celtic culture.
This idea is believed to have originated in Native American and Indigenous Hawaiian marriage ceremonies. Involved is two separate containers of sand and a large vessel. The couple has their own sand, which they pour simultaneously into the vessel as sign of their lives integrating upon marriage. In modern weddings, these vessels tend to be transparent and the sand is different colours, creating a beautiful keepsake.
The Unity Candle ritual is actually a fairly recent ceremony addition with no precise roots in any one culture. At the beginning of the ceremony, a representative from both families come forward to light a candle each. These candles symbolize the entire family. At the end, the couple retrieves the candle from their respective family member and takes it to light one larger candle together. This is the “Unity” candle, symbolizing the joining of two families and their shared love for the couple.
The hand-washing ritual has its roots in Judaism. It involves the couple washing their hands together in a bowl and drying one another’s hands afterwards. The meaning of washing their hands is that the couple has come into this ceremony aware of each other’s faults and flaws but has agreed to step into the next chapter of their lives together on a clean slate. By drying one another’s hands they are symbolically allowing themselves to be vulnerable and closer to their new spouse thereafter.