As a professional wedding officiant, I have worked with more than 200 couples to create unique and memorable ceremonies. One of the best ways I’ve found to personalize a ceremony is to include an alternative unity symbol. An alternative to the traditional candle lighting unity ceremony is one of the reasons family and guests will leave my wedding ceremonies saying something like, “That was one of the most beautiful weddings I’ve ever been to!”
What is a wedding unity ceremony?
Wedding unity ceremonies have one thing in common: they symbolize the coming together of two to create a oneness that is physical, emotional, and spiritual. The word marriage is defined as the legally or formally recognized union of two people as partners in a personal relationship.
It is in this bringing together and mixing two lives that something truly new and beautiful is being created.
What is an alternative to the traditional unity candle symbol?
Many of my couples know about the unity candle, but when I describe the idea of Planting a Tree as an alternative unity symbol, their positive response is almost immediate.
Who needs to be included in the unity ceremony?
Obviously, the bride and groom need to be included, but parents can also be a part of the ceremony. In some of my weddings the child(ren) of the couple is included as well. I will often invite the two mothers to carry the unity symbols forward, the two containers of soil, when they are ushered in at the beginning of the ceremony and place the symbols next to the potted tree.
Where does the unity ceremony fit best?
The unity ceremony fits best after the vows and exchange of rings. The vows and rings are also unity symbols, and the unity ceremony that follows is one more way of symbolizing this union that has taken place.
What are the most popular unity ceremonies?
When I meet with couples to plan their wedding ceremonies, I offer a variety of creative unity symbols as alternatives to the traditional candle lighting ceremony. By far, the most popular has been this alternative: Planting a Tree.
How can you include a Planting a Tree unity symbol in your own ceremony?
Here are some of the details and a script you and your officiant might use to adapt this idea to your own ceremony:
Step One: Choose the tree.
Some will want to have their outdoor tree be planted at their own home or a place of great meaning to them. Others may decide on an indoor tree, like a Norfolk Pine, that can be moved easily from one home to the next. Consult with your local greenhouse to be sure that the tree you choose grows well in the soil where it will be planted after the day of your wedding.
Step Two: Get the soil.
Dig up soil from your two childhood homes or a place that represents your early childhood. Put the soil in two containers. Canning jars work nicely. Place the tree in a prominent place at the front of your ceremony and have the two jars of soil ready for the mothers to carry as they are ushered into the ceremony. The mothers step forward to place the soil next to the tree before they are seated.
Step Three: The script to be used by the officiant:
You may have noticed the tree at the front along with two containers of soil next to the tree? The containers were carried by the two mothers, ______ and _______, just as they were the ones who carried ____________ and ____________ into the world. One of the soils comes from _____________ (place), the childhood home where Bride __________ had her beginnings and grew up. The second has soil from _________ where Groom _____________ had his beginnings. It is in this coming together, the mixing of your two lives, that new life is always being created. So, come now, _______ and ______ to join together by combining your soils in the planting of this beautiful and life-giving tree.
(Optional) If there is a child(ren) who is a part of the family: “And the third container of soil comes from this family’s new home in ________ (place) and represents ________’s life and the place where, even today, he/she is growing and learning to love because he/she is so beloved.
About the Author, Rev. Dr. Frank Nelson
Rev. Dr. Frank Nelson is a pastor who has also developed an online, private way to prepare for marriage through guided conversations. Learn more about the three versions of marriage preparation courses that are offered, including a Spanish version of each.