Symbolism at Weddings & Other Ceremonies
An old Celtic belief was common in the medieval era, for a couple to simply bind a piece of fabric around their hands to show they were ‘bound together in life”. It was a sign of commitment usually performed prior to the wedding day. This ancient tradition has become one of the most popular traditions encompassed as part of the modern day wedding or commitment ceremony .
“We will now symbolise this union by the joining of hands in the old celtic tradition of a Hand-binding Ceremony. This inspired the phase “tying the knot”. One theory that relates to tying the knot as a symbol of marriage is the 13th century legend that to tie the knot was the bond of wedlock.”
1. Three cords are platted together prior to the wedding, after the ring ceremony, the couple put their hands together and the cords are placed over them and tied in a loose knot. The cord or ribbon is made up in the colours chosen by the bride and groom which symbolise their personalities and what they will bring to the marriage. A blessing is said by the celebrant or a friend of the bride and groom. The couple get to keep their knotted cord as a reminder of their vows.
2. After the rings are exchanged the couple hold left hands and the celebrant lightly ties a ribbon around their wrists with 3 knots. Each knot is accompanied by a blessing for the couple. They then loosen their hands and the wedding ribbon is placed in a keepsake bag. To untie the knots would indicate the undoing of the marriage.
3. Family-binding when you have a young child or children you would like to include in your ceremony. The child is held in-between you both and the cord is loosely tied around all of you. Or all the children put their hands in together and the cord is placed over the family of hands.
Lighting a Unity Candle
1. A representative (parent or sibling) from each of the bride and grooms respective families light a candle at the beginning of the ceremony. They each light a single candle, then return to their seats.
After exchange of wedding vows, the bride and groom each pick up the candle of your family, and light a central candle. Together both flames unite to create one flame, a light to guide you, a flame to warm you, a love light to unite you. The wedding bands are brought forward and they are exchanged. Warming the bands over the unity candle is also used in some ceremonies.
2. Two families come together. Children of the Bride and those of the Groom. A table is set with a candle for each person. A centre candle with the words family or unity on it is lit by each child and completed by the bride and groom. This ceremony works well with older children who give their blessing to their parents as they chose to light the unity candle.
3. Some couples who have lost a special person, in particular, a parent or sibling, in their lives, wish to acknowledge that person or those people who could not attend the ceremony. A candle is lit by the bride and groom in remembrance of that person prior to the wedding proceedings.
The flower of love is the rose, but you may use your favourite flower. Perhaps create a sacred space with a circle of rose petals scattered on the ground to stand within as you hold hands and pledge your vows.
In the Chinese tradition, there are 6 ceremonies. The sixth ceremony was the closure of the wedding ceremony, when the bride and groom would share wine from porcelain cups tied together with a red lace. (See Chinese traditions on my website for more information)
In a traditional Western ceremony, we combine this tradition using champagne glasses tied together in a chosen colour. The bride and groom cross arms and drink with linked arms. It is the final part of the ceremony after the papers are signed and is followed by all the guests sharing in a glass of Champagne and congratulating the bride and groom.
It is very traditional to share rings at your wedding. The giving of rings is the symbolic journey that the two of you will make in life, for life. The rings are circular which means they have no beginning and no end. When the ring is put on the spouses finger, the commitment, symbolically, becomes stronger.
A sharing of a gift can be a special inclusion, especially to a son or daughter of the person you are marrying. It shows you have accepted that person/child into your life as part of your family.
The pouring of coloured sands into jar is symbolic of the unity of two people.
Two or 3 colours chosen by the bride and groom. When the sands are added one at a time until the jar is full, there is no way the colours can be separated.
This ceremony can be done as a unity of two families coming together, the unity of the couple with their children, born before the wedding day, or the unity just the couple. If the children are old enough to take part in pouring the sand, they become part of the celebration.
The use of natural sands, coloured yourself, bought sands which are in many colours or glitter,
They all have the same beautiful effect when the jar is full.
The Four Elements
If you have an affinity with Mother Earth and would like to acknowledge it then consider opening or closing your wedding with each of the elements. It can also be used during the hand binding as part of the blessing.
Water: Water is the giver and purifier of life, sustaining us, as it will this marriage. Water takes on the form in which it is held and moves in the path of least resistance. The symbol of transition and renewal.
Air: Air breaths new life into love. The breath of fresh air. The oxygen to sustain the marriage Giving both _______ and ______ the freedom to be themselves. It symbolises unity, eternity and balance.
Earth: The earth upon which we walk provides us with our home and our future. 4 corners of the earth, wherever you may travel. Earth is the accommodator of the other 3 elements and balances nature.
Fire: From fire comes love and warmth. Passion and Sexuality, Power and Energy. Fire is the light to see and the creativity to be yourselves.
The use of a candle, a hand held fan, water, sand or a favourite stone.
(Rose quartz is the rock of love)
Warming of the Rings
This works very well in a small ceremony of close friends and family.
The rings are passed amongst all the guests and they hold the rings thus giving their personal blessing upon the rings before the bride & groom exchange the rings.
Wine and Love Letter Ceremony
“Like good wine, a great love will deepen and mature with age.” Think of it as a time capsule of love and commitment.
Each of you write words of love about your partner in the form of a letter, a poem or however you feel appropriate.
The letters describe the good qualities you find in one another, the reasons you fell in love, and your reasons for choosing to marry.
Write the letter about a week before the wedding day. Find a quiet moment apart and don’t show it to your fiancé.
Write how they make you feel, their smile, their touch. Perhaps write about your dreams for the future, even a few choices of children's names if you are planning a family. Travel wishes.
Wishes for your home.
What you truly appreciate about your partner, what they do that you are grateful for.
What makes you smile or laugh when you are in their company.
These letters are your private thoughts and feelings, only to be shared with your partner.
Seal the letters in an envelope and place it in a sealed box along with a bottle of good wine and two glasses.
This can be locked or well taped (depending on your choice of box) at the ceremony.
It will be opened on an anniversary of your choice. Sometimes it is good to open the box if the marriage is going through a rough patch to help the couple remember why they fell in love with each other.
Share the wine, read the letters and rekindle the flame.
You may wish to include one or more or more of these traditions in other Ceremonies
There are many ways in include Christianity or other religions into your ceremony.
Pieces from the bible and blessings
Reading from the bible may also have "Thanks be to God" or "Hear our Prayer" for the guests to take part
A beautiful option is the Catholic influence of the "Prayers of the Faithful"
The children can offer their wishes and blessing to the bride and groom.
Other Religions & Spiritual Ideas:
There are many reading from prophets, the Dalai Lama and other religous and spiritual people of the world
eg: From the Dalai Lama's "For Life in the New Millennium"
"Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.
And that a loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.
Be gentle with the earth, be gentle with one another.
When disagreements come remember always to protect the spirit of your union.
When you realize you've made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other
exceeds your need for each other.
So love yourselves, love one another, love all that is your life together and all else will follow."
I have performed many wedding where the couple are from different backgrounds.
I research and combine the cultures where possible.
Even with a traditional Western style wedding, where one of the oldest cultures is the Hand-binding Ceremony, I take ideas from other traditions for example Chinese, and talk about the famous story of the belief that an invisible red lace was already tied to the ankle of the couple in their separate homes when they were born, and by fate, these two people met and fell in love, drawn together by that tie. The use of the Celtic hand-binding becomes the symbol of this red lace that brought them together by fate.
Philippines also has a rope that is tied around the couple during the ceremony, again the hand-binding becomes a symbol of the Philippine people’s early tradition.
In Australia, the candle lighting may be a link to the smoking ceremony which is believed to have cleansing properties and the ability to ward off bad spirits.
Having more than one ceremony at your wedding can also be a lovely way to have something personal and combine two families.
Rings with hand-binding
Rings, hand-binding and sand
Rings and Wine ceremony
Rings with warming of the rings
Rings with sharing ceremony
If you know of a specific tradition of your culture and your family,
you may like to include it in your ceremony