Unveiled: Incorporating traditions in your wedding ceremony

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By Aleksandra Kochurova | [email protected]

I am a huge believer in holding personalized wedding ceremonies that are true to the couple — after all, every relationship is different, so why fall to the standard?

Throughout the planning process, I’ve worked to personalize my wedding in every way, from including my best guy friend in my bridal party to picking a venue that elevates my style and fits my character. My wedding ceremony will be no exception.

This is the last installment of “Unveiled,” a monthly column where I share the tips and tricks I come across as I embark on the long path that leads down the aisle. This month, I’ll be talking about personalizing your wedding ceremony.

My fiancé, Devin, and I decided not to have a religious ceremony pretty early in the planning process, but that doesn’t mean our wedding will only last five minutes. There are countless ways to put together a ceremony that is unique to you as a couple, from writing your own vows to borrowing excerpts from your favorite books.

Whether your wedding is religious or not, here are some rituals you can incorporate to showcase your love and commitment to your spouse.

Planting a tree

To incorporate nature into your ceremony, plant a tree sapling to symbolize the roots of your relationship. After the ceremony, replant the tree in your yard, or — with permission — a place that holds significance to both of you. Watch it grow as your love grows through the years. If you don’t have a yard, go for a houseplant that you can pot and keep indoors.

Wine-blending

Wine has been present at weddings for centuries, but this tasty trend is fairly new. Incorporate wine-blending into your ceremony by combining a white wine with a red wine into a large carafe after the ring exchange. The couple can then pour glasses for each other, or share a glass, of the blended wine. If wine’s not your thing, try beer-blending or cocktail-making.

Unity candle

This is a popular ritual to symbolize the joining of two families. Often mistaken for a Christian tradition, the ceremony doesn’t have inherent ties to a particular faith. The unity candle ritual involves three candles, typically two thin and one larger. The mothers from both sides light the thin candles, then join the couple in lighting the big candle. Depending on the reading you choose to pair with the ceremony, all three candles can remain lit to show the flames of your individual selves igniting your marriage, or you can extinguish the thin candles to illustrate the flames becoming one.

Blanket ceremony

This Native American ceremony can vary by tribes. In one version, the couple starts the ceremony wrapped separately in blue blankets, which symbolize their individual pasts. After the union’s blessing, they take the blue blankets off and are wrapped together under a white blanket. The white blanket represents a blank slate to “fill” with peace and happiness. After the wedding, some couples keep the blanket at the foot of their bed as a reminder of their commitment to each other.

Jumping the broom

This African-American tradition is believed to have originated in Africa; however it’s lost its original meaning because of associations with slavery, according to Ka-Veronica Braddy, owner of www.african-weddings.com. Enslaved African Americans would perform broom jumping ceremonies to “marry” when they legally didn’t have the right. Passed down generation-to-generation, this ritual is a reminder of the African-American heritage, as well as love and dedication to each other. If you choose to incorporate it at your wedding, jumping the broom could be done after the pronouncing of husband and wife or during the reception.

Lasso ceremony

This ritual comes from Mexican, Filipino and Spanish cultures. After the couple has exchanged their vows, the officiant places an oversized flower lasso around their shoulders to form a figure eight shape. The couple will wear the lasso through the remainder of the ceremony. The figure eight’s infinity shape symbolizes the couple’s eternal bond. You could also make the lasso ceremony religious by using a lasso made from a rosary instead of flowers.

Handfasting

If you have Irish or Scottish roots, this tradition is for you. Dating back to pre-reformation Celtic communities, handfasting used to be a private and informal ceremony marking the start of a period of engagement. If the couple was still madly in love at the end of a year, they would have a formal wedding.

The ritual has made a comeback in recent years by couples wanting to literally tie the knot. It involves the couple binding their hands together during the ceremony (before, during or after reciting their vows), often to symbolize their connection and devotion to one another. The personalization, however, is limitless. You can tie both hands or just right hands. You can use ribbons, fabrics that are important to you, a scarf, flower garlands, beads. You can choose which knot to tie, whether it’s fisherman’s or infinity. Each of these choices will hold a special meaning to you and make the ritual that much more important.

Ring (or rope) warming

The ring warming ritual is a sweet way to include all your family and guests in the ceremony. The roots of the tradition can be traced to Ireland, where the guests and family pass the couple’s wedding rings to each other and give them a blessing, prayer or a silent wish before the couple exchanges their vows. If you have a large guest list, you can opt to display the rings close to the venue’s entrance, giving everyone a chance to warm them before they sit down.

If you are having a religious ceremony and are tying the knot of three strands — representing each member of the couple and God — you can pass around the strands with the same sentiment before the vows.

Unity/anniversary box

The premise of a unity box ceremony is to store something away in a box and nail it shut together. You will then open the box at a designated time, whether it’s a major anniversary or a milestone in your marriage. With this tradition, the personalization options are limitless. You can make your unity box a wine box and put away your favorite bottle of wine to open in a year and replace it with another, repeating the nailing down process in five, 10 or 20 years. You can write letters instructing you to open up the box after your first major fight, when you buy a house or after the birth of your first child. Or you can fill it with memories that will bring tears to your eyes years down the road. I haven’t decided what exactly I’ll put in my box yet, but I know that it will be a combination of things — probably a bottle of wine and love letters.

Pair these unconventional traditions with a meaningful reading, and your wedding ceremony will be talked about for decades. Have fun putting together a set of rituals that feels personal, but don’t overdo it. My advice is to add one or two extra rituals to a traditional religious ceremony, and up to three to a secular ceremony.

Thank you for embarking on this journey with me, and happy planning!

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