Civil weddings, and purely spiritual non-religious weddings, offer more creative options for a symbolic marriage ceremony. The opportunities are endless, so here are just 11 of our favourite alternative unity ceremony ideas for your wedding.
And while you’re busy planning your wedding, make sure you don’t forget to do these 10 things after your ceremony.
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Our Favourite Alternative Unity Ceremony Ideas
1. Sand Ceremony
A growing favourite wedding trend, the sand ceremony is a wonderful ceremony alternative. Its meaning is simple and beautiful: two becoming one. The couple mix two different colours of sand into one container, thereby symbolising their lives and hearts entwined. Once combined, it would be extremely difficult to separate the sand out again, just as the couple are so joined together.
Browse our beautiful selection of unity sand ceremony sets in our shop.
The pouring of the sand can take place at any time before, after or during the wedding vows and ring exchange. Usually there’s a container each for the bride and groom with their respective sand colours inside. A third container sits empty until, after the officiate has explained the ceremony and its meaning, the bride or groom pours some of her/his sand into the empty container. Their partner does the same afterwards, and then the couple pour their remaining sand together so that the two colours mix.
We offer sand in all of these gorgeous colours:
Featured above: Crystalline Quartz Sand
Infuse even more meaning into this ceremony by collecting your sand from a favourite beach, or even include your children in the ceremony—you can have more than three sand containers, with the sand to symbolise anything from shared love to spirituality.
Sand ceremonies are a fantastic idea for outdoor weddings to get that natural feel, and it’s a double win if you’re planning a beach wedding. You don’t even have to use sand for this ceremony—you could even use glitter.
Read even more on the sand ceremony in our sand ceremony guide.
2. Water Ceremony
Another of our favourite alternative unity ceremony ideas is the water ceremony. A lot like the sand ceremony, this ceremony blends two colours into one. We advise that you begin experimenting with colours before the wedding so that the mixing gives a colour you really like. Unlike with the sand ceremony, where you can get clear layers and blended layers, water really mixes together.
Featured above: Classic Symbolic Ceremony Set
Maybe you like the effect of ink in water too as a nice little spin in this ceremony—the mixing ink in clear water could look wonderful. Also, consider water density. Think carefully about how you want to colour your water and get creative, as certain liquids can give a layered effect.
3. Wine Ceremony
The wine ceremony, again, shows the merging of two into one by two wines being blended into one (possibly red wine and white wine). Then the couple drinks from the shared container. This sharing of a cup is symbolic of togetherness.
Featured above, left to right: Small Personalised Stemless Wine Glass | Personalised Classic Champagne Glass | Personalised Twisted Stem Champagne Glasses | Large Personalised Stemless Wine Glass | City Style Wine Label | Black Tie Bottle Stopper | Wine Bottle Shaped Corkscrew In Gift Box with Bistro Bliss Rectangular Label | Personalised Stemless Champagne Flutes | Natural Wood Coaster With Built-in Bottle Opener with Typewriter Monogram Etching | Monogram Teak Cutting And Serving Board Gift
4. Love Letters Ceremony
For this alternative unity ceremony the couple write love letters to each other, and these are locked in a box with a bottle of wine and some wine glasses, ready for later in the marriage such as a milestone anniversary. Open it up, share a drink of wine, and read the letters you wrote for each other. Don’t forget to personalise your wine bottle with a lovely personalised label!
Featured above: Love Letter Ceremony Box Set
Featured above: Glass Dip Pen Writing Set
5. Unity Candle Ceremony
The unity candle ceremony is one of the most well-known alternative unity ceremony ideas, and is a very romantic wedding ceremony that offers so many opportunities for you to make it unique and personal to you. In it you can include your family as well, and the lit candles in a dull room will look beautiful.
The couple each has a candle, and there is a third, main one between them. This main candle is lit, perhaps by the father of the bride, (or by all of the couple’s parents at the same time?) and then the couple light their own candles from it. Then the rest of the family can light their candles from it as well.
Alternatively, perhaps the couple could light each other’s candles, and together they light the main one (that the rest of the family lights theirs from). The merging flames will show their unity and strengthened love and shared lives.
This ceremony is very flexible, so adapt it and use whichever symbolism works best for you—you don’t even need to stick to the traditional unity candles in a candle holder. Make this ceremony even more interesting by using lanterns or small flaming torches! The only downside to this ceremony is if a brisk wind is blowing; it might not work very well outside.
6. Flower Ceremony
One of the most popular flowers-inspired alternative unity ceremony ideas is the Rose Ceremony. Roses are a traditional symbol of love and are therefore perfect to feature in a wedding ceremony. The ceremony can also feature family members the couple wish to take part.
Featured above, our Rose Ceremony Set vases.
The couple each has a rose, and so does every family member they wish to take part in the ceremony. (Red roses are usually used due to their colour symbolism of love, and the family members can have the same colour or a different one.) Then the bride and groom swap their roses as a first gift to each other before placing them together into a vase. Then all of the family members add their roses to the mix.
Of course, you don’t have to use roses for your ceremony—use any flower that has a special meaning to you! Perhaps the flowers you use could be evergreen to symbolise your undying love for one another?
Read more on the Rose Ceremony.
7. Tree Planting Ceremony
Planting a tree is a beautiful wedding idea as it can symbolise the growth of your relationship. Together you can see the tree grow just as your love and married life does, and you must nurture it in order to keep it alive. So you gather two pots of dirt, possibly from a special, significant place, and plant a tree in the combined soil. Water it together with two watering cans (again, perhaps with water from a meaningful place), or even one shared watering can. You might even want to include your guests or immediate family and friends—ask them to add their own scatters of soil or seeds. This is definitely one of the the most symbolic alternative unity ceremony ideas!
Featured above: Weddings with the Woodland Trust
Make the ceremony even more symbolic by choosing the tree due to its meaning—look in mythology or lore or even use a cutting from a tree that’s special to you. You could even plant a tree each if you want to, and twist them together as they grow?
Read more on how to make your day more memorable with woods and trees.
8. Handfasting and Tying the Knot Ceremony
One of the oldest of these alternative unity ceremony ideas, and particularly known in Pagan wedding ceremonies, handfasting is the joining of the bride and groom’s hands and wrists using vines, cord, rope, or ribbon tied into a knot. It’s often said that this is where we get the expression “tying the knot” from, and it often takes place at the end of the wedding ceremony as a final promise from one person to the other to bind their lives together.
Featured above: Heart Framed Trinity Knot Cake Topper
The material should probably be significant to you—for example, a strip of cloth from the dress you wore for your first date with your husband- or wife-to-be. And there’s nothing to stop you incorporating jewellery or chains of flowers either. Don’t be afraid to get creative and be unique. Also think carefully about what kind of knot you wish to tie your hands into. Each can carry a different meaning, and so, symbolically, one may suit you and your partner better than the others. Some types of knots include Infinity Knots, Fisherman’s Knots, and Trinity Knots.
9. Painted Canvas Ceremony
One of the most artistic alternative unity ceremony ideas, you could create a piece of art that you and your partner can treasure forever by painting on a piece of canvas (perhaps decorated with your names and wedding date?). To make it even more special, you can carry through the symbolism of “two becoming one” by each using a different colour of paint that, when combined, make a new colour. For example, blue and red to make purple. By the end of your wedding ceremony you’ll have a lovely keepsake that will look fantastic on your livingroom or bedroom wall.
Featured above: Sarah and Drew’s Bohemian Mountain Wedding by MorningWild Photography
10. Sundial Wedding Ceremony
The sundial wedding ceremony is a Celtic ritual that’s still an important part of weddings in parts of Ireland. The couple touch fingers through the hole of a sundial (the sundial itself is a carved stone, almost like a standing stone), and this acts as confirmation of their union as well as a potent symbol. Then they use a silk scarf, passing it through the hole of the sundial three times as they make a wish, and then others are invited to make their own wishes.
11. Lasso Wedding Ceremony
Another of our favourite alternative unity ceremony ideas is the lasso ceremony. This wedding ceremony involves the couple being draped in a floral garland or rosary twisted into the symbol of infinity. At the end of the wedding, the couple saves the garland as a symbol of their union.
Featured above: Country Rose Garland
For more wedding planning inspiration make sure you check out these creative wedding ceremony seating ideas, and book your tickets to The National Wedding Show for all the wedding ideas you could need under one roof.