11 Sweet and Sentimental Unity Ceremony Ideas

August 29, 2017 | juliette

photo by Darinimages

The unity ceremony is one of the most beautiful parts of the overall ceremony because it is a visual symbol of two lives coming together as one. Over the years, it’s also become one of the best ways for a couple to personalize their wedding ceremony! From lighting a candle to creating a cocktail, couples are finding sweet and sentimental ways to make the unity ceremony their own — and we absolutely love it! It’s one of the few moments on your wedding day that you get to slow down, pause, and reflect on the promises you’ve made to each other, so you want to be sure it is meaningful to you. We’ve seen some truly creative unity ceremony ideas over the years, so here are our favorites to help you pick the one that speaks to you!

photo by Allison Harp

Light a Candle

This is by far the most traditional unity ceremony option, so it’s perfect for couples who want that classic feel. Before the ceremony, three candles are placed on the altar: two taper candles and one large candle (the “unity candle”) in the middle. At the beginning of the ceremony, a member from each family (traditionally the moms) lights one of the taper candles. After you exchange vows, you each use one of the candles to light the unity candle at the same time. If either or both of you have children, you could even get the entire family involved. Just add extra taper candles for each child and invite them to join you as you light the unity candle.



photo by a sea of love

Plant a Tree

So many couples are drawn to the symbolism found in nature, which makes a tree planting ceremony such a great option, especially for outdoor weddings. Before the ceremony, a tree is placed in a large pot near the front of the space. During the ceremony,  you each take turns adding soil and water to the pot. Then, when the wedding is over, you would take the tree home and replant it in your yard. We’ve even seen couples who get married in their own backyard plant the tree directly in the ground during the ceremony. This is a truly touching unity ceremony idea that will be a constant and ever-growing reminder of your commitment to each other.

photo by Brett & Jessica

Pot a Plant or Two

This is similar to the tree planting ceremony but for couples who prefer a smaller plant that they can keep inside their home. Before the ceremony, place a pot, the plant(s), and cups of soil on a table in your ceremony space. If you’re from two different places, you could bring soil from your hometowns to use together. If you want to get more family members involved, you could ask that they bring soil from their respective hometowns to include, as well. During the ceremony, place the plant(s) in the pot, add the soil, and water it together. You then have a beautiful piece to add to your home and nurture as your marriage grows.

photos by Quinn Oberlander

Seal an Anniversary Box

This is a super sweet unity ceremony idea that also serves as an anniversary surprise! Have a custom box made with your names and your wedding date, and place it on a table along with handwritten love notes and a bottle of wine. If you plan to wait for your 5- or 10-year anniversary, we recommend asking an expert to help you pick a wine that will age nicely. During the unity ceremony, you will both place the letters and the bottle of wine in the box and seal it shut — either with a hammer and nails or with a lock. During the ceremony, you can have the officiant explain the significance of the wine you chose and the anniversary you plan to open it. When that date rolls around, enjoy a trip down memory lane as you enjoy a glass of wine, read your love letters, and remember your magical wedding day!



photo by Darinimages

Pour Sand

This is another oldie-but-goodie that continues to evolve as couples find new twists to make it their own. The most common sand pouring ceremony involves two jars of sand that you both pour into a single glass. If you want to create a statement art piece for your home, you can use two different colors and layer them or create a unique design inside the jar. We’ve also seen clear frames in which you place a photo of yourselves and pour the sand into the background space. If you have children, you can also use multiple jars of sand — labeled with each person’s name — to pour into the collective jar. You can then display the jar in your home as a reminder of your new, unified family.



photos by Deidre Lynn Photography

Create a Cocktail

This might be our current favorite unity ceremony idea because it combines the sentimentality of tradition with a fun (and delicious) modern twist! If you are beer lovers, pour two different but complimentary beers (usually a light and a dark) into a glass and enjoy your first brew as husband and wife. If liquor is your thing, gather up single servings of your favorite ingredients, shake them up, and enjoy your custom creation. We recommend choosing a simple cocktail, such a cosmopolitan, margarita, or single mixer and liquor, so that you can put it together effortlessly.

photo by You Are My True

Take a Shot

If you’re super adventurous — or want an excuse to calm the nerves in the middle of your ceremony — you could skip the creating aspect and go straight for taking a shot of your favorite alcohol! We recommend investing in a personalized decanter and glasses. Not only will they be cute decor pieces at the ceremony, but they will make great keepsakes for years to come.



photos by Cottonwood Studios

Barrel a Whiskey

If you love the idea of incorporating your favorite alcohol into your unity ceremony but are looking for a more crafty way to do it, barreling a whiskey is such a fun and unique idea! You get the best of both worlds: the symbolic gesture of combining two elements into one, and the promise of an aged whiskey for future enjoyment. All you need are two unaged whiskeys, a personalized mini barrel, and a funnel. During the ceremony, pour both of the whiskeys into the barrel and seal it shut. After a few months, you’ll be able to enjoy your custom creation as you reminisce on your wedding day!



photo by The Kitcheners

Fasten Hands

This tradition hails from Ireland and Scotland, but has become popular with modern couples all over the world. Unlike all the other unity ceremonies that happen after you exchange vows, this ceremony (commonly known as “handfasting”) can be done before, during, or after the vows. As join hands or hold each other’s wrists, the officiant wraps the cord around them into a loose knot. Traditionally, couples use a dyed chord for this ceremony, but the options have expanded in recent years to include tartans, ribbons, scarves, or even small floral garlands. Whatever you choose, this is a beautiful symbol of eternal and infinite love.



photo by Jonnie + Garrett Wedding Photographers

Tie a Unity Knot

If you’re looking for a unity ceremony idea with a religious message, perhaps the cord of 3 strands tradition is the right fit for you. The ceremony is derived from Ecclesiastes 4:12: “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” This ceremony symbolizes the joining of man, woman, and God as equal partners and signifies the strength that comes from allowing God to be a part of your marriage. During the ceremony, take turns braiding the rope and secure it with a knot. After the wedding, mount the rope on a canvas or wood plank to hang in your home as a constant reminder of commitment and strength.



photo by Let’s Frolic Together

Release a Sky Lantern

While we usually see sky lanterns released during the reception exit, some creative couples have begun using this Chinese tradition in place of a typical unity ceremony. Both partners would write a wish for your future or a blessing for your marriage on the lantern, and then let it soar into the skies after you say your vows. This is also a great option for couples who want all of their guests to be involved. Simply pass out the lanterns and ask guests to write their wishes for you before the ceremony, then invite everyone to release them with you. It will be such brilliant display of solidarity and hope that you’ll remember forever! Keep in mind that some communities may require clearance to release lanterns, so be sure to do your research. 



Now that you’ve picked your unity ceremony idea, have you considered all the other ways you can personalize your ceremony? If not, we’ve got a list of 8 ways to personalize your wedding ceremony that takes out all the guess-work!

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