What is a Unity Ceremony?

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Unity ceremonies are rituals associated with weddings; mainly celebrant led weddings. They are mini ceremonies which take place within the main one. Any ceremony can include a unity ceremony, as the whole purpose of them is to bring people together.

The Most Commonly Offered Unity Ceremonies

An online search for unity ceremonies will result in wedding and celebrants websites explaining about unity ceremonies and how you can include them in a wedding.

Most will offer the same few unity ceremonies which celebrants learn during their training. These include:

Sand ceremonies
Candle ceremony
Ring warming/blessing
Certificate signing
Broom jumping
Rose ceremony
Love letter box/time capsule
Wine ceremony (the mixing together of red and white wine, don’t try it, it isn’t a nice taste)
Tree planting
Passing the heartbeat
Mother’s kiss or ‘first kiss last kiss’

The most requested ceremony ritual is handfasting. The signing of a wedding certificate is perhaps more of an expectation than a unity ceremony.

Salt and Spice Ceremonies

A much older alternative to sand ceremonies (which involve layering sand or coloured sands into a bottle or vessel), salt or spice ceremonies aren’t offered by many celebrants. They are favoured by alternative and creative celebrants, with salt or spice ceremonies appearing during some Pagan weddings or vow renewals.

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Planting Ceremonies

Not just reserved for tree planting, herbs, shrubs, flowers, bonsais, vegetables, or fruit can be planted during a ceremony. As love grows so does the item planted. Ceremonial wording as always in unity ceremonies is the focus of these ceremonies.

Oathing Ceremonies

Oathing ceremonies have been around for centuries. Giving an oath to somebody predates saying vows during a marriage ceremony. Oathing ceremonies can include many items which can be used during the ceremony, exchanged worn, displayed, or kept as a reminder of the oaths made.

Matching the Unity Ceremony to the Ceremony

During meetings with those a ceremony is for, a knowledgeable, creative, or alternative celebrant should suggest including unity ceremonies into a ceremony which will work for the right reasons. All suggestions should be meaningful, because they will be memorable, and most importantly because they are relevant to the people who are taking part within them. This could even by a game of Bingo as seen above, (if Bingo is important to them of course).

Suggesting a sandwich creating ceremony (Google them), may not be the most appropriate ritual for a traditional style wedding held in the ball room of a lavish hotel. Equally a tea blending ceremony may not be the ideal suggestion for an alternative wedding held in a gin distillery.

Should those the ceremony is for make a specific request for a ritual or unity ceremony, it is the role of the celebrant to be accommodating and make this happen where possible. If not, find a similar alternative which both the clients and their venue will be happy with.

Unity ceremonies are about the clients, not about the celebrant. They shouldn’t be suggested for photos or bragging on social media as this isn’t what celebrancy is about. Professional celebrants understand the importance of ceremony and what they are suggesting should be relevant to the style of the ceremony and of interest to each individual set of clients.

Think Outside the Box

If celebrants want to gain more bookings, the introduction of offering more creative and less uniformed standard unity ceremonies maybe beneficial. The role of a of celebrant is to offer unique and personalised ceremonies for all, so why do so many only offer these few unity ceremonies and follow what others do? Surely this goes against the very ethos of celebrancy?

As established and creative ceremonialists and celebrant trainers, we at Choice Celebrant Training encourage all of our trainee celebrants to ‘think outside the box’ when offering unity ceremonies. If clients request one of the above rituals, wording should always be changed, and items used should always be different. It is both shocking and against the claims of those celebrants who state they create personalised ceremonies yet stick to the same unity ceremonies with the same wording used for all.

Custom Created Unity Ceremonies

There are some who want their entire ceremony to be fun, interactive, and entertaining. Most things can become unity ceremonies. Opening a packet of crisps and mixing them with others is one example of a custom created unity ceremony for lovers of crisps which was very well received.

During our Wedding Celebrant Training, we guide trainee celebrants how to create unity ceremonies based on scenarios or given ceremony content information.

Religious and Cultural Appropriation

As celebrants we must make sure all we are doing and saying during every ceremony does not cause offence or harm to any religious or cultural belief. Most unity ceremonies can be traced back to Pagan practices including handfasting, broom jumping, food or beverage sharing and candle lighting.

We accept the signing of a wedding certificate is a traditional part of a wedding which it is, but how and where did this start? Online searches state it started in America. Dates of their requirement vary between searches from the 1100’s-1800’s.  Many of the Jewish faith believe wedding and marriage certificates were adaptions of the traditional Jewish marriage contract called a ketubah.

Broom jumping is a Pagan tradition, but it is also an African wedding traditional. The giving of coins from a groom to a bride, the arras, is a traditional part of Hispanic cultures yet some celebrants offer it to all regardless of if they are of Hispanic heritage or not. A groom breaking a glass under his foot is a meaningful and religious Jewish sentiment. It certainly doesn’t signify the start of a party as some celebrants are incorrectly taught.

Some may think it is acceptable to include a ritual within a ceremony which hasn’t any religious or cultural relevance to those the ceremony is for.  Many do not realise as they weren’t taught, nor have they researched what they offer. Many follow what other celebrants offer believing it is acceptable with a ‘if they are doing it, I will’.

Stating it is acceptable to offer something which isn’t part of the culture or religion of those the ceremony is for is inappropriate and shouldn’t be done. Create something unique, don’t do what others do.

Unity Ceremonies at Funerals

As mentioned at the beginning of this blog, a unity ceremony can be included in any ceremony included within a funeral or a celebration of life. Giving out seeds to take home and plant, lighting candles, eating sweets during a time of personal thought, placing messages in a message jar, or having a mini quiz on the life of the person who is being celebrated are all unity ceremonies, and are all popular for creative celebrants.

The purpose of a unity ceremony is to bring together two, a few more, or all present during any ceremony to create a memorable, meaningful ritual in celebration of love and unity.

Celebrant Refresh

It is both surprising and concerning many celebrants do not feel confident or knowledgeable enough to offer more unity ceremonies than their training organisation told them of. We offer a Celebrant Refresh Course which can include guidance and further information on unity ceremonies. This course is available for both wedding and/or funeral celebrants regardless of who you trained with, and discretion is assured as some celebrant training companies may have issues with their members learning elsewhere.

Our Celebrant Refresh Course has already helped established celebrants have both the confidence and the knowledge to offer and create unique unity ceremonies.

Blog by Choice Celebrant Training