A popular element in contemporary wedding ceremonies is the inclusion of creative marriage symbols. While the exchange of vows and rings remains the heart of most wedding ceremonies, couples often want to express the significance of their new life together by including additional symbolic actions. Here, you’ll find a variety of symbols, any one of which you might like to incorporate into your ceremony. The descriptions below will help you get a feel for the specific symbolism represented by each item.
We are happy to discuss your preferences and explain how each of the symbols can be used in your ceremony. You can purchase the items below through our affiliation with the best providers we know. Click on the item of your choice or ask us how to acquire what you want in order to distinguish your wedding ceremony.
The Sand Ceremony set usually consists of three glass vessels, two smaller ones and one larger one. The mouths of the vessels should be open and large enough for sand to pour freely from one to the other. You may use beach sand or colored sand. Two different colored sands are convenient for indicating the lives of the two people. When poured together they combine as one, new and different entity. Music may be played during the pouring of the sand. Ask us about engraved Sand Ceremony sets.
Officiant: N. and N. have chosen each other for the rest of life’s journey. To further illustrate the significance of the joining of their lives as one they will combine these unique grains of sand. Each (shell/vial) of sand represents all that you were, all that you are, and all that you will ever be. Each vial of sand, just as each life, holds its own unique history, beauty, strength and character. Each one stands on its own and is whole without the need for the other. And yet, when blended together they create an entirely new and extraordinarily more intricate entity – a new life. Each grain of sand brings to the mixture a unique gift of character that forever will enrich the new thing that is being created here today.
So now, I ask that you pour the grains of the sand of your lives together into this vial; an act of your free will to mingle your lives, your fortunes and your futures together with each other from this day forward. Just as these grains of sand can never be separated to reconstitute the old life before they were together, so will your marriage be a mingling of two personalities, bonded together, forming one heart, one love. The life that you knew before this day, will hereafter be inseparably united, for the two have become one.
The Unity Candle set consists of three candles, one large and two small, along with a holder for each candle. This symbol is not appropriate for outdoor weddings unless the candles are placed inside a windproof lantern enclosure. You do not want to take the risk of having this beautiful symbol of your union extinguished by a stray breeze. The two smaller candles, representing the bride and groom are lighted before the wedding ceremony begins. This can be done by an usher, groomsman or parents of the bride and groom. Ask us about Unity Candle sets.
Officiant: N. and N., the two single candles now lit symbolize each of you in your individual uniqueness. The center candle – still unlit – is to symbolize your coming together to share a new life with one another (for Christian couples: in Christ.)Each of you has brought to this moment a wealth of personality, background, experience, strengths and weaknesses. Now you are joining in a new life together.
(Optional additional statement) Officiant: “For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the hardest of all our tasks,” write the poet Rilke, “the ultimate test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation . . . Love . . . is a high inducement to the individual to ripen, to become something in themselves, to become a world to themselves for another’s sake . . . and human love consists in this, that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other.”
(Concluding statement) Officiant: Come now, and light a new light, using the fire each of you brings to this union. But do not extinguish the former lights, lest there be less light and warmth. May all three lights burn brightly and the warmth of your love for each other be greater.
Where there are children from a prior marriage some couples choose to add a unity ceremony symbolizing the blending of the two families. Both the Sand Ceremony (often for outdoor ceremonies) and the Unity Candle (for indoor ceremonies) can be easily altered to emphasize either the union of the couple or the blending of two families. Both ceremonies lend themselves to either silence or light music played during the pouring of the sand or lighting of the candle. Consult with your officiant about your wishes.
A small table, covered with a simple white (or other) cloth is present. On this table are the bands of tapestry or decorative cords, to be used for the wrapping of the couple’s wrists. This practice was common in many ancient cultures signifying the joining together of two lives as one. “Tying the knot” as a euphemism for getting married stems from this ancient practice. Ask us about Handfasting sets.
Officiant: Symbolic knots are part in the folklore of many cultures. To “tie the knot”symbolizes the making of an unbreakable pledge. As far back as the 13th century the wrists of bride and groom were tied together symbolizing their union as one. (The Legend of St. Katherine, circa 1225 used the Middle English ‘cnotte’, that is, ‘knot’, to mean ‘the tie or bond of wedlock; the marriage or wedding knot’.)
In 1717 the English poet Matthew Prior, in a humorous piece, wrote about the significance of the bond of marriage: “So to the priest their case they tell: He ties the knot.” (The Progress of the Mind)
A hundred years later, in a dictionary of common phrases this description of the marriage vows of a groom appeared: “He has tied a knot with his tongue, that he cannot untie with his teeth: that is, he is married.” (Francis Grose, in his 1811 edition of The Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue)
The officiant takes the bands from the table and wraps the couple’s wrists. The following blessing is pronounced.
Officiant: These are the hands that will work alongside yours as together you build your first home, plant your first garden and walk forward hand in hand into your future. These are the hands that will passionately love you and cherish you; the only ones with the ability to comfort you like no one else can. These are the hands that will tenderly hold your first child; the hands that will hold your family together as one. And, these are the hands that even when wrinkled and aged will still be reaching for yours as they hold you here, now, promising you they will never ever let you go.
After the Handfasting the minister offers a Wedding Prayer. He will remove the bands after the prayer.
The Wine Box can accommodate a bottle of wine and two letters. Some boxes will also include space for two wine glasses. Prior to the wedding ceremony each of you will write a love letter to the other, expressing your thoughts about what it is that has drawn you to each other and why you have chosen one another as your marriage partner. The only “rule” to note in preparing your love letter is to let your heart speak. No one but the two of you will ever read or hear what you say. This is a private and the most intimate expression of your sentiments to each other. Bring the wine box to the ceremony. It should be placed on a small stand or table, suitably decorated for the wedding. The box should be open with the wine bottle standing next to it. After the exchange of your vows and rings you will be invited by the Officiant to place your love letters in the box, along with the bottle of wine. It will be closed and locked until it is opened, either at your fifth wedding anniversary or earlier if circumstances warrant. Ask us about engraved Wine Boxes.
Officiant: This box/case was made/crafted with great attention to detail. It contains a bottle of wine (and two glasses). In a moment you will each add to the box/case the love letter you have written to each other. The letters describe the good qualities you have found in one another, the reasons you fell in love, and your reasons for choosing to marry.
The letters are sealed in individual envelopes and neither of you has seen what the other has written. You are creating your very own romantic time capsule to be opened on the fifth anniversary of your wedding.
I recommend that you keep the wine box/case in a place of honor, prominently displayed in your home as a constant reminder of your commitment to each other. Every time you look at it you will be reminded that on this day you planted a seed that in time will spring forth in a new life that you can imagine today, but which will be something altogether new in the years to come.
N. and N., should you ever find your marriage enduring insurmountable hardships before you reach your fifth year, you are to open this box, take the letter addressed to you – open it and read about what each of you saw in one another that brought you to your wedding day. Then, perhaps through tears and smiles, pour each other a glass of wine and drink it in. For the love of a husband and wife is the wine of life and through it you will be renewed.
Of course, the hope is that you will never have such a reason to open the box/case. So, when your fifth anniversary comes, then open it with great joy, read the letters, drink the wine and revel in the gift of this marriage. So now, N. and N., I invite you to place your letters in the box/case and seal it for your future.
After the couple completes the sealing of the box/case it is appropriate for the officiant to offer a prayer for them.
Ceremony Planning Tools Select one of these other pages to find additional information for the creation of your distinctive ceremony.
- Plan Your Ceremony Use the My Wedding Ceremony Planner tool to plan your ceremony.
- Ceremonies Select the ceremony that’s right for you.
- Wedding Vows Choose from a range of vows or write your own.
- Exchange of Rings What will you say when you slip it on?
- Readings Inspirational selections to enhance your special moment.
- Marriage Symbols Sand Ceremony, Unity Candle, Handfasting, Wine Box