In some of the most ancient wedding rituals, the couple demonstrates their love and devotion by using symbolic objects, such as candles, food, and even brooms.
Seven Steps (Hindu)
After the couple has taken seven steps around the fire at their ceremony,their bond is sealed, and the following is recited in a ritual, Saptha Padhi. It also makes a beautiful reading on its own.
"We have taken the seven steps. You have become mine forever.
Yes, we have become partners. I have become yours.
Hereafter I cannot live without you.
Do not live without me. Let us share the
We are word and meaning, united. You are thought and I am sound.
"May the nights be honey-sweet for us; may the mornings be honey-sweet for us;
may the earth be honey-sweet for us; may the heavens be honey-sweet for us.
"May the plants be honey-sweet for us; may the sun be all honey for us;
may the cows yield us honey-sweet milk!
"As the heavens are stable, as the earth is stable,
as the mountains are stable, as the whole universe is stable,
so may our union be permanently settled."
Honey Ceremony (Multifaith)
Multifaith clergywoman Joyce Gioia created this ritual revolving around honey, a symbolic food since ancient times and crossing many cultures.
"Honey is a symbol of the sweetness in life. And so, with this dish of honey, we proclaim this day as a day of great joy and celebration-a day to remember-Your Day. We thank you, Allah [or substitute deity name], for creating this divine substance, and ask you to bless it, even as you will bless this holy union. Amen."
[Groom dips his little finger into the honey and touches bride's tongue with it; bride does the same, touching groom's tongue.]
"As together you now share this honey, so may you, under God's guidance, in perfect love and devotion to each other, share your lives together, and thereby may you find life's joys doubly gladdening, its bitterness sweetened, and all things hallowed by time, companionship and love."
Unity Candle (Catholic)
This joining ritual is quite popular at Catholic weddings, but its significance is universal:
the joining of the couple as a new family, as well as the merging of their two original families. Usually the officiant will explain the unity candle's meaning-the following is an example:
"_______and__________, the two separate candles symbolize your separate lives.
I ask that each of you take one of the lit candles and that together you light the center candle.
"The individual candles represent your lives before today.
Lighting the center candle represents that your two lives are now joined to one light, and represents the joining together of your two lives and families to one."
After the candle is lit, your officiant or an honored friend or family member may recite a blessing, such as the following:
"May the blessing of light
Be with you always,
Light without and light within.
And may the sun shine
Upon you and warm your heart
Until it glows
Like a great fire
So that others may feel
The warmth of your love
For one another."
Candle Ceremony (Wiccan)
The words of this Wiccan candle ceremony focus on the couple's union in marriage. However, this candle ceremony focuses less on two families uniting (as a unity candle ceremony does) than on two individuals coming together, yet remaining independent. Interfaith or nondenominational couples could certainly include it in their ceremony.
The priestess asks the bride and grooms to each light a candle. Another candle stands unlit.
"These two candles are yourselves.
Each of you is a whole and complete human being.
_________, speak to us of who you are.(Groom describes himself.)
_________ , speak to us of who you are. (Bride describes herself.)
"Together, light the third candle, but extinguish not the first two.
For in marriage you do not lose yourself; you add something new, a relationship, and the capacity to merge into one another without losing sight of your individual self.
Together, speak to us of who you are as a couple."
(Bride and groom alternate speaking.)
Candle Ceremony (Nondemonitional )
Multifaith clergywoman Joyce Gioia is known for her personalized candle rituals. Here is an example, done with a central "eternal light" and two individual candles for bride and groom:
"Now, we're going to engage in a ceremony of spiritual symbolism. Ancient sages tell us that for each of us, there is a candle, a symbol of our own inner light, but that no one can kindle his or her own candle. Each of us needs someone else to kindle it for us. When two people fall in love, they kindle each other's candles, creating great light and joy and glorious expectations".
"_______and_______, I'd like you to remember when it was in your relationship that you first realized you were truly in love and wanted to spend the rest of your lives together. And holding that thought. . .
"________, take this candle (groom picks up candle), symbol of the inner light in . Light it by the eternal light, with the dedication to rekindle it again and again, whenever necessary.
And ___________, take this candle (bride picks up candle), symbol of the inner light in.
Light it by the eternal light, with the dedication to rekindle it again and again, whenever necessary.
"With these candles, we can see how to achieve a beautiful marriage. In your marriage, you will try to bring these lights, the symbols of yourselves, closer and closer to each other, until they become one (bride and groom join their flames and hold them together)-one great torch of light, a radiant symbol of love, joy, peace, and harmony. This is the mystery of the union two become one.
"Yet, it is vitally important to remember that there are always really two (bride and groom divide their flames) in a marriage, each with his or her own desires, yearnings, dreams, and wishes. And these must be respected and responded to with great love, with great compassion, and with genuine tenderness.
"We know that it is the prayer of your beloved, as it is the prayer of each of us here, that you will continuously light these candles of love, so that there will always be light and joy, peace and harmony in your hearts and in your home (bride and groom set candles down).
"Please kiss each other."
Crossing Sticks (African-American)
Couples demonstrate their commitment by crossing tall wooden sticks in an African-American tradition that dates back to the time of slavery. The sticks represent the power and life force within trees. By crossing the sticks the couple expresses a wish for a strong and grounded beginning. If you decide to incorporate this tradition, you can choose large branches from both of your families' homes or a place meaningful to you as a couple.
Jumping the Broom (African-American)
An African tribal ritual had couples placing sticks on the ground to symbolize their home together. This may be the origin of broom jumping, which was popular among African-American slaves (who could not have official wedding ceremonies); it may also symbolize the sweeping away of evil spirits. The couple holds the broom together and sweeps in a circle while the officiant or families elder talk about the significance of the ritual. Then the broom is placed on the floor and the couple joins hands. Everyone counts to three-then you jump!
"Dark and stormy may come the weather,
This man and woman are joined together.
Let none but him that makes the thunder,
Put this man and woman asunder.
I therefore announce you both the same,
Be good, go long, and keep up your name.
The broomstick's jumped, the world's not wide,
She's now your own, go kiss your bride!"
Tasting the Four Elements (Yoruba)
In a ritual adapted from a Yoruba tradition, the bride and groom taste four flavors that represent different emotions within a relationship: sour (lemon), bitter (vinegar), hot (cayenne), and sweet (honey). By tasting each of the flavors, the couple symbolically demonstrates that they will be able to get through the hard times in life, and, in the end, enjoy the sweetness of their marriage.
Mala Badal (Bangladesh)
After the wedding feast, the ritual of Mala Badol is performed in Bangladesh and other South Asian countries. A thin cloth is placed over both the bride and the groom. They feed each other and share sips of borhani (a spicy yogurt drink) beneath the cloth. While looking at their reflection in a mirror, the bride and groom are asked,
"What do you see?"
They each answer with a romantic declaration, such as, "I see the rest of my life."
The couple then exchanges garlands of flowers. Recently, a new custom of exchanging rings has been added to the ritual.
Breaking the Glass (Jewish)
Crushing a wineglass under the groom's foot at the end of the ceremony is a Jewish tradition with many meanings. It's a symbol of the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem; a representation of the fragility of relationships; and a reminder that marriage changes the lives of individuals forever. Or, interpret it this way: Drinking the wine represents the joys and sweetness of life, and crushing the glass represents the hardships.
The bride offers dates and chestnuts-symbols of children-to the groom's
parents while sitting at a low table covered with other symbolic offerings. The parents offer sake in return, and as a final gesture they throw the dates and chestnuts at the bride, who tries to catch them in her large wedding skirt. Although this ritual traditionally takes place a few days after the wedding, in the United States the p'ye-baek is often held right before the reception, with the bride and groom in full Korean costume. Family members may also offer gifts of money in white envelopes to the bride.
Gifts of Eggs (Muslim)
Eggs, which represent fertility and righteousness in Islam, are often given to the couple as symbolic gifts. The bride and groom may be handed eggs and showered with rice, candy, and dried fruit as they leave the reception
Honey and Walnuts (Greece)
In some of the Greek islands, the wedding ceremony ends with honey and walnuts offered to the bride and groom from silver spoons. Walnuts are chosen because they break into four parts, symbolizing the bride, the groom, and their two families.