29 Heartfelt Unity Ceremony Ideas to Add to Your Wedding Vows

Lighting candles and pouring sand are good starts, but there's more where that came from.
sarah hanlon entertainment and celebrity editor the knot
by
Sarah Hanlon
sarah hanlon entertainment and celebrity editor the knot
Sarah Hanlon
Entertainment & Celebrity Editor
  • Sarah is the Entertainment & Celebrity Editor for The Knot, with special focuses on pop culture and celebrity wedding news.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Sarah was a contributing writer for Bravo at NBC Universal.
  • Sarah has a degree in journalism and resides in New York City.
Updated Jan 11, 2024

There are plenty of ways to make your wedding ceremony special, from personalized vows to a thoughtful music playlist. You can also honor your marriage with one of these unity ceremony ideas, like lighting a candle, tying a rope or planting a tree. We're sharing 29 wedding unity ideas that are creative and customizable, whether you're looking for something traditional that honors your culture or unique unity ceremony ideas that are a little more unexpected. Plus, we explain why you should even have a unity ceremony in the first place, followed by what to consider when you're planning your own.

In this article:

What Is a Wedding Unity Ceremony? | Unity Ceremony Ideas | FAQs

What Is a Wedding Unity Ceremony?

A unity ceremony is a symbolic activity or action that's performed by the couple during the wedding ceremony. Parents, children and other loved ones may also participate in the unity ceremony, depending on the circumstances.

A wedding unity ceremony "is one of my favorite parts of any wedding, as it is completely personalized to the couple," shares wedding planning expert Jaclyn Watson, owner and principal planner at Jaclyn Watson Events. "It is all about your journey and the two of you uniting as one. It is a time when you can share with your guests anything that you want and fully immerse them." Expert wedding officiant Minister Sharnise Sears goes on to explain that "a unity ceremony is a special part of the weddings ceremony where the couple has the opportunity to demonstrate a unique part of their relationship. This can be expressed through religious or cultural traditions or it can even be something unique and created by the couple," says Sears.

Now, more couples are finding creative ways to represent their union that feels modern and personal. From planting succulents to blending your own bottle of wine, the sky's the limit when it comes to unity wedding ideas. In fact, the more personal your unity ceremony, the better—guests will always remember the special way you and your S.O. honored your partnership.

Wedding Unity Ceremony Ideas

Incorporating a unity ritual is an easy but meaningful way to personalize your wedding ceremony. Whether you want something that's religious, cultural or just for fun, let these unity wedding ceremony ideas inspire you.

1. Tree Watering Unity Ceremony

Plant parents, take note. If you and your S.O. are aspiring horticulturists, consider having a tree-watering ceremony at your wedding. This alternative for a unity candle is especially appropriate for nature lovers or those looking to brighten up their home with a new plant. After watering the tree during your ceremony, it'll grow and flourish in your newlywed nest alongside your marriage.

2. Tree Planting Ceremony

For a more hands-on option than watering a plant, you and your partner could consider actually planting some greenery. Have a container with some trowels and dirt to sprinkle atop the plant as a symbol of your relationship and the tending you'll give to it to help your love grow. Of course, this option has the potential to be slightly messier than just watering a botanical so make sure to partake carefully to avoid ruining a wedding dress or tuxedo.

3. Log-Cutting Unity Ceremony

How about cutting a log at your wedding? This unique unity ceremony idea is an old German wedding tradition that serves as the first obstacle for newlyweds to tackle together. In front of family and friends, couples must rely on teamwork and determination to cut through a log together. While it may not be the most subdued wedding unity idea, it's a fun alternative for couples looking to shake up their ceremony with something memorable.

4. Guacamole Unity Ceremony

Guac, anyone? There are no rules that say your wedding unity ceremony has to be tied to religion. If you're looking for unique unity ceremony ideas, consider whipping up your favorite snack in front of your guests. As you and your S.O. mix the ingredients, ask your officiant to share why this food is special to you. Perhaps you enjoyed chips and guac on your first date, or maybe every Tuesday is taco night at your place. Regardless of the reason, guests will enjoy seeing you do something that's special to your relationship. (Psst: Don't forget to have a bag of tortilla chips nearby to enjoy your first dip as newlyweds.)

5. Succulent-Planting Unity Ceremony

Not everyone is born with a green thumb. If a tree-planting ceremony feels like too big of a commitment, opt for a more manageable plant instead, like a succulent. Task your wedding planner or a family member with setting up planting tools, dirt and a pot before the ceremony. Then, after sharing your wedding vows, mark your new beginning by planting a shrub together.

6. Bonfire Unity Ceremony

Perhaps a unity candle ceremony isn't bold enough for you. If you really want to wow your crowd, start a bonfire instead. Perfect for an outdoor wedding, this unique alternative to a unity candle will certainly make your nuptials stand out. Create a designated fire pit before the ceremony and signify your love by sparking a bonfire. This is an exceptionally great idea if you dream of serving s'mores at your wedding reception.

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7. Knot-Tying Unity Ceremony

Getting married is called "tying the knot" for a reason. If you're looking for a symbolic wedding unity idea, literally tie a knot with your spouse to signify your bond. We recommend using a fisherman's knot to tie a piece of rope—not only is it the strongest knot, it gets tighter with pressure, making it a beautiful representation of your relationship. Spend a few days practicing your knot-tying skills before the ceremony to impress your loved ones.

8. Handfasting Ceremony

Handfasting unity ceremonies are rooted in Celtic tradition. In this ancient ritual, a couple's hands are tied together to symbolize the binding of two lives. While it's commonly seen in Pagan or Wiccan ceremonies, handfasting can be included in any religious or secular wedding.

9. Stefana Crown Unity Ceremony

If you or your partner are Greek, you might want to participate in a Stefana crown ceremony. This religious practice is often included in Greek Orthodox weddings. After a marriage service, the officiant (or a family member) places joint Stefana crowns on the couple. Both headpieces are tied together with a ribbon, which is blessed during the ceremony. The crowns represent the couple's welcome into God's kingdom.

10. Lasso Ceremony

Common in Hispanic, Filipino and Latin cultures, the Catholic lasso ceremony involves a cord, flower garland or oversized rosary that's draped over the couple's shoulders. The lasso can be placed by the officiant, or the couple can choose "lasso godparents" (another married couple they respect) to lay the cord. While you can buy a new lasso for your wedding date, some are passed down through families to serve as "something borrowed." It's encouraged to use a special draping technique that begins on one person's shoulder and crosses over to the other's, creating a figure-eight shape. This symbolizes the couple's commitment to each other in front of their family, friends and God. "It's originally a Catholic tradition, but some non-religious couples still incorporate it because of its deep symbolism," explains Lisette Gatliff of Lisette OC Photography. "Many couples choose not to do any kind of unity ceremony, but it should be something to consider. It provides a symbolic ritual to the ceremony that can be personalized, which ends up being a unique and special moment that the couple will always remember."

    11. Hasta Milap Ceremony

    If you're planning a Hindu wedding ceremony, consider including a traditional Hasta Milap fastening. In this Indian wedding tradition, the couple's wedding clothes (like a scarf or a sari) are tied together over their hands. This signifies the meeting of two hearts and souls. Afterwards, family members scatter rose petals or rice grains over the newlyweds.

    12. Tea Unity Ceremony

    Unique unity wedding ceremony with tea
    Photo: Jayd Gardina Photography

    A unity tea ceremony is a frequent tradition in Chinese weddings, and there are a few ways to modify it for your big day. Traditionally, the couple serves tea to their parents and in-laws in a separate room before the ceremony to symbolize the union of two families. This is a great option if you're looking for something a bit more private. Or, if you want to include this wedding unity idea in your ceremony, pour two cups of tea to sip after your vows.

    13. Wine Ceremony

    ​​Mixing two different wines symbolizes the hard work and nurturing your new marriage will need, just like how good wine needs years of hard work before producing a finished bottle. After making your custom blend, take a sip and toast to your future as a married couple. You can also buy your favorite bottle and seal it in a wine box to be opened (and enjoyed) on a future wedding anniversary.

    14. Sealing Love Letters

    Write love letters to each other before your wedding day, then craft a unity ceremony that gives you a few minutes to seal them in a special box that can be opened during a milestone anniversary. Not only is this an intimate moment for your friends and family to witness, but it's also an activity you can look forward to further down the road in your marriage.

    15. Liquor Box Unity Ceremony

    Instead of doing an anniversary wine box, consider storing a different spirit during the ceremony. It is your wedding, after all, so you get to call the shots. Whether you and your partner love gin, whiskey, rum or tequila, invest in a nice bottle to drink on a special anniversary.

    16. Hand-Washing Unity Ceremony

    Yes, washing your hands during your wedding ceremony is a thing—and it's rooted in symbolism. A hand-washing unity ceremony signifies a clean beginning to married life. Buy a basin and a pitcher, and pour water over your S.O.'s hands and have them repeat for you. You can also ask your officiant to pour water over your hands to wash them at the same time.

    17. Ribbon Binding Ceremony

    Consider this a modern take on the traditional handfasting ritual. Instead of tying your hands together with rope, use colorful ribbons instead. Not only is this a great way to work in your color palette, but it's also a modern approach to a traditional wedding practice.

    18. Unity Sand Ceremony

    sand unity ceremony at wedding
    Photo: SUZANNE KRONER

    You've probably heard of a unity sand-pouring ceremony before, as it's one of the most popular ideas out there. After exchanging vows, partners will pour two separate containers of colored sand into one, symbolizing the blending of two lives. If you're looking for unity wedding ideas to complete with your children, pouring sand is a safe activity for them to participate in too. Since each member of your family will have their own color, the result will be a heartfelt representation of each person. Display it in your home after the wedding day to look back on this sentimental unity ceremony.

    19. Candle Unity Ceremony

    Perhaps one of the most common unity ceremony ideas is lighting the unity candle. This usually involves both partners lighting one large candle from two smaller taper candles, but if you have children, you can include them in the lighting ceremony too. To make this unity ceremony even more special, ask your family members to light the smaller candlesticks before passing them to you and your S.O.

    20. Ring Warming

    wedding guests pass the wedding rings among themselves for a ring warming ceremony
    Photo: Lizzie Randazzo Photography

    As a way of involving your guests in the commitment you're making, pass around the rings prior to exchanging them. Guests can warm them with their hands while offering silent blessings and well wishes for the marriage they signify.

    21. Tequila Shot Unity Ritual

    tequila unity ceremony at wedding
    Photo: PHOTO BY JULIETA

    Get the party started early with a shot of your favorite alcohol. If you're hosting a destination wedding known for a certain type of liquor, you could toast with a local brew.

    22. Painting Unity Ritual

    painting wedding unity ceremony
    Photo: NAMUUN BAT PHOTOGRAPHY

    This option is great for crafty to-be-weds who want a piece of art by which to remember their big day. Gathering different colors of paint and create a masterpiece as your paint colors meld with the color your partner chose.

    23. Breaking the Glass

    If you and your partner are hosting a Jewish wedding, a breaking the glass ritual is a great way to end the ceremony. The breaking of the glass is a reminder of your commitment to each other despite your marriage not being perfect since something, in this case the glass, has already been broken during your time together.

    24. Jumping the Broom

    Many Black and African-American couples choose to include the tradition of jumping the broom at the very end of their wedding ceremony. This ritual symbolizes a few things for the newlyweds: it's said to 'sweep' away evil and the couple's old selves, while also celebrating their jump into a new life together. As with many cultural traditions, it is best to speak with your officiant and only include traditions of cultures you're personally connected to.

    25. Noodle Eating Ritual

    Instead of partaking in their ritual during the wedding ceremony, this couple chose to enjoy a traditional Chinese noodle eating ritual, as a symbol of longevity, during their first look. If your chosen unity ceremony involves a lot of materials to set up, the first look might be a simpler time to partake since you have more flexibility without all the wedding guests looking on.

    26. Native American Wedding Vase

    Native American Wedding Vase Tradition
    Photo: Katherine Miles Jones

    This special Native American wedding ritual is an important part of the ceremony for many different tribes. On the wedding day, the vase, which has two spouts, is filled with blessed water. Depending on the customs of their tribe, the couple either takes turns drinking the water or they both try to drink the water at the same time without spilling. After the wedding, the vase is cherished as a keepsake and can be passed down through generations.

    27. Foot Washing

    This unity ceremony idea is usually performed by Christian couples. Each person takes turns washing their partner's feet during the ceremony to symbolize humility, respect and dedication.

    28. Blessing Stones

    For a non-traditional unity ceremony idea, set a basket of stones at the entrance of your ceremony venue and ask each guest to take a stone before they sit down. During the ceremony, you can ask guests to hold their stones in their hand as your officiant reads a marriage blessing, or reserve a moment for guests to silently say their own blessings for you while holding the stones. Afterwards, you can return the stones to nature (like tossing them into the ocean or placing them around the base of the tree) or showcase them at home in a glass vase or bowl.

    29. Arras Coins

    Exchanging arras coins is common during Catholic ceremonies in Latin America, Spain and the Philippines. For this wedding unity idea, you'll need 13 coins—usually made of gold or platinum—and a basket or pouch. Once the coins are presented (usually by a coin bearer nominated by the couple), the priest blesses the coins and passes them to the couple. The coins are exchanged back and forth between the couple to symbolize the sharing of their riches and a commitment to always provide for each other in their marriage.

    Wedding Unity Ceremony Frequently Asked Questions

    Before deciding which unity ceremony idea (if any) is right for you, it's important to understand what's involved so you have a good grasp of all the details. Read through these short FAQs to decide what's best for your needs.

    Do you need a wedding unity ceremony?

    Adding a unity ceremony to your wedding is totally optional, but it's a thoughtful way for you and your partner to honor your commitment. Plus, most wedding unity ideas include a special keepsake (like a potted plant or a wedding day time capsule) that you can enjoy after the big day.

    "Unity ceremonies are not something you have to do, but it is an excellent way to customize their wedding ceremony," says Watson. "Couples should consider it because it shares an intimate moment that reflects who you are as a couple and allows the guests to see that and be a part of it. It is a symbolic tradition that the couple can have fun with and look back on in the years to come."

    If you're not sure what kind of wedding unity ceremony is right for you, work with your officiant to find a symbolic ritual that fits your vision. Whether you want to include a religious or cultural ceremony or you have an idea for something totally unique, they'll help you weave it into the timeline.

    When does a unity ceremony happen?

    The unity ceremony usually takes place after you say your vows and before you exchange wedding rings, but you can weave it into the schedule at any time. Consult your officiant about the best timing depending on your specific unity ritual—for more elaborate ideas, it might be best to do it at the very beginning or end of the ceremony.

    Is there a unity ceremony script to follow?

    There's no one-size-fits-all approach to wedding unity ceremonies, so there's no exact script you or your officiant need to follow. The script (or lack thereof) will depend on the specific ceremony idea you choose. For example, a unity candle or sand pouring might be accompanied by a reading about two paths joining as one, while a celebratory shot of tequila might call for a simple 'bottom's up.' You can also choose ceremony interlude music to play in the moment or while you're waiting for family to join. "I always encourage couples to either create a spin on the traditional unity ceremonies such as allowing family or friends to be a part of that moment or to do something completely unique like incorporate things they love to do together," says Minister Sears.

    Samantha Iacia contributed to the reporting of this article.

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