I thought I would take a few posts to write about the various unity ceremonies that can be included in wedding ceremonies. There are not only so many wonderful rituals and traditions that you can include – but there are so many variations on each of them.
Let’s start with one of my favorites, the sand unity ceremony.
In this ceremony, the bride and groom pour sand into a central vessel, to represent the many aspects of their lives coming together, and their marriage and lives will be as hard to break apart as it would be to separate the many grains of sand.
How It Works
We have the props set up on a small table at the front, which is usually directly behind where I am standing during the ceremony. When it is time for the ceremony (usually at the end, just before the closing remarks and after the ring vows), the couple separates, each standing on one side of the table. Depending on the room, I either go to stand behind the table, or I’ll go stand in front, slightly off-center, near the groomsmen.
Usually, there are two vials of colored sand, with a central (empty) vessel. Sometimes, we will have a third color (if they’re incorporating kids in the ceremony, they’ll have their own color, or they can pour their parent’s color for step-families).
If the couple wanted to include their family or parents, I invite them up to stand on each side. If we’re including kids, they’ll stand near their relevant color. I then introduce the ceremony, and explain the meaning and relevance of the sand.
Our couple stands before two vessels of colored sand. These represent their lives as separate individuals, and separate families. Each one holds its own unique beauty, strength, and character. They can stand on their own and be whole, without need of anything else. However, when these sands are blended together, they create an entirely new and extraordinarily more intricate entity. Each grain of sand brings to the mixture a lasting beauty that forever enriches the combination.
Just as these grains of sand can never be separated and poured again into the individual containers, so will your marriage be a molding of two individual personalities, bonding together and forming one heart and one life.
At this point, I ask the parents/family members/kids to pour a single layer of their sand, to represent the base of support and love they have for the couple. They are then seated.
Then the couple pours their layers, individually, to represent their prior lives and the retention of their own unique-ness as they are joined together in marriage.
And then, to symbolize their marriage, the couple pours the remaining sand together, mingling the two colors. If the couple has children or step-children they want to really incorporate into the ritual, they’ll often pour their sand at the same time as the couple as well, mingling all of their colors together.\
If the wedding is on a beach, or there is some relevant sand the couple has provided, I’ll then “seal” the top by pouring a layer of this sand, and mentioning its meaning.
Here is a very poor diagram to give you an idea of the layers:
I love this ritual because afterwards, you have a beautiful sand sculpture to keep! I did a wedding last summer that was smaller, and a year to the day they had a big vow renewal and poured new layers onto the sand – a beautiful way to symbolize their first year of marriage.
Pouring the sand, the first year.
Parents pouring the first layers of the sand, a year later.
Where do you get the sand?
There are tons of places to buy unity sand ceremony sets (you can get even get fancy and get them engraved!) online. They even match them to David’s Bridal and Alfred Angelo colors, if you want to be super coordinated! I’ve also found beautiful sparkly colored sand at craft stores (check out the floral department, it’s often used for filler in vases for arrangements, or in the wedding section, or in the kid’s section [for play sand]), and even some bridal stores are beginning to carry it.
And make sure that you bring something to cover the vase up with, so it doesn’t get too jostled on the way home if you intend to keep it. You can pour a layer of melted wax (from a candle or just purchasing some wax and melting it) to really “seal” the top so it won’t get too mixed up.
Not Just for Sand!
And why not think outside the box even more? It doesn’t have to just be sand! My fiance and I were having trouble finding a ritual that really resonated with us, but knew we wanted to include something… lately, we’ve been throwing around the idea of doing a “sand” ceremony with salt and pepper! We’d get colored salt (probably grey or pink gourmet sea salt) and colored peppercorns (leaning towards green or pink), and do the typical sand ceremony actions, with a bit of a twist on the wording.
Are you planning on including a sand ceremony? Are there any other unity rituals you’d like to learn more about?