I love weddings, and what I love most are the countless choices couples have from which to choose to make their ceremonies memorable. If you’d like to add a little something extra to declare your devotion to each other, to include your guests, or to celebrate your family, here are several options to consider as you plan your wedding day.
A Love Letter Wine Box Ceremony Celebrates Commitment
I like to think of the love letter wine box as the couple’s personal time capsule. Symbolically, the box represents the strength of the commitment you’ve made to each other. You can make a wooden box or purchase a customized wine box online. Traditionally, the couple places a bottle of wine and two glasses inside the box. However, some couples substitute the wine with whiskey, tequila, or other beverage of their choice.
Here’s how it works. Prior to the wedding, you’ll write a love letter to each other and seal the letters inside separate envelopes. During the ceremony, the officiant explains the symbolism of the wine box to the guests. Next, you’ll place the unread letters inside the box. Then the officiant or you—the couple—seals it with a hammer or drill. Wedding mementos, such as the invitation, program, a copy of the wedding vows, etc., may also be placed inside the box.
After the ceremony, there are two traditions that couples generally follow. Some choose a specific date to open the box, such as their, first, fifth, or tenth anniversary. Another option is to open the box when a couple has trouble in their marriage or after they’ve survived a hardship. For this reason, couples often choose to display their box in plain sight so it will serve as a reminder of their commitment to each other.
When the date arrives, you’ll open the box and hand your letters to each other. Then walk into separate rooms to read them. Once you’ve reunited in the same room, share a toast to celebrate the milestone you are commemorating. If you open the box during or after a rough patch in your marriage, it provides an opportunity to reconnect with each other and to reflect and remember why you fell in love.
Symbolically Tie the Knot During Your Ceremony
Have you ever wondered why we use the words “tie the knot” when a couple gets married? There’s a rich history behind this phrase. To tie the knot refers to the Ancient Celtic tradition of handfasting when a couple’s hands were bound together.
The origin story of handfasting varies, depending on the source. Some say it was the official marriage ceremony for Celtic couples. Other sources claim it was used to “bind” couples together for an agreed-upon time, such as a year and a day. After that time, the couple would break up, renew their agreement, or get married. Regardless of its beginnings, handfasting has become a popular add-on for both secular and religious ceremonies in modern times.
What I enjoy most about handfasting are the variety of ways to incorporate it and customize it to the couple’s wedding celebration. During the customary handfasting ritual, the officiant drapes, wraps, and ties the couple’s hands together with chords or ribbons prior to the declaration of marriage.
The colors of the chords are symbolic. For instance, red symbolizes strength and fertility while purple symbolizes strength and power. Pink represents unity, honor and truth whereas white is symbolic of spiritual purity, serenity, and devotion. The list goes on. Couples choose colors that represent the virtues they consider most important in their marriage. During the draping of the chords, the officiant explains the meaning of the colors to the guests and why they are important to the couple.
There are variations of handfasting. Some couples involve their parents in the draping ritual. One variation is that each parent drapes a cord over the couple’s hands. After all the chords are in the place, the officiant or a family member ties the knot. The beauty of handfasting is that no two handfasting ceremonies look or sound alike. The number of chords vary according to the couple’s preference.
Surround Yourself by Loved Ones
Instead of seating people in rows behind you, consider arranging the seats in a circle or, better yet, half-circle and getting married in the middle of it. What I love about this idea is that it feels more intimate and inclusive. With half-circle seating, guests at the end will have a much better view than they would with traditional row seating. If you arrange the chairs in a circle, be sure to leave room to enter and exit the center during the processional and recessional.
If you are in a larger venue, consider spiral seating. Instead of forming a perfect circle, arrange the chairs so the inner part of the circle is closest to the couple. The chairs should wind around the room, and the outer part of the spiral will wind around and circle behind the inner chairs. As you enter, you will walk through the spiral and by each guest as you make your way to the inner circle. A spiral is symbolic of a life change, so it’s perfect for the occasion. Your officiant can talk about the spiral, it’s symbolism, and why you’ve chosen to seat the guests this way.
If circular seating is not an option, a square is a nice alternative. You can place two or three rows of seats in a square around the couple. If you’d like, leave the fourth wall of the square open for the couple and officiant. This will ensure that all eyes are on the couple during the ceremony.
Many couples like to decorate the inside circle or square with ornate greenery, flowers, and other décor. This is the centerpiece of your wedding. Be creative.
A Ring-Warming Ceremony Gets Everyone Involved
This is a fun alternative to having a ring-bearer. Consider incorporating the Irish tradition of a ring-warming ceremony.
First, tie your rings together with a ribbon. Before or during the ceremony, the officiant will explain to your guests that they will briefly hold the rings and make a wish for the couple. If you’d like, you can play music to add a bit of charm to the ceremony.
Then, the rings are passed from one guest to another as they make their wishes, say a silent blessing, or send the gift of wisdom to the couple. This ceremony is often silent, but I like the idea of saying the wishes aloud. This can add a sentimental touch as well as humor to your ceremony. The rings are passed around the room until everyone has had a turn.
If your guest list is large and this would take too much time, consider placing a limit on the number of guests who pass the rings. You may want to limit it to your parents, grandparents, and siblings.
The idea behind this ritual is that when you place the rings on your fingers, you will carry with you the blessings and good wishes of your guests as you begin your marriage.
Involve Your Grandparents
What better way to honor the matriarchs of your family than to include them in your ceremony? Grandparents offer a lot of support in our lives and incorporating them in your ceremony is a beautiful way to thank them for everything they’ve done for you.
If you’ve seen pictures of grandmothers as flower girls, you’ve probably noticed that they are beaming with excitement. If you’re fortunate to have your grandmother or several grandmothers in your life, including them in your wedding is one of the best gifts you can give to them.
Don’t forget Grandpa. He can be the ring bearer, best man, or read a special passage during the ceremony. If you have several grandfathers, you can include them as ushers in your ceremony.
To honor grandparents who have passed away, consider making charms with their photos and attaching them to your bouquet. You can also place pictures of them on a table and light a candle in their honor during the ceremony.
Have Fun with the Details
There are limitless ways to add a little something extra to your ceremony to make the day memorable. Regardless of whether you choose traditional, modern, or blend a traditional ceremony with a uniquely-you add-on or special touch, have fun with it. You’ll leave a lasting impression on your guests and make your wedding day everything you’ve dreamed it could be.