This summer, I am getting one more sister-in-law and I have a feeling the wedding is going to be glam-tabulous! Recently, she polled Facebook for alternative ideas for a unity ceremony. Her question reminded me of my own experience.
As I planned my wedding, I questioned everything, particularly the unity ceremony. “It’s just what we do at weddings” was less than satisfying. I figured a wedding was already a symbol of unity (bride and groom unite as a symbol of Christ’s union with His church). In my quest to be off-beat at the time, I just didn’t see the point. Now, my perspective is a little different. (Keep reading to find out what crazy unity ceremony we actually used in our wedding).
I couldn’t find much information on the history of the unity ceremony in marriage. Partaking in the eucharist is a powerful symbol used in the catholic church during weddings. Eating the bread and drinking the wine memorializes Christ’s death to purchase His bride, the church, for Himself.
Sometime in the 80’s, the unity candle became popular in non-catholic weddings. The mothers of both the bride and groom light individual candles, which the couple then use to light a single candle, signifying the unity of two families into one.
Over time, other activities have taken the place of the unity candle, including unity sand, unity chord, and even the unity sandwich!
Of course, a couple has the freedom to trash or cherish the expectation for a unity symbol in their wedding ceremony. A bride who strives for a Christ-centered wedding might like to use a unity symbol to exemplify the following Scriptures:
What the Bible says:
I cannot find any symbols in scripture for marital unity. Again, marriage itself is a symbol of the unity of Christ and the church:
21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wifeas he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Ephesians 5:21-33
The point is:
Not only can a unity symbol be a lasting reminder of your own covenant/commitment to one another; it can also be a symbol of Christ’s love for the world, His covenant to those who accept Him as Savior. Your wedding ceremony is a unique opportunity to share this truth with people in your sphere of influence.
With that in mind, here are a few unique, meaningful activities that symbolize such commitment and unity.
1. Signing a New Bible Together: My friends signed a beautiful Bible during their wedding ceremony, right after sharing communion together. This became their family Bible, a treasure they plan to share with their children someday as they read family devotions together.
As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. Luke 6:47-48
Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. Acts 20:32
2. Flower Arranging: When my friend asked me to write her unity ceremony, I was skeptical of her idea to arrange flowers in a vase. It sounded anticlimactic, but it was actually quite beautiful! The officiant cited this verse and reminded the couple of God’s provision for every season of their marriage.
“Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!… But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” Luke 12:27-28, 31
3. Foot Washing: Though foot washing doesn’t tangibly represent unity, it is the most convincing display of humility and servanthood necessary for a marriage that reflects Christ. My sister, Rachel, and her husband washed each other’s feet in a very moving ceremony that would mean more than they ever could have dreamed. Several years, and 2 kids later, her husband would survive a devastating accident and need Rachel’s gentle care and patience for the long road of recovery. She has stood faithfully, and humbly, by his side through it all.
Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him…
When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. John 13:3-5, 12-17
4. Unity Sand: My sister-in-law, Amber, had a gorgeous unity sand ceremony. The couple placed a rock at the bottom of the vase to represent God, the rock on which their marriage would stand. Their ceremony notes went something like this:
We start with an empty vase. Just as this couple has decided to enter into marriage with no expectations, allowing God to shape and fill each moment according to his will.
Jesus said in Luke 6 that “Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.”
(Places a rock in the bottom of the vase). This stone represents how Will and Amber plan to build their marriage with Jesus as the foundation, keeping their faith and commitment in God at the center of their life together.
(After mixing the sand) God looks on this day with precious thoughts; as you symbolize your commitment through these grains of sand, remember the words of David: “How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand.” Psalm 139:17-18
5. Unity Chord: The unity chord is a strategic symbol for the Christ Centered wedding. Three chords, ribbons, or ropes, are tied or braided representing Holy Spirit, Husband, and Wife:
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:12
6. Splatter Paint: I would LOVE to see this one at a wedding someday. Both families can contribute a color, or color family, to a white canvas. You could add a color to represent the Holy Spirit’s role in your marriage. Get the whole family, wedding party, or entire crowd of guests involved. Use balloons filled with paint, or brushes, to splatter paint that intermingles, much like love over time. (This would be a super fun rehearsal dinner activity; display the art at the wedding after a night of drying!)
The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Genesis 3:23-25
7. Love Lock: Give your wedding a Parisian flair with this love lock symbol. Spruce up a simple padlock with paint, a quote or verse, or your initials. Lock it around something meaningful, like a chunk of chain-link fence (frame it for quirky wall art), a metal wall hanging or frame (from Hobby Lobby?), or even a love-letter box. The lock symbolizes the seal, or secure guarantee of commitment and love that Christ gives us through the cross.
Place me like a seal over your heart,
like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
like a mighty flame.
Many waters cannot quench love;
rivers cannot sweep it away. Song of Songs 8:6-7
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14
8. Worship Songs: Shane and I included a worship session in our reception. Although worship is not just an act of singing songs, I truly believe music has the ability to unite our hearts and stir our affections for God.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:15-17
Bonus. Unity S’more: Since I promised, I will share that Shane and I had a unity S’MORE at our wedding. It was delicious, messy, and the perfect representation of our life together. Our officiant even said “the graham cracker represents God holding all things together.” Classic.
Campfire Check In:
What Unity Symbol will you use (or did you use) at your wedding?
If any readers would like to send me PICTURES of one of these 8 unity ceremonies, with your permission (or your photographer’s!) I would be honored to feature them in this article!
All photos courtesy of Unsplash unless otherwise noted.