The wedding ceremony is the most ancient of human customs. In every culture we find the solemnizing of the commitment of two people in love and their official recognition as a married couple. There can be striking differences from culture to culture, but the essential parts are:
· A government issued and properly executed marriage license.
· An officiant or minister (official witness).
· The exchange of vows by the couple creating the marriage.
Everything else is an option. Even the rings themselves are not essential. Some people have asked me for a ceremony which lasts five minutes or less. Others want a ceremony which is more involved. In order to create the kind of ceremony you want, it is helpful to discuss some options. You may even have your own ideas that will personalize your day making it a truly memorable event for you, your family and friends. Here are a few ceremonial items you may consider.
· Self Written Vows
It is becoming more common for Brides and Grooms to have their own prepared vows.
· Unity Candles / Unity Sand Blending
This is also nice way to include some more people in your ceremony. Two slender unlit candles are placed on either side of a larger unlit candle. One of the side candles represents the Bride, her family, where she comes from and all that she brings to offer her husband. The other similarly represents the Groom. These side candles are quite often lighted by the mothers of the Bride and Groom representing their respective families. The Bride and Groom then lift their individual candles and lower the joined flames lighting the center candle representing their marriage.
When the ceremony is outside, it can be a challenge to keep candles lit. A better choice might be to use two glass containers each filled with a different color of beautifully sparkling sand. A large glass container sits between waiting to be filled with a swirling pattern of colors. Make sure when you purchase the glass containers that the middle one has an opening large enough so that the both colors of sand can be poured simultaneously.
· Guest Readers or Singers
Although this is less common than it used to be, it is a way to bring in a favorite relative or an important friend who does not necessarily fit into the traditional category of a Groomsman or Bridesmaid in order to honor their contribution to your relationship, especially if you have someone who is a gifted speaker or singer.
· The First Gift
This is a beautiful option and can be used to also honor the mothers. The Bride and Groom take two ceremonial roses, and together they walk over first to one of their mothers, then to the other and give them the roses which now become the first gifts they give out as a married couple.
· Veil, Lasso and Coins
This Hispanic tradition is also very popular in the Philippines. At a certain point during the ceremony, a ceremonial veil is placed over the Groom's shoulders and the Bride's head. This symbolizes the unity of the two families into one and is also a prayer for health and protection for the couple during their married life. Sometimes accompanying this is the Latino tradition of draping a lasso or cord around the Bride and Groom while they are kneeling. Padrinos, two special relatives or Sponsors the couple has chosen may also present the Groom with gold coins representing prosperity which he then gives to the Bride as his symbol of being the provider and she accepts as a promise to run the household carefully.
· Huppa and Glass
This Jewish custom has the ceremony take place under a Canopy or Huppa signifying the home being created by the Bride and Groom. At the end of the ceremony a delicate glass is carefully wrapped in a cloth or napkin and placed in front of the Groom who stomps on it breaking the glass. Just as the glass can never again be re-assembled, so the Groom with his defiant stamp emphatically declares that no one can ever break up this marriage.
· Jumping the Broom
This custom seems to have originated in Africa, but can also be traced to Scandinavia. The Bride and Groom signify their entrance into a new life and their creation of a new family by symbolically "sweeping away" their former single lives, former problems and concerns, and stepping over the broom to enter upon a new adventure as husband and wife.