Symbolic Gestures or Traditions

Making the wedding ceremony truly your own.

Over the years, the wedding ceremony has become enriched through the use of various symbolic gestures or the observance of various traditions. Here are some of the more popular, but there are many, many more. Choose from among these if you like, or help us learn more about your family’s traditions – or even start a new one!

The Sand Ceremony

Rainbow Weddings Sand Ceremony

Sand Ceremony

The history of the sand ceremony is largely attributed to the Hawaiians, who have integrated the practice into their marriage ceremonies for years. Many Hawaiian weddings are held by the beach shores, and the practice of scooping sand from the ground and combining it into one container has long symbolized a couple’s union.

Sand is often used to represent the passing of time and the journey of life. The Hawaiians, therefore, thought it fitting to use sand to symbolize the joining of two lives together, because once the sand is poured together it can never be separated – the sand becomes one – as in marriage.

The Unity Candle

Rainbow Weddings Unity Candle

Unity Candle

The lighting of a unity candle is a relatively recent addition to the traditional wedding ceremony, most popular in the United States. The unity candle ceremony uses two taper candles with a large pillar candle (called the “unity candle”) in the center. At the beginning of the wedding ceremony, a representative from each family (usually the mothers of the bride and groom) light the two taper candles. Later in the ceremony (usually after the formal vows), the bride and groom use the two taper candles to light the large pillar (unity) candle together.

The Rose Ceremony

Rainbow Weddings red rose ceremony

red rose ceremony

The Rose Ceremony is simple yet moving. The couple exchanges two roses, symbolizing the giving and receiving of their love for each other throughout their entire married life. The Rose Ceremony also conveys how to use the rose and its symbolism in difficult times in order to forgive each other.

The Officiant can hand the roses to the couple, or the Officiant can invite the couple’s parents or honor attendants up to hand them their roses.

Jumping the Broom

Rainbow Weddings jumping_the_broom

jumping the broom

This tradition most likely originated with an African ritual in which a broom is used to demonstrate that all past problems have been swept away. During slave days, African-Americans were forbidden to marry and live together, so jumping over a broom was a formal and public declaration of the couple’s commitment.

Today, it has become very popular for couples to follow suit at the conclusion of their wedding ceremony. The broom, often handmade and beautifully decorated, can be displayed in the couple’s home after the wedding.

Hand Fastening

Rainbow Weddings Sand Ceremony

Sand Ceremony

This particular tradition shows up in many cultures. It was used in Scotland in ancient times, and shows up in some African tribes as well. In this tradition, the bride and groom have their wrists tied together with cloth or braided grass to represent their marriage.

In the African version, to symbolize unity, the officiant or a close friend ties the couple’s wrists together with a piece of kente cloth or a strand of cowrie shells (symbols of fertility and prosperity), while they affirm their commitment.

The Four Elements

Rainbow Weddings Four elements

Four elements

In a ritual adapted from a Yoruba tradition, the bride and groom taste four flavors that represent different emotions within a relationship. The four flavors typically used are sour (lemon), bitter (vinegar), hot (cayenne), and sweet (honey). By tasting each of the flavors, the couple symbolically demonstrates that they will be able to get through the hard times in life, and, in the end, enjoy the sweetness of marriage.