Rituals and Traditions: A-H

Affirmation of the Community

Also known as…

Community’s Declaration of Consent, Guests’ Vows of Consent, Community Vow of Consent

 

How do you do it?

A short and sweet element of a modern wedding ceremony, this is a positive twist on the old question: “If any person here knows of any just cause or impediment why these two should not be joined together in holy matrimony, let them speak now or forever hold their peace” – the source of many a shocking soap opera cliff-hanger. The affirmation of the community is a warmer, more inclusive and much less tense alternative. Just before your vows, you celebrant just asks your guests if they promise to support you and encourage you in your marriage – and they all shout out a big loud ‘yes!’ or ‘we do!’.

What’s the point?

The more you involve your guests in your wedding ceremony, the more they’ll engage in it and that, in turn, will make the two of you feel supported and loved and bring you all together, creating a gorgeous, warm atmosphere for the rest of the day. This is just one way to do that. It doesn’t push anyone out of their comfort zone. Lots of people aren’t keen on ‘audience participation’ but, in my experience, once wedding guests realise they just have to shout out one word, all together, even the most British of them does it with massive enthusiasm.

 

Anniversary Box

Also known as…

Wine Box, First Row Box, Love Letters Box, Marital First Aid Kit

How do you do it?

During your ceremony, you and your partner fill a box with objects that will bring your wedding day memories and emotions flooding back to you whenever you choose to open it. Couples most often fill the box with sealed love letters written to each other a day or two before the wedding and a bottle of good wine. One of my couples is also adding copies of their marriage vows and a handful of autumn leaves (which they’ll gather from the ground during their outdoor ceremony). Once the box is ready, you nail it shut and pledge to keep it sealed until an agreed date. This could be a big anniversary, your first serious row or bump in the road or a milestone such as the birth of your first child or buying your first home together. When you open it, you drink the wine together (obvs), read the letters and – with luck – recover the magic of your wedding day!

What’s the point?

The anniversary box is fun and creative to put together and it’ll make a great photo during your ceremony. Couples tell me they really look forward to opening their boxes up and, when they do, they bring back memories that had been completely buried.

 

Variations:

You can make the anniversary box more inclusive by inviting all your guests to bring along a tiny message or memento to put in the box. And – of course – you can customise the tradition by filling any kind of container with any selection of objects. You get the idea!

Breaking the Wine Glass

How do you do it?

An ancient Jewish wedding tradition, this is popular at celebrant-led weddings when one or both of the couple has a Jewish connection they want to weave into their ceremony. At the end of the wedding ceremony, traditionally only the husband – but nowadays often both spouses – stamp on a wine glass, wrapped for safety in a cloth napkin or bag. The sound of the breaking glass is a signal for the party to begin and for your guests to shout ‘mazel tov!’

What’s the point?

The ritual means different things depending on who you ask. Two common interpretations are that it represents the destruction of the second temple in Jerusalem in the first century AD or that it symbolises the fragility of marriage. There are so many different ideas about this that you can really pick the one that most resonates with you.  If you or your partner would like to bring an element of Jewish tradition into your non-religious ceremony, the best thing to do is to sit down with your celebrant and talk through the most appropriate and sensitive way to do this – perhaps consulting your more religious relatives if you want to involve them.  

Burying the Bourbon

How do you do it?

This isn’t strictly speaking a wedding ceremony tradition because you’re meant to do it before your wedding day. It’s an old custom from the southern states of America that the happy couple should visit their venue a month before their big day and bury a bottle of bourbon there. On your wedding day comes part two of the ritual – digging it up and drinking it!

What’s the point?

The tradition is meant to guarantee good weather on your wedding day. If it doesn’t work and you’ve wasted your time, you’ll want a glass of whisky anyway to console yourselves in the rain! This is a fab addition to your outdoor wedding ceremony – especially if one or both of you has southern roots (or a deep love of whisky!)

Variations:

I included this tradition because it has infinite variations - and I just love rituals that involve burying things! Burying something significant on your wedding day creates a permanent bond between the two of you and the ground where you stood to make your lifelong promises to each other. Making your mark on the landscape can feel like you’re setting those vows in stone. Instead of bourbon, you could bury handwritten copies of your vows or you could plant an acorn or find a couple of objects that – for each of you, represent your single life – which you are now leaving behind you. You could even bury some kind of treasure during your outdoor wedding and create a family tradition and a treasure map to pass on to your grandchildren!

Cake and Ale Ceremony

How do you do it?

In ancient Celtic weddings, the happy couple would toast their union with a mini feast of cake and ale. This rite is still very popular – especially as a part of handfasting ceremonies or neopagan weddings. Usually it comes at the end of your ceremony, after you’ve exchanged your rings. Your celebrant will invite you to share cake and ale with each other as a celebration of your love and the nourishment and pleasure that Mother Earth has to offer.

What’s the point?

Let’s be honest, a lot of people are attracted to this ritual because they like cake and they like ale! But beyond its obvious hedonistic appeal, it’s highly symbolic too. As you eat and drink together, your celebrant will ask you to ‘drink of each other’s love’ and to remember that your wellspring of love for each other has the power to nourish and sustain you at times of need.

Variations:

I’m yet to discover a culture that doesn’t have some sort of marriage tradition involving the sharing of food and drink. Ukrainian weddings feature a traditional bread loaf. At Polish weddings the parents of the newlyweds present them with bread, salt and two shots of Vodka. So take your influences from the places and cultures that you connect most deeply to – or create something unique that reflects your tastes. Swap cake and ale out and replace with shortbread and sherry, gin and Jaffa Cakes or Mojitos and muffins! And if you’ve got a story to tell about why you’ve chosen your particular combination, then all the better.

Chocolate Ceremony

Also known as…

The Sweet and the Bitter, Chocolate and Wine Ceremony

 

How do you do it?

This one’s short and – appropriately enough – sweet! You take a moment in your ceremony to each eat a piece of sweet white or milk chocolate and a piece of dark, bitter chocolate. It represents the ‘for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health’ aspect of marriage and gives you a moment to reflect on the fact that you’re sharing the good and the bad of yourselves and that your future will hold pain as well as happiness.

What’s the point?

See above. It definitely isn’t just an excuse to eat chocolate.  

Variations:

A lovely addition, if you’re big lovers of chocolate, is to widen the participation and give every one of your guests a white and a dark chocolate to eat at this point or to share with each other – a very exciting and interactive moment, that will really improve the mood of any children in attendance who were starting to get wriggly! Again, there are different versions of the ceremony involving different things to represent the sweetness and bitterness of life. A far eastern version of this ritual involves two cups of wine – one sweet and one dry. A lot of celebrants also use red wine as the sweet thing and dark chocolate as the bitter. As with the Cake and Ale ceremony, you really can mix it up to fit your tastes. Candyfloss and Coffee anyone…?

Circle rituals

Also known as…

The Seven Circles, Weddings in the Round, Saptapadi, Hakafot

How do you do it?

There are a lot of different rituals involving circling. In Jewish tradition, the bride circles the groom seven times. Many modern Jewish couples adapt this ritual to make it more egalitarian and inclusive – with the couple walking together in a circle or else circling each other three times and completing the seventh circle together. In Eastern European church weddings, it’s traditional for couples to circle the altar three times together as they take their first steps as husband and wife. At the other end of the conventional versus bohemian spectrum, many unconventional couples are choosing to shake up traditional wedding layouts and get married in the round – a lovely way to emphasise the equality of your guests and to place yourselves right at the centre of their love and support. There’s also an Indian tradition of couples circling a fire together;  to read more about that, see below under fire rituals.  

What’s the point?

Circles come up again and again as a symbol for marriage. A shape we see in the sun, the moon, each other’s eyes and our wedding rings, they’re seen as a symbol of unity, perfection and eternity. You can make use of circles in your wedding in very different ways, depending on the ideas you want to reflect or the traditions and cultures you want to involve. The starting point – as always – is to talk to your celebrant and work out the right (circular) path for you!

Cocktails

Also known as…

Unity Cocktails, Cocktail Blending Ceremony

How do you do it?

My gorgeous 2019 couple Jen and Jan made a unity cocktail as part of their wedding ceremony – with their own blend of spirits and mixers they’d carefully chosen to reflect the journeys they’ve been on together and their own family backgrounds as individuals. They had all the ingredients ready on a table and, after they’d exchanged rings and vows, they blended the cocktail together and then everyone there got a shot to toast the happy couple with before they walked back down the aisle. It was a lot of fun and made great photos. It even tasted nice. (I do recommend doing a few practice runs at home to get a recipe you’ll enjoy drinking!)

What’s the point?

The cocktail ritual is a unity ceremony; it symbolises the way two individuals come together to make a new whole – while each retaining their individuality. It’s a great option for your wedding ceremony if you’re looking a ritual that’s not too lovey dovey and you’re trying to establish a party atmosphere early!

Variations:

The cocktail could be non-alcoholic and the ritual can also be adapted to involve other family members and children. As always, your own quirks and interests are your material your imagination is the limit. I also heard of a fab individual twist on this idea where a couple of scientists getting married did an experiment together...

Dance

How do you do it?

If you’re a sucker for ‘awesome’ viral videos of brides and grooms doing things ‘YOU WON’T BELIEVE’ at their weddings, you could be forgiven for thinking you don’t deserve to get married if you can’t be bothered to have months of dance lessons so that you and your bridal party can sashay down the aisle in a stunningly choreographed entrance routine. In reality – shock, horror – I’m yet to meet a couple who want me to work with them on a wedding ceremony dance. Dancing can be a big part of some Indian weddings and there are some pretty cool wedding dance traditions in Sudan, Russia and the Philippines but here in Britain… well unless you’re a pair of professional dancers (in which case, give me a call and let’s do this!) most people choose to save the dancing for the reception. There is one exception to this though – which is why I’ve put dance in this A-Z (nothing to do with the fact I couldn’t think of anything else for D…) – and that’s kids. The British embarrassment gene doesn’t kick in until the age of about eight or nine so, if you’ve got little children who love dancing and you want to involve in your ceremony then what could be cuter?

What’s the point?

If you really want dance to play a part in your ceremony, then you should absolutely go for it! It’s personal, quirky and anything but boring. You will never have a more encouraging, loving and supportive bunch of people around you than your wedding day guests and if you love it, so will they.

  Charlotte Simpson Ceremonies - Bollington, Cheshire
Bespoke ceremonies in Cheshire and across the UK
Give me a call today on 07792 959586
  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • Pinterest
  • Instagram