Unity Ceremonies for Every Type

Carolyn Dix Remer
Cynthia and Nicholas Beyers put a twist on their unity ceremony, creating and toasting with two Manhattans.

Whether you're part of a couple that veers traditional or one that chucks convention right out the window, the unity ceremony is the perfect way to symbolize your union.

“A unity ceremony is typically part of a larger wedding ceremony, and it symbolizes leaving the two individual selves behind and coming together into one new unit,” says Chase Waits, an officiant with Columbus Wedding Officiants.

The traditional unity ceremony—the unity candle—actually involves two candles on each side of a larger one in the center. Typically, the mothers of the betrothed light each of the side candles, says Heather Christopher, wedding coordinator with Jorgensen Farms. Each partner then uses a side candle to light the center candle together, representing the two families becoming one.

However, if you want the symbolism of a unity ceremony with something different or all your own, you're in luck: options abound.

One of the more popular twists on the unity ceremony is the sand ceremony. Each partner has a container filled with different colored sand, which they take turns pouring into a new container. “The symbolism is that you couldn't separate those two colors back out,” Waits says.

The wine box ceremony is another popular option. Before the ceremony, each partner writes a letter to the other about why they fell in love. The letters are sealed in a box with a bottle of wine during the ceremony itself. On their fifth anniversary (or at another pre-determined date), they open the box, drink the wine and read the letters.

Many couples like to literally “tie the knot” in a handfasting or knot-tying ceremony. Handfasting is an ancient Irish wedding tradition, while other forms of knot ceremonies may involve simply tying a knot that cannot easily be untied.

Some couples choose to plant a tree together, says Bryan Wright, senior director of catering for the Grand Event Center. The couple then replants the tree at their home after the ceremony. But Wright has seen plenty of other creative takes on the unity ceremony, including paintings and even a unity cocktail.

“Really, the sky's the limit,” Waits says. “Anything that the couple would want to include, they should definitely be encouraged to do.”

When Cynthia and Nicholas Beyers wed in February 2016, they conducted a “Manhattan ceremony,” which they felt truly represented them.

“We both like to enjoy cocktails and wine together,” Nicholas says. They both enjoy Manhattans, and the ingredients—whiskey, bitters, sweet vermouth and a cherry—also symbolized them joining as a couple.

“Apart they can be too bold, too sweet, too bitter, too smooth or too harsh, but then when you combine them together they really complement each other,” Nicholas says.

After combining the ingredients and pouring the Manhattans into two glasses, the couple raised their cocktails in a toast with their guests, who also had drinks from the open bar.

“They all loved that we could cheers with them during the ceremony,” says Cynthia. “They all thought it was very different and unique. People are still talking about it.”