After almost twenty-one years hosting weddings in the beautiful Black Hills, Joanne Wagner, founding owner/operator of Black Hills Reception & Rentals, has probably seen just about every kind of ceremony you can imagine! The Unity portion of the ceremony used to consist of the simple lighting of a single candle from two separate candles. Anymore, the ways to celebrate Unity are limited only to the creativity of those involved!
The origins of the unity candle/sand portion of the wedding ceremony are that they are a fairly recent addition to a traditional ceremony and more popular in the United States than anywhere else in the world. However, over the millennia, many, many cultures have practiced one form or another of recognizing the union of two families, or even two individuals, becoming one. The Navajo Indians used a pottery bowl, water, and a spoon or ladle. The Bride uses the spoon to pour the water over the hands of the Groom, ceremonially cleansing him from any wrongs he may have done in the past and ushering in the era of the Bride and Groom facing their journey together from that point forward. The ancient Hindu also had a ritual cleansing ceremony to show the new unity of the Bride and Groom: their parents would use water and milk (a precious commodity to them) to wash the couples’ feet, cleansing them for their journey together. A more recent Jewish custom is the breaking of glasses, symbolizing that marriage was designed to be a permanent relationship, as was the breaking of the glasses.
I asked Joanne what she thought was the most unique unity celebration she has witnessed over the years. Her reply was a ceremony in 2014 where the couple connected two sections of fire hose! The Groom, a local Fireman, and his beautiful Bride each held a section of the hose while they used a “coupler” to connect them!
We have seen folks literally “tie the knot”, water a tree to be planted in their yard at a later date, release monarch butterflies or doves into the wild, put together a Unity puzzle, paint a canvas together, layer brilliantly colored sands for a Native American ceremony, seal love notes in a box to be opened on their first anniversary…we even have brides and grooms this year that will be combining their ranch brands together onto a beautifully carved wooden slab! A fairly new trend for those thinking of a way to make the Unity sand more unique is using colored glass “grit” instead of the usual sand. The glass grit can then be taken to a glass-blowing company that specializes in this and have an item such as a vase, bowl, or cup created out of the colored grit. The ideas are endless!
What are some of the ideas you have for including a unity celebration in your wedding ceremony? Do you have cultural or traditional ties that will influence your thinking in this area? Will you come up with the next “most unique” unity celebration at Black Hills Receptions? We would love to have you share YOUR ideas and traditions!