The Minks Decide to Skip Symbolism

The rituals that symbolize the joining of two people always seem lovely when I see them in weddings. Now that we’re planning our own wedding, those rituals don’t feel “right” to me.

The unity candle, probably the most popular wedding ritual these days, is actually a fairly new item. Wikipedia says unity candles might have only been around for about 30–40 years. That was a surprise to me. I’ve seen so many unity candles that I assumed they had been around for much longer.


From Slava Slavik Photography

A few months ago, I started hearing about alternatives to the traditional unity candle. I first thought the alternatives were weird, but a few started to grow on me.

There’s the pouring of sand, which has become so popular that companies are making special vessels for the sand.

Congratulations, Beonce and Paul! / From

Even newer than sand pouring is blending wine or planting a tree. I have to admit that I thought the tree planting was kind of cute! I don’t know if that was because Mr. Mink likes the term “tree hugger” or if I liked the idea of taking the tree home and planting it. Forget the fact that I live in a condo and don’t have a yard. Details, details!


From Manolo for the Brides blog / Photo by Worthington Photography

We thought about the wine-box ceremony, too. The couple writes letters to themselves (or each other) on the wedding day. The letters are sealed in a box with a bottle of wine during the ceremony. Some say that the box is opened on a major anniversary or if the couple ever has a rough spot.

Sealing the wine box / From The Bride’s Cafe Blog / Photo by Katie Stoops Photography

The last ritual we considered was one I heard about on the Weddingbee Boards. It’s the “Chord of Three Strands.” The couple braids three short lengths of rope during their wedding ceremony to symbolize the bride, the groom, and God in their marriage. Aside from the blog where I found the picture below, the information I found about this was coming from the company that sold the chords.


The “Chord of Three Strands” / From Crystal Goss Photography

In the end, we decided not to have a unity ritual at our wedding. None of the things I described above felt right for us. Exchanging rings and saying our vows will be pretty powerful acts for us. We aren’t convinced that we need something extra to drive the point home.

Are you having a unity ritual at your wedding? Did you consider any alternatives?


Mrs. Mink

Charlottesville, Virginia
Wedding Date:
June 2012
Funnel Cake Ring Porn
Pretzel Party: Dance, Dance, DANCE!
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  1. Member
    Roe 2800 posts, Sugar bee @ 7:29 am

    We also think that the rings are pretty powerful acts of symbolism on their own. The only one that we’re still considering is a handfasting. Now that is a ritual that dates back.

  2. Member
    njmeetsbx 1668 posts, Bumble bee @ 7:32 am

    We’re considering the wine box but if we decide not to, we won’t be doing anything either. I have never like the unity candly or the sand ceremony. The three cords seems cool but we are not super religious.

  3. elk Member
    elk 320 posts, Helper bee @ 7:35 am

    I’ve never been a huge fan of the sand ceremony (always makes me think of being a kid at the fairs with those plastic bears you could fill with sand), and the unity candle is nice but never thought I would do it. The rope thing is definitely out since we don’t believe in god….. so no unity ritual for us either!

  4. Guest Icon Guest
    Alleycat, Guest @ 7:36 am

    I was planning a unity ritual just because I like the symbolism behind it. We were initially planning a sand ceremony (for some reason I’m not a fan of unity candles, plus we’re having an outdoor ceremony and I don’t want the flames to blow out in the wind!). But I’ve never heard of the “cord of three strands” before and I’m kinda digging the idea. I think I will bring this up to my FI. Thanks Miss Mink!

  5. Member
    misspeanut 2092 posts, Buzzing bee @ 7:37 am

    We’re doing the wine box. FI flat out refused the unity candle, and we didn’t think sand would be appropriate for the venue and time of year. Plus we’re both drinkers and FI loves that he gets to whip out a hammer in the middle of the ceremony. :) It was perfect for us.

  6. Member
    ivysupersonic 179 posts, Blushing bee @ 7:41 am

    We are in the same boat and decided not to have a unity ritual other than exchanging rings and our vows. For some reason everyone we talk to seem shocked about that. Like my mom who said, “What, you mean no unity candles? You’re supposed to!” These rituals just don’t seem very “us”, and we both feel that the rings and vows act as the unity rituals themselves.

  7. maryjane Member
    maryjane 1193 posts, Bumble bee @ 7:41 am

    We didn’t have any rituals at ours and I was happy with the simple ceremony :) Gotta choose what works for you!

  8. Guest Icon Guest
    Vegas Pug, Guest @ 7:43 am

    We did a “Chocolate and Wine” ceremony. When we were married, I vetoed the unity candle from the start since I felt like it was always done. Every sand ceremony I saw, included the sand spilling or not pouring, etc. (Too much work!) So in the end, we went with a ceremony that was fun and worked for us. Plus, it had the “I’ve never seen that” response from our guests.

  9. Member
    coasterkim 61 posts, Worker bee @ 7:48 am

    I agree totally! Neither the sand thing nor the unity candle was “us” and we didn’t want to muddle the ceremony with things when the vows and rings are the focus – in our eyes. You’re not alone!

  10. Member
    knvprincess143 1036 posts, Bumble bee @ 7:51 am

    Well I haven’t given it much thought until this morning. It is funny how the hive works. A co-worker offered to make my candles for me when I sat down at my desk this am. I log into the hive and see this post, how weird. Candles probably are not a good choice considering the outdoor ceremony I’m having. But I never considered any other options either. The sand thing is great and all but not really us either. If I do something I’d like it to be something we can display forever. It just crossed my mind, hand prints over lapping in a heart shape, but then again, ink and dress, doesn’t sound like a good idea to me. Now you have me thinking. Thanks Mink!

    BTW, alot of traditions that we deem “OMG must haves” are not all that old. For instance wedding cake, first one was made in 1902.

  11. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 7:54 am

    @Roe: It’s nice to have some company on this!

    @NJmeetsBX: I think we had the same thought. Because I’m big into DIY and home improvement, we thought it would be kind of appropriate to have hammer and nails incorporated into our ceremony. :)

  12. hawk Member
    hawk 1117 posts, Bumble bee @ 7:57 am

    We have opted not to do a unity candle either, but haven’t decided if we are going to do an alternative or skip it.

  13. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 8:00 am

    @Miss Elk: I almost included that the Student Life folks in college used to have making sand art as a Friday evening “alternative” activity. We’d pour our sand into the Sue Bee Honey jars and then go out.

    @Alleycat: My only worry about the three stands thing is that it’s being pushed by the company selling them. If it grew out of a tradition, I think I’d be a little more interested in it.

    @misspeanut: We liked that one, too!

    @ivysupersonic: I really thought the unity candle was a Catholic tradition myself! When I did my research, I actually found information that says the flame of a candle in church is supposed to symbolize God. The candles involved with the unity candle seem to symbolize people and the person writing thought that was problematic. I don’t know where I stand, but I thought that was interesting.

    @Mrs. Mary Jane: Simplicity can be beautiful and powerful!

    @Vegas Pug: Oooh! I want to know more about the chocolate!!!

    @coasterkim: Yay!

    @knvprincess143: It’s amazing how some things come up. One of the Bees said she had just started writing a dog post when my post from yesterday was posted!

  14. Member
    Lexy 404 posts, Helper bee @ 8:11 am

    @knvprincess143: Excellent point! Even the diamond engagement ring dates back only to the early 20th century as a common practice.

  15. Member
    lisaelanna 530 posts, Busy bee @ 8:13 am

    We also decided not to have a unity ritual. Our full Catholic Mass was already long enough and I didn’t really care to risk repeating my parents’ experience (when they couldn’t get their candle lit!).

  16. mole Member
    mole 1242 posts, Bumble bee @ 8:17 am

    The only symbolic exchange we have in our ceremony is the ring exchange (a pretty big one!). :)

  17. highwire Member
    highwire 1021 posts, Bumble bee @ 8:31 am

    No unity ritual for us! We wanted the ceremony to be over quickly, so we nixed things like this immediately.

  18. Member
    TinyTina 3312 posts, Sugar bee @ 8:44 am

    We decided to go with the wine box ceremony. We both loooove wine and at the time the only other ritual we knew of was the candle ceremony. I have nightmares of setting my veil on fire so we nixed that one. 😛

  19. Guest Icon Guest
    Britt, Guest @ 9:48 am

    We didn’t do a unity ritual (we couldn’t find the right fit either) at our ceremony and no one noticed!

  20. mspony Member
    mspony 9265 posts, Buzzing Beekeeper @ 9:59 am

    I love the tree planting idea, I kinda wish we had seen it before our wedding, it’s such a unique idea!

  21. honey Member
    honey 1684 posts, Bumble bee @ 10:00 am

    No rituals for us either…I agree that the rings and vows are powerful enough!

  22. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 4:27 pm

    @Lexy: What’s more, they’re not even popular in certain countries. The boards have quite a few members from those places.

    @lisaelanna: I agree! Mass is long enough!

    @Miss Mole: The main event…as it should be!

    @Mrs. High Wire: I’m getting more and more enamored with simplicity. The wedding industry can convince us that we need all these extra accessories, but the vows and ring exchange is beautiful. They don’t need any help when it comes to being special.

    @TinyTina: I’m going to stalk your pictures!!! I really like the wine box idea.

    @Britt: I’m glad! I hope no one objects to a short, simple ceremony. :)

    @Mrs. Pony: If we had a house, I’d totally go for it. We gave some friends a tree as a wedding gift and they loved it! It’s planted in their backyard and I hope it’s there for years to come!

    @Miss Honey: It’s so awesome to have company in this. I had thought we were alone on this.

  23. Member
    Future Army Wife 2213 posts, Buzzing bee @ 7:09 pm

    We’re not doing any unity ceremonies. I agree with you, they’re nice but not us.

  24. unicycle Member
    unicycle 476 posts, Helper bee @ 8:11 pm

    I really want to do handfasting, but I have no idea yet what’s allowed in my church. I don’t think you necessarily need anything though!

  25. teaspoon Member
    teaspoon 768 posts, Busy bee @ 12:19 am

    We did unity candles, I love the symbolism of it in the catholic church. It sits in the cupboard with our confirmation and baptism candles and will come out for our first child’s baptism!

  26. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 8:35 am

    @Miss Unicycle: I forgot to cover handfasting! D’oh!

    @Mrs. Teaspoon: Aw, that’s so sweet!

  27. Member
    star cash 44 posts, Newbee @ 6:15 am

    i wanted 2 have

    1)a sand ceremony with parents & siblings of bride & groom as a symbol of not only joining us a husband & wife but also bringing 2 famalies 2gether……

    2)rose ceremony were we give our roses 2 each others mother-in-law when exiting

    3) jump the broom.

    i’m thinking its a bit much…my actual ceremony without the rituals is about 30 mins….i think its a bit short though…i’m liking the chocolate & wine ceremony..any xcuse 2 have a drink 2 calm my nerves i guess…… wa do u guys think???

  28. cinnamonbun Member
    cinnamonbun 1116 posts, Bumble bee @ 9:29 am

    I wasn’t too sure about the background of the unity candle, and I never really looked into it because it seemed a bit too God-related to me, and we aren’t religious at all.
    The braiding thing is cute, but what would cord #3 be for us? Is the company selling them selling them as ‘chords’ though? That’s weird, because chord with an h is a musical term, and cord with no h is a rope….

    We ended up doing a ring warming, which I loved. It made our guests part of the day. Really, the whole wedding is a unity ritual, isn’t it, so why not do something where everyone else can participate?

  29. Member
    missmorganista 1607 posts, Bumble bee @ 3:11 pm

    We are doing the wine box, but NOT at the wedding. We are going to do this to celebrate our one year anniversary together. We are going to do it as a special thing on June 1, 2014.

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