Wedding Ceremony Traditions & Rituals

Many couples include wedding customs from other faiths and cultures in their ceremonies. Borrow one of these for your special day.

wedding ceremony traditions and ritualsThe Lighting of a Unity Candle: In many Christian ceremonies, the bride’s parents light a candle, and then the groom’s parents light another. Together, the bride and groom use these two candles to light a third, larger candle of their own. This ritual represents the joining of two families in a love that burns as brightly as a flame.

Jumping the Broom: African-American couples will sometimes choose to honor their ancestors by jumping over a ribbon-festooned broom—a ritual created during the time of slavery, when marriage between slaves was illegal.

Handfasting: In a ritual that originated in Great Britain during pagan times, the bride and groom bind their hands together with a ribbon, symbolizing the joining of their lives. Today, many couples do this immediately before or after the exchange of rings.

Rose Presentation: Some brides and grooms will present a single rose—a symbol of love—to their mothers early in the ceremony as a gesture of love and gratitude.

Medallion Presentation: In a wedding that includes children from a previous marriage, the new stepparent might present a medallion, charm or other piece of jewelry (like a ring or pin) to the partner’s children during the wedding ceremony. This gift, like the couple’s rings, serves as a reminder of commitment to each member of the newly blended family.

Tweaking Tradition: Fresh Takes on Old Customs

  • For seating in a nonreligious venue, instead of having two “sides,” arrange seats in a circle and recite your vows surrounded by friends and family. Or why not replace chairs with couches or benches? For outdoor ceremonies, seat guests on cloth-covered hay bales, picnic blankets or even on heaps of large Moroccan-style cushions.
  • Who says your little ring bearer has to carry a pillow? Imagine your rings cradled in a blush-pink seashell or nestled on a bed of dahlias. A childhood music box, or other nostalgic item, can serve as a pillow.
  • Traditionally, wedding programs include the couple’s names, the wedding date and a brief outline of the ceremony, with the readings, music selections and the names of all the key players. But your program is also an opportunity to highlight your wedding style. n Consider binding the programs with satin ribbons in your wedding colors or printing them on paper with gilt edges. Ask your stationer to letterpress the programs with the image of your favorite symbol or flower. Or create your own unique look on your computer. And delight your parents with a surprise thank-you message, formally printed for all your guests to see.