If you’ve been to at least two weddings in the last twenty years, odds are you’ve seen some variation on the unity candle ceremony. You know the one–the two partners take a taper apiece and use their individual flames to light one big candle together, the two uniting flames signifying how marriage makes two become one (cue Spice Girls song). It’s a touching ceremony, but not hugely practical for an outdoor wedding, or for venues that aren’t down with open flames. If a unity candle doesn’t fit your ceremony, here are a few ways to get the point across without breaking fire codes.
Instead of two flames becoming one, a unity bouquet can help you show appreciation for the friends and family who have helped you become the happy couple you are today. Hand each of those special people a single flower, and during the unity ceremony have them come and place the flower in a vase. Then you and your partner place flowers of your own to complete the bouquet.
Remember making a sand art creation when you were a kid? You’d find them at state fairs, theme parks, or just kiosks at the mall–places where you could carefully pour different colors of sand into a bottle to make a rainbow masterpiece that would last until someone dropped the bottle and shook it up. For a light-hearted unity ceremony, you and your partner can take turns carefully layering sand into the bottle–then as the finale, shake it up to symbolize your joining together. Your guests should have a healthy laugh watching you painstakingly layer sand, only to really thoroughly join the sand together at the end.
For an eco-themed wedding, replace the unity candle with a sapling in a pot. Invite your guests to form a line and each place a shovelful of dirt into the pot, finishing with the wedding party and you and your spouse. It’s another great way to show you appreciate the support of your family and friends. When you move into your first house together (or when you get back from your honeymoon to the house you already have together), plant the sapling in the backyard so you can watch your love grow.
Though most people wouldn’t think of this as a viable option on their own, using wedding sparklers during your ceremony can actually be quite fun. Both the bride and groom can light a small sparkler to hold and then at the appropriate time they can use them to light a very long wedding sparkler that will last much longer than their short ones. As their short sparklers burn out, the long sparkler continues to burn symbolizing their new life together. Just make sure you shop for genuine sparklers for weddings because they burn differently than the sparklers you find during other times of the year.
Now, we’re not talking a 1,000 piece double-sided puzzle or anything–your guests love you and want your ceremony to be great, but don’t test their patience. Still, a puzzle is a great metaphor for how a relationship forms coalesces. Just stick to a kids’ size puzzle, 20 pieces max, or you’ll have some fidgeting guests on your hands while you try to find all the corner pieces.
If you’re having an indoor wedding that allows fire, and you dig the “two flames uniting” metaphor, don’t let us stop you from having a unity candle. But if you’ve got an outdoor wedding or a fire-phobic venue, consider one of these alternate unity ceremonies. You can still capture the meaning of the unity candle without having to add a pillar of wax to the proceedings.