5 Wedding Traditions to signify Unity
One’s wedding day, is so easily usurped by people with grand intentions. It’s not because they’re trying to be intrusive or overbearing. Getting married is one of the universal “rites” of passage into the grown-up world; and often your mom, or sometimes mother-in-law, would like to make your day a perfectly momentous, graceful entrance into happiness with certain wedding traditions. Sometimes, it feels, like the entrance and the happiness are all hers. The complication is often that you might feel your day gets absorbed into other people’s agendas.
Even if the dress and the colour scheme, menu and half the guest list runs away from you; the wedding ceremony is something that is still in your control. How do you get it “right”? How do you tame even the most opinionated aunt’s expectations and tear ducts? It’s easy really – you keep it significant and relevant to the two of you. You work with your officiant to have a bespoke ceremony, with all the ingredients that truly signifies you two, your love, your dreams and how your relationship works.
You get to choose how religious, or non-religious your celebration will be which might be a sore thorn; especially if your beliefs differ from your parents’ faith, and your two families have different expectations of how the invited deities should behave. You choose how much of your personal penchants are portrayed in the day.
Where do you start?
Mostly, the symbolism of unity celebrations center on the concepts of:
- Exclusivity (like breaking the chalice from which you both drink)
- Unity without losing oneself (sand ceremony, beer ceremony, wine ceremony)
- How you wish to enter into the commitment (honeyed kiss or collaring ceremony) or honouring the families, the moms and the ancestors (celebration of the quaich, candle ceremony, rose ceremony).
Unity ceremonies say what you want them to say. You can invite your parents to drink from a quaich or invite your children to knot your hand-fasting ribbons.
Depending on how wide you wish to cast the net of your guest list, and how heavily you lean on symbolism; you can truly embrace your unique tastes without compromising an inch. How you select the ceremonies – or put another way, what defines those ceremonies, is much simpler. It really is about what you two love doing together, how you express your love for one another and what gives you pleasure, and how you have fun!
1. Lots of drinking
An old Jewish tradition has a couple drink from a chalice, and then breaking the chalice. This signifies that nobody else will get a chance to join in. You can do a modified version of that, using a metal chalice that you have no intention of breaking, but engraving both your names on the cup.
The Scottish Quaich tradition, is one where the cup doesn’t get broken, but rather gets passed down from generation to generation. Traditionally, there would be a wee dram of whisky in the two-eared cup, and it would first be shared between the heads of the two families. This is to show good will, and that nobody’s going to poison the other clan. After the heads of the families have shared a swig, the couple gets to drink together. This also signifies that the couple have been given the authority, by the heads of family, to be a self-governing matriarch / patriarch of their own little family.
Photo from www.lovespreads.co.uk
You’d want your officiant to explain the tradition to guests, and to make sure everyone understands that they’re not being excluded, or worse – made part of something with which they don’t agree. Guests are mostly excited when there’s just age old symbolism that is invoked.
If you spend your time frequenting the wine farms of the glorious Cape, and you each have your own favourite cultivars, a wine tasting ceremony is a grand idea. You can blend your Merlot and your Sauvignon Blanc into a delicate Rose, and share the new taste as part of your ceremony. The symbolism of sharing, pouring oneself into the marriage, yet retaining your own bouquet of oddities and quirks, is at the very heart of this celebration.
2. Plays well with others
You could limit the fun to just the two of you, or you can share with all your guests. A ceremony like the chocolate tasting (a very old Mayan tradition that was only reserved for celebrities and deities), can easily be shared with all the guests, making them part of the taste experience. Tie the Knot Cape Town Overberg & Beyond combines the chocolate tasting ceremony with an old African tradition, of tasting the elements. This is a fun celebration, as they source chocolate that has different taste profiles; sweet, bitter, spicy and sour, to symbolise the different experiences or states of mind in a relationship.
Photo from Pinterest.com
3. Messy eaters club
The honeyed kiss is a very old tradition, we’ve traced it back to Persia, and it involves the couple using a little finger, dipped in honey, to wet their partner’s lower lip (read entire mouth while giggling nervously) before the vows are spoken. Speaking one’s promises through honeyed lips is a reminder of how kind, and sweet life can be. It’s a grand excuse to keep on kissing until all the honey is gone, once you’ve been declared “husband / wife / spouse” and “husband / wife / spouse.”
Photo from Engaged and Ready
4. Old religions
Pagan ritual has the bride present her groom with a pretty broom. This signifies that even while he treats her like a princess, she will embrace the daily tasks like nurturing and creating a home. The groom presents the bride with a decorated sword / dagger; meaning that he brings her his honour (loyalty), that he lays down arms before her, (in both words and deeds), and that he brings her his protection, his strength and dependability. There’s something very intimate in these gifts, old-world romantic, and there’s no reason why you can’t modify the traditions to suit your relationship. A popular gift in keeping with this tradition, is a watch – as it signifies the gift of time to each other, the gift of being present, and the acknowledgement that life, as time, is fleeting – and that one chooses this one person to bear witness to your choices.
In Greek Orthodox tradition both the partners are crowned, signifying their new matriarchal / patriarchal authority in their new home, and the respect they are to show one another.
In Hindu tradition, the Tying of the Thali with three knots signifies the bonds of marriage. The poetry and meaning that goes with this tradition, is exquisitely beautiful.
Photo from tiethethali.com
When you use a symbol like this, that is outside of your own culture, be sure to take the essence of what is beautiful and significant to you, and customize this to represent you, and not to appropriate bits and pieces of other cultures without the necessary respect.
5. Roses for mothers and others
The significance of a component in your celebration, once you venture outside of the liturgical requirements, is entirely up to you. In essence, this is the point of a unity celebration. To capture a significant part of your love experience, into the solemnization – while inspiring and captivating the people you have called to witness your marriage, right? All that is really important, is that both of you understand the significance of an act, for instance;
- Presenting your new mother-in-law with a rose, in return of her blessing, is a way to honour the woman who raised your spouse.
- Presenting our spouse with roses can signify that you are loved, thorns and all, or that you enter into the marriage with the understanding that you take responsibility for honouring to your partner’s trust.
It’s important that you really discuss what it is you want to remember, what it is that you want to signify, and what it is that you want your guests to witness; etching your intentions into the moment, and starting your life together.
Once you have that in place, your last job will be to find an officiant who is au fait with tying together the components of your wedding traditions and ceremony, and then who will have the insight and finesse to solemnize your union your way; while engaging your guests in the true spirit of your love.
This blog was written by Tie the Knot Cape Town, Overberg & Beyond. They marry couples beyond religion, gender, orientation, race or tradition.