The need for a ritual is innate. We need ritual to enable us to connect with our deepest thoughts and feelings, our nascent hopes and our debilitating fears. We need it to re-connect us to our changing bodies and to our changing relationships, to help us create a language that authentically articulates our experience of ourselves in the world and to speak that language both to ourselves and to those closest to us.Isabel Russo – Head of Ceremonies, British Humanist Association
What Are Rituals?
Rituals are more than just a pretty feature for wedding pictures. They pay homage to cultures and traditions as every country and every nation in the world has its own heritage.
Throughout human history, rituals have been created to express the need to mark and articulate moments of transition and meaningful experiences, as they can connect us to our deepest humanity. Our ancestors have crafted rituals powerful enough to last through ages and if you think about it, even nowadays we all have rituals that we put into practice in daily life.
A wedding ceremony, be it civil, religious or secular, as one of the major moments of social and emotional transition in life, represents the union of two people but also the coming together of two families, often from different cultures.
Wedding Traditions & Unity Rituals
Unity rituals can be a significant part of the wedding ceremony, representing a deeper meaning of two becoming one, as a unique and creative alternative or along with the traditional wedding rituals, such as the exchange of rings. But that’s not all: sometimes rituals can be incorporated to recall a spiritual aspect of the ceremony, to honour or to give thanks to someone in particular, to carry on the tradition or pay homage to a culture, or to symbolize the merging of two different backgrounds.
Incorporating a meaningful ritual in your wedding can be a great way to give an overall picture of your relationship, express your vision and intentions for the future or pay homage to your roots and culture. But as every ritual has its own meaning and history, it is important to choose carefully. It has to be something that truly relates to your story, your cultural background or your personal beliefs, otherwise it will just look like a clumsy misguided attempt to be original by all means.
Choose Your Ritual Wisely!
Since I started my studies as a professional Celebrant, I’ve seen and heard of many rituals being conducted and performed without knowledge of their deeper meaning or a relevant connection with the couples’ own background and heritage. And that’s because nowadays it’s easy to pick a ritual and include it in a wedding ceremony; if you search the web for inspiration, you have a multitude of popular rituals and “how to” at your fingertips. But if you wish for your ceremony to be meaningful and heartfelt, that’s something you really should avoid!
Most of the times couples are offered a list of rituals to choose from, that are irrelevant or worse, in contradiction with their actual background or personal interest. Worse still, some couples are pushed into including a ritual just because “it’s a nice touch”. It can be a nice way to personalize your wedding day and a great opportunity for some unique pictures, for sure! But if it’s not somehow related to who you are as individuals, it may be confusing for your attendees and might give an inadequate context of your relationship and commitment. A borrowed and mismanaged ritual is likely to seem staged or insensitive and even offensive to some cultures.
So if you’re thinking of incorporating a unity ritual in your wedding ceremony – be it a groundbreaking gesture or a deeply rooted cultural custom – don’t just settle for the overused sand ceremony or a random handfasting ritual; talk it over with your Celebrant or Officiant – but don’t let them convince you into having one by all means! On the contrary, they should help you choose the kind of ritual that’s most significant and in line with your cultural background, love story or personal interest. Or even custom-design one that is appropriate for your, if needed be: and believe me, there’s no limit to creativity when it comes to unity rituals!