Lesser Known, but No Less Beloved Wedding Traditions

Most couples in the process of planning their wedding ceremonies become familiar with the “Big Three” wedding traditions: The Unity Candle, the Handfasting, and the Blending of the Sands. Each of these is a unique, elegant wedding ritual that can make your ceremony more colorful, more inclusive and a lot more fun. There’s absolutely no down-side to using any (or all!) of these beautiful traditions in your wedding, and Forever, Together is proud, and pleased to offer these wonderful wedding traditions (as well as the ones below) at no extra charge!

However, the world is full of different countries and different cultures, each with their own special version of the marriage ceremony. Over the next couple of posts, I’d like to describe some of the lesser known (in the United States, at least), but no less exotic and interesting marriage rituals you might consider adding to your wedding ceremony.

The Marriage Vessel and the Rose

The Marriage Vessel and the Rose ceremony may be used as an alternative to the Unity Candle, especially for outdoor weddings. You will need a table for the vessel and the rose. Filling the vessel with water is only necessary if you use the second version. The Officiant begins by explaining the significance of the ceremony.

(The Officiant says): (Groom) and (Bride) have chosen to share two gifts, the Marriage Vessel and the Rose, to symbolize their ever-growing life-long commitment to each other.

The spiritual roots of the Marriage Vessel and the Rose grow out of an understanding of God as the Potter, or Creator of life (holding up the vessel), and God as the Gardener, or Sustainer of life (holding up the rose).

The vessel of clay, lovingly shaped by the Potter, is a symbol of love’s strength and endurance. The miracle of the vessel is that it not only protects, but is enriched by that which it holds, the rose. Like-wise, the rose, born of the tiniest of seeds, symbolizes the beauty and potential of growing in love throughout life together. Both the vessel and the rose are individually unique, yet when combined, they create an object of even greater beauty.

(The Groom presents the rose to the Bride and says): (Bride), this rose represents the beauty I see in you. / I thank you for the person you are / and the person I am becoming / because of your love for me.

(The Bride presents the vessel to the Groom and says): (Groom), this vessel represents the strength I see in you. / I thank you for the love and care you have given me, / and for all we will share together in this life.

(The Bride then places the rose in the vessel; they hold it together and the Bride and Groom say): As our gifts bring beauty and purpose to each other, / may our lives continue to enrich and strengthen one another.

(The Officiant says): (Groom) and (Bride), as you share each passing day, and as your days become years, remember this tradition you have created. On each wedding anniversary, place one additional rose in the marriage vessel to symbolize your ever-growing love for one another. May The Marriage Vessel and the Rose always be a symbol of the beauty and strength you bring to each other’s lives.

(The Officiant says): Just as (Groom) and (Bride) gave each other rings as symbols of their love and commitment to one another, they also would like to present [each of] you with a gift as a symbol of their love and commitment to you. The Family Medallion is made up of three intertwining circles, two of which symbolize the union of this man and woman in marriage. The third circle represents the joining of children to this union, making it complete as we celebrate the new family created here today.

(The Bride and Groom present the children with the Family Medallion, and give each child a hug and a kiss.)

The Unity Cup

Two separate goblets are filled with wine. Before the couple is pronounced husband and wife, the Officiant pours one-half of the wine from each goblet into a separate cup, the Unity Cup, from which each sips.

(The Officiant says): This glass of wine is known as the Unity Cup, or Kiddush Cup, and is symbolic of the Cup of Life. As you share this cup of wine, you share all that the future may bring. The half-filled goblets are a reminder of your individuality; the single cup marks your new life together. As you share the wine from a single cup, so may you, under God’s guidance, share contentment, peace, and fulfillment from your own Cup of Life.

May you find life’s joys heightened, its bitterness sweetened, and each of its moments hallowed by true companionship and love.

(The Officiant holds up the Unity Cup and may then say this prayer): Blessed are Thou, 0 Lord our God, Creator of the fruit of the vine.

(The Groom takes a sip of wine first, then offers the cup to the Bride.)

Breaking of the Glass

The Breaking of the Glass is a Jewish tradition, but lately appearing in more and more non-Jewish and Interfaith ceremonies. It has many meanings. One is as a symbol of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, a representation of the fragility of relationships, and a reminder that marriage changes the lives of individuals forever.

After the couple is pronounced husband and wife, the glass, or light bulb, which usually is wrapped in a cloth and placed in a silk bag, is then laid by the groom’s foot.

(The Officiant says): We conclude this ceremony with the Breaking of the Glass. Traditionally, the Breaking of the Glass at a wedding is a symbolic prayer and hope that your love for one another will remain until the pieces of the glass come together again, or in other words, that your love will last forever.

The fragile nature of the glass also suggests the frailty of human relationships. Even the strongest of relationships is subject to disintegration. The glass then, is broken to “protect” the marriage with this implied prayer: May your bond of love be as difficult to break as it would be to put together again the pieces of this glass.

The groom then breaks the glass with his foot and everyone shouts “Mazel Tov!” which means “Good luck and congratulations!”

The Five Most Useful Things We’ve Learned from Performing Weddings

Every now and then, a curious soul asks us what we’ve learned as Seattle wedding Officiants performing nearly 1000 weddings in Western Washington over the past eight years. We usually give our “tried-and-true” answer about how nothing ever goes exactly as planned and everyone has to be flexible and willing to have a good time, no matter what happens.

This generally satisfies the questioner, and until now we haven’t really been inclined to go into much detail. However, in the interest of expanding the boundaries of knowledge, and in celebration of entering our eighth year in the business, we have decided to publish, herein, our list of the five most useful things we’ve learned from performing weddings.

These are not listed in any particular order of importance – we think they’re all pretty important. They’re also not the only lessons we’ve learned, just the top five we regularly fall back on. We also think that you, as a bride and/or groom, wouldn’t do too badly to remember them for your own use – what’s good for the Officiant is often good for the couple. These tidbits have made our professional lives more interesting, less frustrating, and a lot more fun. The bottom line: Learn to take everything with a grain of salt. Hey, come to think of it, that could be tidbit #6!

Here goes:

  1. Be flexible. Perfection is unlikely, and we all know about the “best laid plans.” Our ability to respond quickly (and positively) to the unexpected has often gone a long way towards assuring a successful event for the couple.
  2. Keep your cool. Before the ceremony, we try to think of ourselves as “an island of calm in a sea of chaos,” providing a safe harbor for anyone in the Bridal Party who thinks they’re starting to “freak out.”
  3. Don’t lose your sense of humor. If these lessons were listed in order of importance, this would have to be close to the top. Anything that goes sideways now will almost certainly seem pretty funny in retrospect, so why wait? Laugh about it now, and get on with the festivities!
  4. Be prepared. In retrospect, this seems like a no-brainer, but in the beginning, it wasn’t unusual for one of us to leave out a paragraph, stumble on a sentence, mispronounce names and, in my case, forget to seat the audience until three-fourths of the ceremony was done! That most of these things don’t happen anymore is a testament to our practice of carefully learning the ceremony ahead of time, knowing as much as possible about the couple…and diligently employing items 1-3 on this list!
  5. Remember who you work for! We’ve learned this is critical, and what seems to set us apart from other wedding vendors, at least in the minds of the couples who ultimately choose us. We never forget that our function is to do a specific job, and do it perfectly. We were not hired by the couple to be their friends. Sometimes, if we’re very lucky, we get to do both…but if it comes down to a choice, we always consider ourselves “hired hands,” and we never forget who hired us.

Of course, we’ve learned a lot of other things over the past eight years, and eventually I’ll probably update this list as we learn more. For now, it’s still our goal to offer the best possible service to a couple and validate the faith and trust they place in us by allowing us to be a part of such a joyful, intimate and special day.