Jan 22, 2018
Civil celebrant handfasting a wedding couple

Rituals can add dramatically to the atmosphere and spirituality of a ceremony. As a civil celebrant, I am often asked for suggestions as to items that can enhance the service.

I am going to leave out religious rituals, although I do readily incorporate some, especially in mixed-faith services. For one thing, there are rather a lot of religions to mention, and I only have a few hundred words at my disposal!

There is a whole range of rituals that may appeal, so, although I’m only covering a few here, please be aware that the list is by no means exhaustive.

Moreover, there are variants to most of the rituals, so there may not be a ‘right or wrong’ way of doing them.


Probably my most requested ritual is handfasting. You may not know that the expression “tying the knot” is derived from this. The couple take each other’s hands, left to left and right to right. To the accompaniment of suitable words, the celebrant knots the couple’s chosen ribbons or cords (often in an infinity sign).

The couple are soon released, but take home the knotted ribbon as a reminder of what they promised each other on the day.

A handfasting can be part of a full pagan ceremony, but it may just be a brief – but beautiful and meaningful – section of the service.

Unity Rituals

The Loving Cup (or “Quaich”) is another popular inclusion. Very simply, it is a goblet (usually with some wine in – not too much!) which bride and groom both drink from, one handing the goblet to the other in turn. It symbolises unity, of course.

An alternative is a sand ceremony. This is where two (or more, to include extended family/friends) phials of sand of different colours are together poured into a bigger vial.

Similarly, you can have a Unity Candle, and two (or more) people light it with tapers.

All these actions are accompanied by appropriate words by the celebrant.

At a second wedding ceremony

Jumping the Broom

There are various origins to this ceremony, but it involves the couple jumping over a besom (a sort of witch’s broom). The new home symbolism (sweeping out the old) is fairly evident, but it can have the extra element of introducing a bit of humour to the proceedings.

So these add-ons, or others like them, can make a real difference to the atmosphere of the ceremony.

Naturally, if you want to explore this any further, do feel free to let me know.