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Creative and Symbolic Alternatives to the Unity Candle

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Unity candle alternatives

Yes, you can light the unity candle at your wedding ceremony, as custom dictates. But everyone does that! Besides, the gesture often goes barely noticed…and does anyone even remember where the candle went?

Why not put an entirely fresh spin on this rite, then, by incorporating symbolic ceremony elements that have a special significance for you and your spouse? Use our ideas below to get you thinking of your own personal alternative to the unity candle. Remember, though, this is a rite you will do together within your wedding ceremony. So keep it practical, as well as meaningful!

Paint Your Names on a Canvas

paint a canvas together

What to do: Create your very own “masterpiece” together.

Why: This serves as a concrete expression of your spoken vows. It’s almost like signing your marriage contract…in art form!

How: Prepare a simple “palette” of assorted paints, canvas stretched on a wood frame, and one paintbrush for each of you. Then, paint your names on the canvas below the heading “I promise.” Add the date and location of your wedding.

Hint: This canvas can later be transferred into an elegant frame and hung in your home as a reminder of this day.

Plant a Tree or Flower

What to do: The principle is simple: plant something together. See our post on tree planting at the ceremony.

Why: The planting of a tree sapling or young flowering shrub is especially symbolic, as it stands for your new life and growth as a couple. It’s also a meaningful gesture if you both have green thumbs, or are committed to the environment.

How: To avoid getting messy at the ceremony, be sure to have the sapling or shrub pre-potted. Also prepare ahead two small hand shovels—one for each of you—with a small amount of soil in each. Then, at the appointed time of the ceremony, simply slide the shovelfuls of soil into the pot.

Hint: 1) Use a nice pot and decorate it to suit your wedding theme. Dress up the hand shovels, too, with pretty ribbons. Or ask your florist for other special ideas. 2) When you move into your first home, you can transfer the plant to a permanent spot in your garden. A lovely living reminder of your vows!

Weave a Wreath Together

create a wreath

What to do: Intertwine dried or artificial vines together to craft a wreath.

Why: The act of weaving is itself symbolic of bringing elements together to create something new. It can also represent your commitment to work together as a couple.

How: Prepare two separate lengths of dried or artificial vines. Take one each, then twist or intertwine them to combine into one. Form this into a wreath shape and secure the ends together with a wired ribbon.

Hint: 1) You can dress your wreath up further after the wedding. Your guests aren’t attending a crafts class! 2) This doesn’t have to wait for a Christmastime wedding. An all-season wreath would make a charming decor piece hanging on your front door, perched on your mantelpiece, or lying flat on a coffee table.

Create a Sand Garden

What to do: Use separate elements, such as sand or stones, to create a “dish garden” together.

Why: This symbolizes the uniting of two elements into one. But in the case of a well-travelled couple, it can also represent the many places you’ve enjoyed together. Or for a mixed-culture marriage, it can symbolize the joining of your two homelands or cultures.

How: Prepare two small containers of sand (preferably two distinct colors)—one for each of you. Simultaneously pour the sand into a single vase or terrarium bowl.

Hint: 1) In addition to the sand, you can add stones and other mementos from different places you’ve visited together. 2) You can then make this “sand garden” a special wedding keepsake to be displayed at home.

Share a Unity Drink

pour some wine

What to do: Pour your favorite wine into one glass and both drink from it.

Why: Perhaps it’s the wine that you’ve always enjoyed together or maybe its vintage is the year that you first met. The key is to use a water element that holds a significant meaning for the two of you.

How: Prepare two small bottles of this wine. Take one each and simultaneously pour the contents into a single wine glass. Then, each takes a sip.

Hint: If you prefer something non-alcoholic, this custom can have a healthy—or even humorous—twist to it. You can share a tumbler of your favorite health drink, a cup of organic tea, or a mug of the coffee brand you had on your first date. Be sure to decorate the containers, though, to make them look fittingly special!

Complete a “Photo Collage”

What to do: Illustrate how “two became one” through a collage of photos.

Why: Through-the-years photos can clearly show how you and your spouse grew up separately and yet, in this ceremony, become a couple.

How: Select about 5 photos of each of you, from infancy to just before you met. Pre-mount these on a framed board, leaving the center empty. Pre-print an enlarged photo of the two of you together—perhaps one taken at your engagement dinner—and, together, mount this in the empty space.

Hint: 1) For a whimsical touch, pre-label each photo in your own handwriting with the year or your age when it was taken. Then, when the last photo is in place, sign your names below it with the date and place of your wedding. 2) You can replace it later with a photo from your actual wedding day.

14 comments

  1. my fiance and i will be planting a tree together instead of the traditional unity candle lighting. you could say that we are both “tree huggers” at heart , so this would make perfect sense!

  2. me and my husband to be will be planting tree too instead of the candles, we both love trees and flowers. surely it would be very memorable for the two of us coz we’re both nature lovers.

  3. Rhea and William

    We’re also ditching the candle thing and doing a unity drink of our favorite soda flavors. I love lemon soda, while my fiance enjoys the blue soda flavor from Jones Soda. I think it’s going to be great to see the colors change to green when you combine the yellow and blue! Cool!

  4. hi eveyrone! i just wanted to share my unity candle idea. my fiance and i met at a starbuck’s coffee shop-we actually worked there together for three years during college. so, for our unity candle ceremony, we are going to be combining two separate cups of black coffee into one big cup that is filled with creme and sugar. we are also big coffee drinkers so this works out! in this way, we are starting out our new life together with something sweet and dear to our hearts!

  5. Thanks for sharing your story! It’s so romantic and touching.

  6. For our unity candle ceremony alternative, we’re using handpainting! Each of our hands will be stamped with a different paint color. My will be pink and my fiance’s will be blue. Using a white canvas, we’ll create a cross stamp of our hands, so the intersection will be a combination of two colors. It should come out purple!

  7. I love the Unity Candle idea for our wedding. Where do I buy them?
    I also love the Paint your Names idea! In the photo, the woman is holding a marker or something, wrapped in a dried corn husk or something. Details??

    Thanks!

  8. Hi, Jeff!

    The Paint Your Names idea is actually part of an “alternative guest book” article we did. But we thought the same idea could be tweaked into an option for the unity candle ceremony. Here’s the link: http://www.bellenza.com/wedding-ideas/diy-projects/a-unique-guest-book-idea-that-turns-into-a-work-of-art.html

    About where to buy unity candles, a quick online search should yield many great suppliers for these. But you can actually use any type of candle that suits your wedding motif and style. Just check out your favorite home decor stores.

  9. I love the idea of the painting your names we were tossing around ideas on how we could involve our children since we are not only joining our lives but the lives of our children my mom suggested since there are 6 of us total (my future husband and his 2 kids and me and my 2 kids) and the word family has 6 letters we should do something with the weird family I’m thinking each one of us could paint a letter of family and then we could all sign and date it.

  10. Hi, Anonymous — That sounds like a lovely unity symbol for your new family! So meaningful…and can be displayed in your home afterwards.

    All the best!

  11. My future Daughter-in-law is planning a wedding. They would like to do a signature drink unity instead of candle. The problem is, what wording do they use. Does anyone have any ideas/suggestions for the wording?

  12. Hi, Raeleen — Yes, the wording of ceremonies like the “signature drink” in place of the unity candle can be pretty challenging to prepare! Not sure if this will help, but here’s a link that describes how a “wine ceremony” can be done — with simple wording for the couple and the minister to say:

    http://www.thepreacherman.com/wine.html

    All the best!

  13. My Fiance & myself both did not want a unity candle it was just too “traditional” and we are anything but. We are instead doing a “water ceremony” (each taken a different colored water and pouring them into a bigger container thus mixing the two colors!)

  14. Thanks so much for sharing that with us, Micah! Always great to make your wedding as personal and meaningful as you can. Happy holidays!

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