Step Three - Extra Bits
Extra Bits are unique and original elements that you can add to your ceremony to personalise it or include loved ones.
Below is a list of ways to add unique elements to your ceremony.
So, a lot of people think readings mean bible passages or old-school poems but that's not the case. Think about some time since you've been together that you've watched a movie or read a book and something has stuck out to you and you've thought "that really hits home to me." It's about words or quotes or passages from any source that are put together in just the right way that they express your relationship in a way that you couldn't quite formulate yourself.
Take some time to explore the readings below. You might just find one or two that hit home to you guys.
Kids and Fun
Rituals allow an opportunity for the bride and groom to honour parents, kids, each other, or those who have passed. This does not just mean a sand ceremony!!
There are so many awesome and unique ways to personalise your ceremony with fun, modernised rituals.
Fun alternatives to the Sand Ceremony
The Sand Ceremony is a ritual in which both parties to the union have a vial of coloured sand and each pour it into a larger vase. The effect can look quite nice and the idea behind it is that once sand is joined it cannot then be separated.
It is, however, a bit of a dust collector when done and can look not-so-nice over time if you're planning to keep the vase as a sentiment.
Here are some alternatives:
Having a signature cocktail during cocktail hour? You can incorporate it into your ceremony by doing a Cocktail Ceremony. Each member of the bridal party adds an ingredient to the cocktail shaker, then the celebrant will shake it up and pour it into two glasses, from which you will toast!
Collect stones, pebbles, or shells from the area that your ceremony is located and place them in a bowl, or get your guests to scout around before the ceremony starts. Each guest can select their item, put a little blessing on it, and add it to a vase or hollow photo frame (like this one) which you can display at home.
For those who love a drink...
Wine lovers? Champagne snobs? My kind of people!!
Apart from the abovementioned Cocktail Ritual, there are some other ways to celebrate using wine or champagne during the ceremony:
Have a pyramid of champagne glasses and the two of you will pour the first bottle from the top. When you're signing your paperwork the rest of the glasses will be filled and handed out to guests. Then, once the signing is done and I go to introduce you by your new names, everyone can toast to you!
COUPE DE MARRIAGE
A french wedding custom is the "coupe de marriage" (wedding cup) which is usually made out of silver and passed down through generations as a tradition. During the ceremony, the couple pour a bottle of wine together into a glass. They then drink from the glass as a celebration. You could start this tradition for your own family.
WINE AND LETTER BOX
On the morning of the wedding, write each other a letter. Place each of your letters in sealed envelopes and bring with you to the ceremony. During the ceremony, place your letters and a bottle of good wine in a displayed box. Close and lock (or hammer shut) the box as part of the ritual. You can open the box, read the letters, and share the wine on an anniversary or in case of emergency.
Culturally Significant Rituals
Love travelling? Do you have a favourite country that you share fond memories of? You can research their customs and traditions and incorporate an element into your ceremony to further reflect your relationship. Here are some examples:
JUMP THE BROOM
This custom originated in the mid-19th century. It was popularized amongst the African-American community. Since slaves were not allowed to marry, this custom was used to solidify marriage within their communities.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF COUNTRY
This is a way that people can show awareness and respect for Aboriginal culture and heritage. It can be a formal or informal part of the ceremony and is usually undertaken at the beginning, during the introduction, and is a general acknowledgement of the land on which we are standing. You can find more info on this custom here.
CIRCLING THE FIRE
A Hindu tradition is to circle a fire four times. The groom leads the bride for the first three circles and the the bride leads the groom for the fourth. Each circle represents a specific element of marriage.
Another Hindu tradition is for the couple to take seven steps together while repeating specific vows prompted by the celebrant. Each step represents a unique element of marriage.
GIVING OF THE MONEDAS
A Spanish tradition has the groom presenting thirteen coins to the bride to prove his ability to support her. Modern interpretations could have the bride presenting the coins or both parties presenting their loot to each other.
Apparently Japanese couples become husband and wife when they take the first of nine sips of sake.
Beach and Nature Themed Rituals
This is one of my favourites, Have a seed of your favourite tree at the ceremony along with a pot of soil and two sets of garden gloves (gotta keep clean!). Together, you will dig a hole, plant the seed, and cover with soil. You can take the pot home with you and plant it in the yard of your first home. Then you can watch it grow over time and know that it is as old as your marriage!
Another great idea is to have each guest scoop a bit of soil into the pot beforehand so everyone has contributed.
It is a Hawaiian ritual to exchange leis as a sign of your love and respect for one another.
PLACING OF CROWNS
This is actually a Greek tradition which historically uses twigs and vines to create two crowns. The crowns are placed on the heads of the bride and groom and ties together with ribbon to signify their union. Use this tradition to also signify your connection to nature.
Some have historical significance, some are just classics. Here are the best:
The handfasting ritual is a Celtic tradition that involves both parties having their hands bound together with a ribbon, rope, or beads during a portion of the ceremony (particularly during the vows). The ritual signifies the binding of two lives.
TRICKS FOR THE UPPER HAND
Recorded in Sweden in 1835 were a number of small games to be played throughout the wedding to ensure the wife has the upper hand during the marriage.
1. A bride must try to see her bridegroom before he sees her; then she will be in charge of things.
2. For the same reason, she needs to keep at least one foot in front of his during the ceremony...
3. Then she has to be quick and sit down first at the wedding banquet.
4. And finally, she should drop something, as if by accident. Then her groom will bend over to pick it up, and she will have assurance that he will “bend his back to her will” the rest of the marriage.
SWINGING THE AXE
Forget giving away the bride! In ancient Aztec wedding rituals, to prove to the bride's family that a groom was old enough to be a man and marry, his parents would present his teachers, mentors, or leaders with an axe and asked for permission to "cut him free from school". The teachers would accept the axe as a sign of their agreement.
This ritual would be cool for parents of the bridal couple who are also school teachers.
BRIDAL PARTY GAMES
A welsh tradition dating back to 1815 involves whole groups of friends and family participating in a number of hilarious games to try and keep the bride and groom apart. Depending on the nature of your wedding, this could be good fun (Festival Style Weddings: take note!). If not for the day, it would be a fun idea to include in a bridal party pre-wedding team bonding day. The below discription was found on www.mentalfloss.com.
"First they got the whole official churchy marriage ceremony quickly and quietly out of the way. Then it was time to cross swords. The bride and groom went back to their separate houses, and the groom’s friends got on their horses and charged like a battalion toward the bride’s house, a piper cheering them on the whole way (somehow).
The bride’s friends, of course, have laid booby traps and obstacles all over the road to her house, like straw ropes tied between trees, and some sort of freestanding face-smacking machine called a gwyntyn (“quintain” in English) that was meant to knock people off their horses. Even if you got past the face-smacker, the bride’s friends would block your way and demand trials of skill (games) that could not be declined. If you won, you were still nowhere near uniting your friend and his wife.
If you managed to get to the bride’s house, you had to recite poetry and sing witty songs through the door to the girls inside. If the girls ran out of poetry and songs to sing back at you, the door had to be opened. Then the men would gently take the bride, and carry her off, her friends in pursuit. Then everyone would have another pretend fight.
Finally, after a day spent smacking and singing, the bride would be safely conveyed to her husband’s home, where the party, certainly involving loads more smacking and singing, would continue into the night."
OLD, NEW, BORROWED, BLUE
We all know this old classic tradition. The traditional saying goes "Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue". However, the original rhyme also includes a line "and a sixpence in your shoe". The old represents continuity from generation to generation and traditionally has something passed down from mothers, grandmothers, and great grandmothers. The new represents future home. The borrowed is symbolic of 'borrowed happiness', while the blue is a representation of fidelity, love, and good fortune.
Involving All The Guests
Doing something that involves all of your guests is a great way to make them all feel valued and included in your ceremony. Here are some ideas:
RING WARMING CEREMONY
Before the ceremony starts, put the rings in a small satchel and have your guests pass them around. Each guest will put a little blessing on the rings so by the time we do the exchanging of rings, they have been held and blessed by everyone there.
ALL GUESTS AS WITNESSES
Have your vows or some significant wording of the ceremony blown up onto a large piece of paper and have all guests sign it as witnesses.
MASS CANDLE LIGHTING
If you are doing a candle lighting ceremony, give each guest a single candle. Light the first candle and have them light each other's candles one by one. By the time you guys do your candle lighting ceremony, every guest has a lit candle. This one looks amazing during evening or night-time ceremonies, but is better for smaller ceremonies.
Honouring Family, Parents, or Kids
PRESENTATION OF FLOWERS
The bride can incorporate two flowers in her bouquet that she can remove. When she reaches the front of the aisle, she takes one out and hands it to her mother as a symbol of recognition for all that she has done in her life. At the completion of the ceremony, when the couple faced their guests for congratulations, the bride produces the second flower and hands it to her new mother-in-law as a gesture to symbolise the new relationship that has been formed.
Kids under the age of 18 are unable to sign your official commemorative certificate. However, we can have a family certificate in which all members of the family can sign. This can be something to help kids feel like they're a more official part.
VOWS TO CHILDREN
Add a seperate set of vows which you can each say to your new step-children. Promise to take care of their parent, and to always try to be a good support and friend for them. It's not a good idea to ask kids to make vows to you, though. This can put a lot of pressure and expectation on a child that they might not be comfortable with. Best to just make a promise to them and leave them free to accept that promise.
While you're exchanging rings, it might be a good idea to also present the kids with a special piece of jewellery that makes them feel included in this ritual.
FOR A BUNCH OF CHILDREN
When there are a lot of kids at the ceremony and you're afraid that they might run a muck, here's a good way to keep them occupied. At the beginning of the ceremony, we bring them up to sit at the very front and we hand out a bunch of paper and colouring pencils. Then we ask them to draw what they love most about you guys or what they think the meaning of this wedding is. Then at the end of the ceremony we get them all t present their drawings to you as a gift. Super cute and works a treat to keep them focused!
Honoring Those Who Have Passed Away
MOMENT OF SILENCE
The most well known thing you can do for a family member or friend who has passed away is to have a moment's silence for him/her/them. We can incorporate this into the introduction or any time throughout the ceremony.
DELIVER YOUR FLOWERS
After the ceremony, or the next day, you can take a trip to a special person's gravesite and place your bouquet or other flowers from the wedding onto their grave. This is a simple and beautiful way to honour them.
Rituals to stay away from...
Releasing a bunch of coloured balloons into the air has a great visual effect and the symbolism is awesome, too. However, balloon releases have a hugely detrimental effect on the environment. They have contributed to the death of many wildlife and are now banned across most states in Australia. You might as well be dumping a bunch of plastic into the ocean.
Same goes for lantern releases. Australia has now banned this ritual in any shape or form.
As lovely as it is to be surrounded by hundreds of beautiful butterflies on your wedding day, the effect is not exactly as lovely as you would imagine. Butterflies ordered for a ritual release are stored in tiny, flattened envelopes where their wings are stretched and flattened so they cannot move until released. They are then transported in their unnatural environment and stored in a state of forced hibernation until you are ready to release them. By the time they are released, many have gone to sleep, many are disoriented (having gone without food since their encapsulation), and many are already dead.
There are a lot more meaningful ways to incorporate colour and celebration into your day that don't involve compromising the lives of other living creatures.
I'm a lover of all things glitter, colour, and shine. As much as I would LOVE to have confetti thrown at every wedding I am a part of, it is sadly prohibited from most venues as it is 1) not often environmentally friendly, and (more importantly for venues) 2) extraordinarily difficult to clean up.
Instead, think about blowing bubbles, throwing rose petals, or gathering some crunchy, colourful autumn leaves for your walk back down the aisle. Even "hundreds and thousands" can be a sweet and colourful alternative!
There are so many little touches you can add to a ceremony to make it personal to you guys. Here are some examples in no particular order. Try to be imaginative and think of ways that you can incorporate special memories, songs, places, or things you share into your day.
Write three vows as a surprise for your significant other to read out after their own vows. You can make each other promise things that you each have no idea they are promising until the day!
ELIMINATE THE AISLE
If someone is walking down the aisle, scrap the aisle altogether and have them weave and wind their way through the crowd, greeting people as they go. This is particularly good in a small, intimate space like a small bar or restaurant.
INSCRIBE THE RINGS
Get each of you to inscribe some words inside each other's ring and reveal what the words are during your vows or the ring exchange.
INTRODUCE THE BRIDAL PARTY
Instead of having the bridesmaids/men and groomsmen/women standing up there like silent bystanders, include them in the ceremony by having me introduce them each and their role in your lives. This helps everyone to understand who is up there and why (particularly for those guests who aren't quite as close), and makes everyone feel more involved.
SKYPE THE CEREMONY
For overseas guests, those who can't make it, or those in hospital, Skype the ceremony! Set up a camera or phone that is connected to a group Skype so no-one has to miss out.
BRIDAL PARTY VOWS
Have each of your wedding party members recite vows to your significant other, or vice versa. It's sweet to see a bride or groom promising things to their love's mates. Good times.
NOT INTO THE WHITE DRESS THING?
Request that all guests wear white, while you both rock out in your favourite colours!
Or wear whatever the hell you want.
Also, ditch the matching wedding party thing while you're at it!
PAPER, SCISSORS, ROCK
Are you a competitive couple? Why don't you play Paper, Scissors, Rock to see who will recite their vows first or who will be the first to do a mundane chore when you get back home after the wedding? Trust me, it makes for great photos :)
These days few venues will not allow glitter, confetti, or rice to be thrown. However, fresh or dried rose petals, biodegradeable confetti, or even hundreds and thousands get the same look with a lot of colour while being kind to the environment and the cleaning bill! Why not have a table where guests can create their own combination of rose petal colours or choose a confetti container?
TAKE A MOMENT
It's so important to take a bit of time, if only minutes, on the day to fully take it all in and stop to appreciate everything you've created on this day and what it means. After you've got all dressed up, lock yourself away in a room alone to just have a moment to just be with yourself and take in what's happening without outside noise from everyone else. Just after the ceremony is finished, make sure you and your new husband or wife get away to be alone together without family, friends, or photograhers, to just be with each other in your first moments as a married or committed couple.
And during the ceremony, take a moment just before being pronounced as married to take it all in. Here's one of my favourite examples:
Before I pronounce you married partners, I have just one more thing I want you to do. Your wedding day is one that seems to fly by. It's a day filled with emotion, friends, rings, and dancing. Many people remember how fleeting their own wedding day was. SO I want you to take a few seconds to look into each others' eyes. Just forget everyone and everything around you. Think about the happiness that you're feeling in this place, in this moment. Really let that feeling register in your heart and your mind. Now, I want you to think about your life together in twenty years. Where are you? What are you doing? We all know that your visions of the future are not always identical, but always complimentary. John Lennon once said "a dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together... THAT is reality."
That new reality starts now.
RESERVED CHAIR FOR A GUEST WHO HAS PASSED AWAY
Have one of the front row seats reserved with a framed photo, personal item, or letter to someone who cannot be there for any reason, whether in hospital or because they have passed away. Alternatively, you could carry a photo of them in a locket around your bouquet, or stitch a piece of fabric into the inside of your outfit.
This section is being added to regularly.
Check back for more ideas.