Planning a wedding is a serious undertaking, but there are many chances to get creative. You should start small and expand your ideas gradually.
For many people, there are so many things to keep in mind that they soon get stressed out, but here’s an idea: make a checklist, starting with the necessary steps first.
Here are a few examples to start with:
- Do you want a large or a small wedding?
- How many people do you want to invite to your wedding?
- How many people do you need to invite to your wedding?
- What kind of venue are you looking for?
- Do you want your wedding ceremony to be traditional or relaxed?
Once you have some general ideas of what you want your wedding ceremony to look like, think about the theme. Are any holidays around the corner? What is typical of you and your partner? For instance, some people simply want a traditional, religious wedding, even if they aren’t religious (it’s a common wedding style for a reason, after all!), while others want to customize every step of the ceremony.
The more traditional your wedding is, the fewer options for customization there are, but you can always add a touch of personality and individuality at some point.
Let’s take a look at some ideas that can serve as inspiration.
Cultural & Traditional Wedding Ceremony Ideas
As mentioned above, traditional weddings simply come with a couple of unavoidable steps, but you can add or subtract certain components. Here are some tips.
1. Serving Tea
A number of cultures observe the tea serving ceremony as a sacred ritual. The tradition originates in Asia but is nowadays widespread in many European countries and the multicultural U.S. For example, in China, couples serve tea to their parents to show gratitude. The tea ceremony in Japan is so famous that it hardly needs to be expanded on. Among those in the west, serving tea is simply a nice habit, so you can mix the customs and add a touch of creativity to your wedding ceremony.
2. Lighting a Unity Candle
This ritual is common in Christian weddings, but in truth, candles stem from the pagan days, so there’s no harm in customizing the ritual as you see fit. Usually, the couples’ mothers place a candle in a pillar, and the couple lights them after saying their vows.
3. Break the Glass
Breaking a glass is customary in many cultures’ wedding ceremonies, notably Jewish and Slavic. Jewish weddings traditionally have the groom step on the glass, while in Slavic tradition, both partners can break their glasses.
4. El Lazo
The El Lazo ceremony, roughly translated as the lasso ceremony, is common among Spaniards and some other cultures. You’ll need a floral rope (see, rope again!) and some friends to wrap it around you and your spouse in the form of the number eight. The ritual, again, symbolizes unity, literally and otherwise.
San-San-Kudo (“three three nine times”) or the sake- sharing ceremony is customary in Japan. If you want to add a touch of tradition, you can opt for this ritual. The ceremony is, in fact, one of the oldest ones in Japan, where there are a number of customs related to sake drinking. In Japan, this ceremony symbolizes bonding. Commonly, only the couple participates, but in some cases, the parents can join, too (as Japan is a traditional country and bonding between families is important).
You’ll need three sakazuiki (sake cups) from which both the couple are to take three sips (both drink three sips from three cups, hence the name).
Crowning is as traditional as it gets and is usually seen in religious wedding ceremonies (Christian, that is). The tradition originates from Greek Orthodox Christianity and has spread far and wide. The couple’s crowns are connected (symbolizing unity).
If you want to go one step beyond lighting a fire, you can add a touch of Hinduism. The saptapadi (“seven steps”) takes place around a fire beneath a mandap, but you can customize the place. The couple is to hold hands and walk seven steps around the fire. Half of the way should be led by one partner and the other half by the other. Hinduism isn’t patriarchal, so it’s a nice touch in a modern setting.
8. Burying the Bourbon
This is a Southern tradition that was originally performed to prevent bad weather on the day of the wedding ceremony. It goes like this: one month before the wedding ceremony (one month exactly, mind you), dig a hole in the ceremony site and bury an unopened bottle of bourbon upside down. After the wedding, dig the bottle up and serve it to your guests.
9. Jumping the Broom
Jumping the broom is an African wedding custom that has been customized in Neo-Paganism as well. The ceremony takes place after the vows have been exchanged. The couple jumps over a broomstick to symbolically leave their old lives behind and welcome a new joint one.
Handfasting is the joining of the soonlyweds’ hands. The official then binds the hands with a fabric. This also symbolizes unity—it’s a common theme in case you hadn’t noticed!—and the ritual is of Celtic origin.
11. Say the Vows Under a Canopy
Saying the vows under a canopy is a Jewish tradition but, just as many others, has spread to all corners of the world. This can be traditional or nontraditional, depending on the setting but it is always romantic and heartwarming.
General Wedding Ceremony Ideas
Moving on to some creative ideas that can be added to your wedding ceremony regardless of its structure and religious background (if any).
1. Tying the Knot
Is there anything more symbolic than tying the knot? You can use a rope or a ribbon and literally tie them together. The motive is more than obvious, but you can add a touch of personalization. Get creative!
2. Planting a Tree
Another obvious allegory is planting a tree after the wedding ceremony. You can use a pot or your garden if you’re staging your wedding there. The symbolism of roots is ancient and easily understandable across cultures, so this may be a nice traditional touch everyone will appreciate.
3. Passing a Rope
Ropes are, well, extremely popular when it comes to wedding ceremonies. They can be used in a number of creative ways, and one of those is rope passing. Similar to the ring warming ceremony, the passing of a fisherman’s rope serves for the soonlyweds to receive wedding guests’ blessings.
4. Tug of War
Tug of war is a fun activity no matter the occasion, but it can be especially thrilling during a wedding ceremony (especially because not many guests will expect it!). As for the symbolism, well, you can pretend it will help you tie the bond (jokingly) if you really need an excuse. Otherwise, it’s just fun!
5. Log Cutting
Log cutting was a wedding ritual in some parts of Germany. It symbolizes the couple’s willingness to help each other in all kinds of challenging situations. It’s best done after the vows. However, if you’re down to put in a little work before saying your vows, who are we to stop you?!
6. Releasing Doves
This ceremony can be either traditional or not, depending on your family background. It is well-known but rarely seen, simply because you would need to find someone to properly handle those doves.
7. Lighting a Fire
The good old pagan tradition of lighting a fire on any kind of occasion has engraved itself in wedding traditions across the globe. While you won’t normally see couples setting a fire in front of a church, you can do so in your garden or anywhere outside. Just remember to prepare the spot.
8. Ring Warming Ceremony
A ring warming ceremony has the wedding guests pass on the wedding rings. This symbolizes their blessings and well-wishes for the couple. The ritual can be performed either before or during the wedding ceremony (obviously not after!).
9. Proposing a Toast
This is one of the best-known wedding rituals. Toasts are usually made by the hosts, certain close family members and close friends. The ritual symbolizes good health and happiness for the couple and can be fun if you choose the right people to propose a toast!
10. Drinking Wine
Drinking wine is often expected, especially during the toast, but there’s another way to perform this ritual. Namely, you can put out a glass of red wine and a glass of white wine. The couple should mix and drink from both glasses to, yep, you got it, underline unity.
11. Time Capsule
Lastly, the couple can write a love letter to one another before the wedding and seal them inside a box (or any other vessel you like). Letters can be accompanied by any items you like, and many also choose to add a bottle of champagne. The box can be opened at any time after the wedding, but preferably not immediately after the ceremony. An anniversary or any other milestone may be a suitable date.
As you can see, there are plenty of ideas on how to customize your special day, no matter your cultural background and the type of wedding ceremony you’re planning to host. Many of these rituals and customs originate from various cultures. That said, you should only use the traditions from cultures that relate to your family, country of origin or background. We do not suggest you take from traditions simply because you like the look of them. Once you’ve found those that speak to you and your partner’s history, you can combine them and add your own touch for some added creativity and individuality.