God’s Knot and other Unity Rituals

While it’s usually me suggesting the ideas, and that is, after all, my job – from time to time couples come to me with a request for a specific ritual for their wedding ceremony. Perhaps they saw or read about it somewhere.  There are many ways to find  this stuff, especially on the internet, whether Pinterest, Instagram or other on-line sites we can go to for inspiration. 

One example was a request for a ‘God’s Knot.’ It’s a simple but clear concept. It consists of three strands of cord – purple, white and gold – attached at one end and open at the other so the couple can weave it together. Sometimes called a Unity Braid or the Cord of Three Strands, it symbolizes the joining of one man, one woman, and God into a marriage relationship. The gold strand represents God, the purple one is for the husband and the white strand is for the bride. You do this together, right in the ceremony. Of course, there is text to accompany it, so people understand what they are doing.

This ritual can be very religious, or it can be stated in a simpler manner, still with clear a reference to religion. The couple I worked with wanted to keep it more on the minimal side, and they especially liked how it shows cooperation. Any ritual that involves both partners doing something together is always good in my book!

The ritual in action. (Kiwi Photography)

A similar ritual is the Unity Cross – another one a couple brought to me. This involves a sculpture of sorts, one that the couple assembles during the ceremony. The groom places the outer part of the cross onto a base or into a frame and the bride adds the pieces that fit inside it. You have a nice keepsake to remind you of your wedding day. Like a unity candle you can add family members, for example mothers can bring sections of the cross if you buy a set that accommodates that. This is something you’d have to purchase, unless you or someone you know is a fine woodworker.

Some of the explanations I’ve read for both of these rituals do not appeal to me – they seem a bit patriarchal and old-fashioned. For example, with the Unity Cross, the empty cross represents a strong man, defender of the family, yet incomplete without a woman. And the woman’s part is more delicate and is designed to fit inside the cross shape, with lots of references to God commanding this view of the world. But you don’t have to use this language. I modernized the idea and made the focus a more honoring the Christian faith, commitment to their marriage and again, that cooperation of putting it together. It’s like pieces of a puzzle that fit, exactly how some couples describe themselves.

On example of the many styles of the Unity Cross

I don’t get to work often with unity candles because I officiate so many ceremonies outdoors. 

The language often used for this includes the idea of two becoming one. I find this concept inaccurate. You don’t give up your identity in marriage. What really happens when two people join forces, is that together they create not one thing, but a third thing – something stronger and larger than themselves. 

And candles outdoors just don’t work well. Trust me on this. Even indoors if the space is well lit, you don’t get much drama from a candle.  Now candles at night – that’s another story. And if you do want to use candles, leave them all lit. The candles represent the couple, each partner, and their ‘marriage’ candle, the joining together part. If parents are coming forward to participate, I like having four candles plus the bigger marriage candle. The mother’s pass the flame to their children who then light the larger candle. Don’t blow them out – leave them all burning, it is much more meaningful, symbolic and dramatic. 

Candles makes the best impression when the lighting is correct.
Rob Lettieri Photography

One time for a wedding on a stage (at the Shawnee Playhouse) we set up candles all along the edge of the stage and as each attendant (bridesmaids/groomsmen) entered, they stopped, lit one, and then came up the steps to take their places. This small action illustrated their support, and then the parents, and the couple themselves played a role in this ritual, too.

People are always looking for something unique, but I hope they will look closely at the meaning and decide if it’s just the unique action that is attracting them, or the deeper meaning. 

find me on facebook – Lois Heckman, Celebrant, and Instagram – Lois Heckman

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