The 12 best rituals for your secular ceremony

Even a secular wedding ceremony celebrates the union of two people and represents a milestone in their lives. A symbolic ritual will allow you to express your feelings and commitment with accuracy.

However, since the symbolic ritual is primarily a question of meaning, it is essential that the one you choose should have a special meaning for you.

For example, including in your ceremony the cultural customs and traditions important to you as a couple is a great way to personalize your ceremony.

You can go to a classic or more original ritual of union, but also opt for a collective ritual associating relatives or all the guests or a family symbol with your children.

During his speech, the officiant will explain to your guests the reasons why it is important for you to live or revive a particular ritual or tradition. So, if your guests understand what the ritual means to you both, they will feel connected to living with you in a common emotion.

To help you choose your ritual, we can say: "each couple their ritual".


The handfasting ritual

The bride and groom stand face to face with both hands clasped.
The officiant attaches the hands of the bride and groom with a rope or a ribbon.
You can use ropes or ribbons of different colors to symbolize different values that are important to you.

Origin : this ritual refers to Celtic folklore, especially from Scotland, where the term handfasting was probably borrowed by English from the old Norse handfesta meaning "to conclude an agreement by joining hands".

Symbolic : It is a ritual of union: the joined and bound hands symbolize the will of a common journy, of a mutual commitment.
The links (ribbons or ropes) can then be kept as a souvenir of this ritual.

You will need : rope or ribbons

Bonus : I find that the text of the "blessing of the hands" suits this ritual perfectly:

These are the hands of your best friend, young and strong and full of love for you,
that are holding yours on your wedding day, as you promise to love each other today, tomorrow and forever.
These are the hands that will work alongside yours, as together you build your future.
These are the hands that will passionately love you and cherish you through the years,
and with the slightest touch, will comfort you like no other.
These are the hands that will hold you when fear or grief fills your mind.
These are the hands that will countless times wipe the tears from your eyes;
tears of sorrow and tears of joy.
These are the hands that will help you to hold your family as one.
These are the hands that will give you strength when you need it.
And lastly, these are the hands that, even when wrinkled and aged, will still be reaching for yours,
still giving the you same unspoken tenderness with just a touch."

The padlock

The idea of this ritual is to engrave each one's name on a padlock (with the date of the wedding), or to write a wish if the size of the padlock allows it.
Then, the grooms lock their locks together and throw the keys in such a way that they are not found.

Origin : the origin of this ritual is uncertain: Serbia, China ... Being French, I will say that this custom was born in Paris. The Pont des Arts and its more than 40,000 "padlocks of love" continues to attract romantic tourists from around the world.

Symbolic : Like keyless locks, your love is sealed. Padlocks will never be unlocked, nor will your love and commitment!

You will need: one or two padlocks and an indelible marker.

The exchange of rings

Rings have a universal meaning. A large majority of married people do not envision their wedding without an exchange of rings.

Face to face, the bride and groom will proceed to the exchange of rings, orchestrated by the officiant. This moment can turn into a very intimate and intense moment for the bride and groom. The time to tell each other their love and to engage emotionally with each other and their loved ones.

Origin : If the exchange of rings is an already deeply rooted marriage custom, it is because this pagan practice already existed in Ancient Rome. In old times, the two rings already had the same meaning as today, namely the engagement of two people. They were similar to a real marriage contract between the future spouses.

Symbolic : This geometric shape has been mostly chosen because, with no beginning or end, the circle represents eternity.
According to each belief and each civilization, the rings symbolize eternity, life, fidelity or even passion.

You will need : your wedding rings and a presentation stand (cushion or other according to the theme of your wedding).


The ritual of sand

The sand ceremony is as simple as it is meaningful. So you can implement it at your wedding, even if you are far from the beach ...
The idea is to prepare 2 containers containing sand of two different colors. These two containers will surround an empty vase. After the exchange of vows and rings, the bride and groom will go to the containers to pour the contents into the vase.

The grains of sand poured together become inseparable for life as the bride and groom at the origin of the ceremony.

Origin : From the Hawaiian tradition, where weddings are almost always celebrated on the beach, the sand ceremony is an illustration of the marriage between the bride and groom through the mixture of sands. The grooms each take a handful of sand and mix them in a vase.

In Hawaii, vows are made while the sand is poured:
"With this sand, we mix our destinies and unite our lives."

Symbolic : This mixture symbolizes their union and the inseparable character of the couple. So, once the union is celebrated, there is no more individuals, just a couple, as inseparable as grains of sand.

You will need : 2 containers containing sand of two different colors and an empty vase

The cocktail

For this ritual, during the ceremony, the bride and grrom will prepare a cocktail based on several ingredients (with alcohol or not). Once the cocktail is ready, they will enjoy it together. If the ceremony is small, they can also invite their guests to enjoy the cocktail with them.

Origin : In the Christian tradition, wine holds an important place. It is associated with bread. The wine represents the blood of Christ, the bread His body. The faithful share the body and blood of Christ.

Symbolic : Each ingredient will symbolize a value in their couple or goals that they set themselves, commitments they make to one another. The ingredients once mixed, the couple forms a much more powerful whole, greater than its parts.

You will need : a cocktail shaker and ingredients that you have chosen or invented.

A variant : A cocktail to share with your guests; indeed, you can enjoy your creation with your closest (parents, bridesmaids, bestmen, ...) and even with all of your guests. In the latter case, for example, plan a large container and straws for tasting.

The candles

The bride and groom each hold a small lit candle. The candle may have been lit by themselves or by their parents.
Together, the bride and groom light a bigger candle.

Origin : For many cultures and religions, light is a symbol of life and positive energy. The small light of a candle, soft and dancing, is often associated with the human soul.
Choosing to use candles during your ceremony is not neutral. It implies a desire for spirituality, which is not necessarily religious. It also expresses morality, feelings, intimacy.

Symbolic : Like the ritual of sand, it symbolizes the formation of a new family from two different personalities. The small candles can then be extinguished or remain lit to symbolize the personality of the bride and groom in this new home.  

You'll need : two small candles and a bigger candle.


The burning of fears

The burning of fears is a ritual that allows the bride and groom to show that they are starting a new life. Before the wedding, each of them writes down their fears, their regrets, their remorse for their past life. They will then burn this paper during the ritual. During the ceremony, they put their sheets of paper in the vase. With a candle or matches, they set them on fire until they burn completely.

Symbolic : destroying one's fears to move forward together. Indeed, when we want to attract happiness, it is often necessary, before, to make room inside us. We are filled with doubts, fears, negative emotions, memories that block us, one way or another. And it is often all these "overflowing" things that prevent us from living the life we want to live, from getting what we want to see happen in our lives.

You'll need : sheets of writing paper, a heat-resistant and preferably transparent container or vase and a long candle or matches.

2 possibilities :

  • Before burning your sheets of paper, you can choose to read your fears aloud for each other during the ceremony.
  • or to remain discreet in the presence of the guests. In this case, the day before the wedding, you'll take the time to discuss your fears. This moment is important because it will allow you to know each other's fears and to be vigilant in the future of your couple.

The box to open only in case of emergency

This ritual is a variant of the time capsule, which consists in arranging several elements inside a box: photos of the bride and groom as they were children, photos of their meeting, their trips or important moments in their lives. They can also place small objects or letters. Everything is possible if it reminds them of their life together and their story. This box will be sealed and will be opened on a date chosen by the bride and groom.

What I propose is to slip in the box a good bottle of wine and the vows that the couple will have exchanged.

If one day, the couple goes through difficult moments in their marroed life, as life does not fail to send us, the box can then be opened and remind them around a good drink, the reasons why they said "yes" to each other.

You'll need : a pretty box, a bottle of wine, photos, 2 nails and a small hammer.


Collective rituals have the advantage of allowing all of your guests to participate. Rather than having a passive role, your loved ones will be able to take an active part in your wedding ceremony.

The stones

Put a stone and a felt pen on each chair.
During the ceremony or during a particular moment such as the exchange of vows, the guests hold the stone in their hands.
Everyone can then write a wish of happiness to the couple. This wish can be a simple word or a sentence.
At the end of the ceremony, all guests put their stone in a vase or basket.

Symbolic : by holding the stones in their hands during the ceremony, the guests transmit their love. By writing on the stone, the guests engrave their wishes. Nobody will be able to erase them. The vase brings together all the wishes of happiness, allows the couple to remember their mutual commitment and the love transmitted by the guests.

You will need : stones (preferably flat pebbles) in an amount equal to the number of guests, fine permanent markers and a vase that can contain all the stones.

The tree with ribbons

During the ceremony, all the guests come to attach the ribbon to a branch of the shrub.
You can then watch it grow over the years as your couple grows too.

Origin : The prayer tree or votive tree is a religious custom practiced in many parts of the world. It consists in using a living tree or a cut part of a tree as a support for the requests that men make to the spirits. This type of worship is practiced especially in shamanic religions.

Symbolic : The ribbons symbolize the wishes of your guests during the ceremony. Once planted, the tree will symbolize the continuity of your love accompanied by all the wishes of your guests.

You will need : a shrub, a ribbon with or without paper (to write a note) for each guest.

Variant : you can use a tree made of dry branches that will serve as home decoration.

The balls of wool

The bride and groom will throw some balls of wool to the guests in front of them. Those who receive a ball will be instructed to tie the wool at the end of their finger and throw the ball to someone at the other end of the aisle. From one thread to another, a canvas will be formed because the officiant will encourage the guests to throw the balls of wool to each other to build links. This will cause a lot of laughter which will allow families to get to know each other.

Symbolic : this ritual symbolizes the ties created with our loved ones, family and friends.

You will need : a dozen balls of wool of different colors

Variante : The ceremony of a couple getting married this summer is on the theme of The pirates and as Gabriel has a moving company, it appeared naturally that small rolls of cord would replace the wool and allow to weave the net of the pirates. Thus, we stay in the theme and encourage guests to get to know each other while having fun.


The ritual of the star

Ritual still little used, it is however full of symbolic. It consists in naming a star in the sky by giving it the first names of the bride and groom. Before the ceremony, the bride and groom will need to buy the star and name it.
On the day of the ceremony, the officiant will name the star and explain the process to the guests.
A map with the location of the star can be distributed to allow guests to locate it in the future.
The star will forever bear the first names of the bride and groom.

Origin : since the dawn of time, man seeks answers in the stars, a brilliant symbol of eternity.

Symbolic : anchor your couple in the heart of the stars, your love will shine forever in the sky.

Variant : the couple can also buy 2 twin stars.

Bonus : during the ceremony, the officiant will give you a box containing :

  • the explanatory sheet of the star (coordinates, brightness ...)
  • the detailed description of the Constellation
  • the user manual to always find your star
  • Starry sky map
  • The certificate of naming of the star
  • Stellarium software