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Y’all know I’m the first in line for a big bow or beautiful monogram, but I also understand they’re not everyone’s cup of tea. (Though, if you’re here at Southern Weddings reading, I’d say there’s a better than average chance they are!) In everything from your aesthetic choices to the words you say when you vow forever to each other, we want you to choose what’s right for you and what most helps to tell your unique story – not what looks good or what someone else is doing.

In that spirit, today we’re chatting about a few wedding ceremony traditions you might want to consider including in your big day. Traditions can make your ceremony even more meaningful by underscoring or illustrating the more important moments, but they’ll fall flat if they’re not rooted in what matters to you. Take a peek and see which ones speak to you – we can’t wait to see what you choose!

Bamber Photography

Military saber arch: For military brides and grooms, one of the most recognizable (and beloved!) wedding traditions is the saber arch—a ceremony exit that both celebrates the newlyweds, and acknowledges that serving our country is truly a family commitment.

Traditionally, the saber arch is performed by 6-8 uniformed service members (often guests or groomsmen/bridesmaids) immediately following the ceremony. On the command, the saber team raises their sabers into a high arch, which the newlyweds enter as they are announced by one of the members. As the bride and groom pass through, the two saber bearers in the front traditionally lower their sabers before the couple can proceed out of the arch.

This is when the saber bearer to the couple’s left gives the non-military member of the couple a gentle tap on the backside and a welcome to the applicable branch! After a kiss, the newlyweds are free to proceed and the saber team recovers on command and dissolves formation.

Unity candle: Typically the unity candle ceremony uses two taper candles with a large pillar candle in the center. At the beginning of the ceremony, a family representative from each side (usually the mothers of the bride and groom) light the two taper candles. Later during the ceremony, the bride and groom use the two light candles to jointly light the large center candle to symbolize the joining together of two families.

Anna Shackleford

Foot washing: Washing one another’s feet is a newer wedding tradition that stems from the biblical story of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet (John 13:1-17) as a gesture of service and humility. Christian couples especially may find deep symbolism in recreating this moment during their wedding ceremony, while promising to serve one another selflessly in marriage, but any couple committed to living out these qualities in their future may find it meaningful.

During the ceremony, the bride and groom simply take turns sitting down on a chair in front of a basin of water, while their significant other kneels in front of them, removes their shoe(s), and washes their feet with water. Another option: because a foot washing ceremony is so intimate, some couples choose to wash each other’s feet in a more private setting, perhaps during their first look, or after returning to their ceremony site post-recessional and after their guests have been dismissed.

Jumping the broom: This tradition has a history tied back to nineteenth-century slave communities in the South, but it has gained richness and deeper meaning for couples who choose to include it in their ceremonies today. The act of jumping can represent crossing the threshold into marriage, the beginning of making a home together, their dedication to working together through difficult and joyful tasks, and a sweeping away of the old and a welcoming of the new. The humble broom becomes quite beautiful when used in this way, and many are dressed up for the occasion!

A Bryan Photo

Carrying a white Bible: For families that have Bibles that have been passed down from generation to generation, carrying this heirloom down the aisle is a way for a bride to honor her heritage. Whether or not it’s an heirloom, Christians brides often carry a white Bible as an outward representation of their faith on this incredibly special day. Bibles and small white prayer books can be tucked into your bouquet or embellished with ribbons or flowers and carried solo. If you decide not to carry a Bible but are looking for another nod to your faith, we love the idea of wrapping your favorite verse into or around your bouquet or placing a family bible on the altar at your ceremony.

Ring warming: In a ring warming ceremony, the wedding bands are passed hand to hand through the congregation before being exchanged (tie them to a pillow or place them in a special bag to minimize the risk of dropping them!). Your officiant can ask each guest to hold the rings for a few moments, “warming” them with their prayers, blessings, and good wishes for your marriage. When they’re returned to you ready to wear, they’ll be symbolically fortified for your lifelong marriage to come!

We have heaps more ceremony planning advice and recommendations in our Joyful Wedding Planner. If you’re passionate about telling your unique love story through your wedding, this is the product for you!

Anna Shackleford and Bamber Photographer are delightful members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

kristin Written with love by Kristin
1 Comment
  1. avatar Wedding Pixie reply

    Love these ideas, hand fasting is another tradition I love!

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A few weeks back we received a note from one of you sweet readers. She wrote:

“My fiancé recently lost his father (and I lost my wonderful father-in-law-to-be). I am trying to think of the best way to honor him during our wedding ceremony this September. I would love to hear y’alls’ ideas, as well as your reader’s ideas. Thanks so much!”

Of course! We love helping our readers out whenever we can. The community surrounding a couple is so important throughout their life, but especially when planning a wedding, and finding meaningful ways to honor and remember friends and family members is often an important part of wedding planning.

My family is actually very small (not to fret, I married into a very large, very Southern, and very amazing one), and both of my maternal grandparents have passed away. When I married my sweet husband, I wore the pearls that my grandmother had worn on her wedding day over 50 years before. When my sister got married this past year, she chose to honor our grandfather by having his photo placed in a small frame, and pinned to her bouquet.

My handsome grandfather. Image credit: Sara Kauss.

The ceremony is a great place to honor loved ones who have passed away, because it’s naturally a more solemn and sacred part of the day.

Some couples choose to light candles in memoriam. Others choose to place a single rose (or their favorite flower) on the pew where they would have been seated. We thought it was so sweet when recent bride Suzanne included a single white rose in her orange tulip bouquet to honor her father, who had passed away.

Photos by Amy Arrington (see more here!)

For this particular couple we think it would be lovely to to include the groom’s late father’s monogram inside his jacket.

Photo by Lisa Poggi

We also like the idea of choosing a special reading or singing a particular hymn that was a favorite of his. These are great options especially if you’re worried about the overall tone of the ceremony being sad, because only the people who it matters to will realize the true significance of the detail.

Along those same lines, we also like the idea of using a scrap of a favorite jacket or piece of clothing for the ring bearer pillow, a handkerchief, or the groom’s pocket square. If you have a larger amount of fabric to work with, you can have a custom tie made through a company like Tie Crafters. Or, simply have the groom wear one of his father’s favorite accessories, like a tie or cuff links.

Madras bow tie photo by Gabe Aceves (see more here!)

However you choose to honor their memory, we think the goal is to make the addition a positive and loving part of the ceremony.

Readers, do you have any additional ideas of how to remember a loved one during your wedding? We’d love to hear in the comments below.

marissa Written with love by Marissa
  1. avatar Erin reply

    Love the ideas. My BFF passed in 1999 we had been friends since our mom’s were pregnant. She would have been my Maid of Honor. So I am having a bouquet made and will be placed on an empty chair on the front row at the ceremony and then will be on my cake table. The girl loved some cake.

    • avatar Marissa reply

      Hi Erin, I am so sorry to hear about your BFF, but that is such a wonderful way to honor her. I’m sure she would have loved the cake! : ) xo, Marissa

  2. avatar Dianna reply

    My sweet daddy passed several years ago. I’m trying not to do all of the typical rememberance things, for myself and my families sake. I know that if he was here that we would have a one toe tapping good time, and since he’s there in spirit, I know we will anyway. To honor him on my wedding day, I will be sewing his wedding band on the inside of my dress so he will be everywhere that night!

    • avatar Marissa reply

      Hi Diana, I am so sorry about your daddy. I love the ideas of sewing his wedding band into your gown, that is such a sweet sentiment. I am sure he will be looking down on you dancing the night away with y’all! xo, Marissa

  3. avatar Kelly reply

    To honor my fiance’s late mother, I’ll be wearing her engagement ring on my right hand and we’ll be using her cherished family Bible to read scripture from during the ceremony. I love the other ideas you suggested!

  4. avatar Brit at Colure Weddings reply

    This post almost brought a tear to my eye. I love the bouquet with the one white flower in it!

  5. avatar Brittany T reply

    My father passed away when I was in highschool almost 10 years ago. For every special occasion since his passing my mother has done an amazing job doing little things to make him feel like he is there. For both my highschool and college graduation I’ve recieved a bouquet wrapped with one of his neck ties. So for my future wedding the bouquet I walk down the aisle with will be no different. It will also be wrapped with one of his neck ties, that way he is still there to walk me down the aisle. I also plan on using his old white Bible as the ring bearer’s “pillow.”

  6. avatar Heather reply

    Both my fiance and I had wonderful relationships with our grandparents, but unfortunately only Austin’s maternal grandfather will be with us in person for our wedding day (Grandpa Baker is sooo cute!). So that left us with trying to figure out how to honor the memories of our grandparents that will be with us in spirit… but we wanted to do it in a unique and special way. We came up with the idea of making all of their best dessert recipes for our reception… and printing those recipes on cards for our guests to keep… this way our guests could get to know them a little bit too… and enjoy their most delicious treats! Their are so many wonderful memories surrounding each of those special desserts! :) Our wedding is June 2, 2012… so I will keep y’all posted on how our special dessert table turns out!! This idea is definitely one that I am most excited about on our big day (aside from marrying the most wonderful man in the world!!!)!! :)

  7. avatar Katie reply

    I love learning about the meanings behind flowers and think it’s so special to incorporate those. To honor late grandparents at our wedding, my husband and I placed several potted rosemary plants on the mantle of the fireplace where we held our ceremony. Our programs quoted Shakespeare’s Hamlet passage: “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray you, love, remember,” along with our grandparents’ names. I loved the look, and surrounded by candles, the plants gave such a wonderful scent, too. We gave the plants to our parents after the wedding.

  8. avatar Kelly reply

    I have really struggled with this topic and I am so glad you covered it. (OnceWed covered it this week too:

    My dad passed away three weeks after I was engaged. He was struggling with his health so the idea of him not walking me down the aisle had occurred to me, but once John proposed right before my college graduation I was elated that my dad would be there to walk me down the aisle. I have gone back and forth about how to include him in my day, and one that I have decided on is a Journey Locket! (Thank you SW for that giveaway). I really like the flower idea, but I will be having an all white bouquet so I will be including a violet. This is the official flower of my dad’s fraternity and I loved hearing him talk about his time as an active. My dad was Greek but my mom wasn’t so it was something that we have in common.

  9. avatar Joyce reply

    I met my fience when he was 6 & I was 12, his sister was my best friend. She died when she was 14, & he & I met up on facebook in 2010. Our grandparents are gone & he lost a son at birth. We’ll be sending off chinese lanterns over a river.

  10. avatar lisa reply

    My mother passed away just recently. She loved my three daughters dearly and they miss her very much. I saved some of her blue clothing. I plan on having a heart shapes cut from her clothing and sewing them nside my daughters’ wedding dresses when the time comes. It will be their “something blue”.

    • avatar Emily reply

      Lisa, that is one of the sweetest ideas I’ve ever heard. What a thoughtful touch!

Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

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