Symbolic gestures, or rituals, can add an extra dimension to any ceremony and can make it even more personal and memorable for you and for your guests. They can involve just the two of you or include your ‘VIPs’.

Don’t feel you have to include any though – just think about whether any of them resonate with you or have meaning for you. Your ceremony will be unique and meaningful regardless. Here we explore a couple of the more popular ones that you might want to consider. 

Please be aware that with COVID-19, we suggest some care around certain symbolic gestures. We have included our advice  below each gesture. You can exchange rings, but they should be handled by as few people as possible. They may however be handed over by members of the wedding party.

Learn about the more popular symbolic gestures by clicking the relevant link.

Handfasting or Tying the Knot 

Oathing Stone

Drinking from the Quaich

Wedding Band Warming

Unity Candle

Sand Ceremony

Photo credit – Sean Bell Photography

Adaptations from Different Cultures

Including a few elements from a culture that has meaning to one or both of you can make your ceremony particularly unique and personal.

An alternative to the quaich is the Viking tradition of drinking from an alehorn, popular on the Shetland Islands. Traditionally, it would be mead you would drink from the alehorn, but you can choose your own favourite drink. You drink to the dawn of your marriage and to seal the pact of your marriage. TOP TIP As with drinking from the quaich, avoid anything that can stain!

A popular Jewish wedding tradition is the groom breaking the glass – the “betrothal wine glass” – at the end of the ceremony, to affirm that the marriage is now valid. It also serves as a reminder of the fragile nature of relationships and to cherish them. In today’s more equal society, and with a humanist perspective, both parties to the marriage can break their own glass simultaneously – followed by everyone shouting “MAZEL TOV!” (meaning congratulations or good luck). TOP TIP Maybe use sugar glass, then you don’t risk a trip to A&E!

Photo credit – The Gibsons – Wedding Photography

In Mexico, as a couple are exchanging their vows, a ‘lazo’, or lasso, made of flowers can be draped around their shoulders in the shape of a figure eight. Not only does ‘el lazo’ represent the union of the couple, but its shape also resembles the infinity symbol, signifying a long and happy life together.

One Greek tradition is that the bride literally squashes the groom’s foot during the ceremony. The story goes that if the bride steps on her groom’s foot, she will have the upper hand during the marriage. You can decide between you whose foot should be stomped on or, in keeping with today’s more equal society, maybe you should both stomp on each other’s foot!


You can of course be creative and come up with your own symbolic gestures. Our celebrants love to get their creative juices flowing too. The beauty of a Humanist ceremony is being able to make it your own.