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6 Meaningful Secular Wedding Ceremony Ideas

Many wedding traditions have deep roots in religious significance, so it can be difficult to craft a meaningful secular ceremony—here are some ideas.

gay wedding chairs
McKinnon Photography

gay wedding chairs
McKinnon Photography

Even if your wedding isn’t taking place in a place of worship, it can be pretty difficult to craft secular wedding ceremony ideas with meaningful rituals. This is important if you and your spouse were raised in different faith traditions, and therefore want to avoid bringing either into your wedding. Or, conversely, if one or both of you weren’t raised in any particular faith, so you’re uncomfortable involving religion or religious ceremony rituals for your wedding. Whatever the reason for wanting to create a secular wedding ceremony, there are lots of ways to fill out your non-religious wedding with heartfelt activities to symbolize your union. Here are six meaningful secular wedding ceremony ideas to consider.

Love Ceremony Readings

Choosing a poem, song or excerpt from a movie or novel is a great way to incorporate important words into your wedding ceremony, beyond the vows. Wedding ceremony readings may also allow you to honor important persons in your life as well, as you may choose to select a close friend or family member who is not in your wedding party to take part in the ceremony by performing the reading. Your reading can be as traditional or non-traditional as you all are as a couple, so don’t limit yourself to only text that feels more appropriate for a wedding. Dig deep into your well of inspiration for your favorite lines that symbolize your relationship and what love and marriage mean to you and your partner.

Sand Pouring

Meant to symbolize the eternal wedding of love birds, this secular wedding ceremony ritual involves filling two vases with sand. Some couples will specifically use sand from their native country or home state, and most couples will be sure that each vase contains sand of different colors. During the ceremony, the couple pours sand from each vase into one larger vase. Once poured, the two types of sand mix and create a unique pattern that makes the sand indistinguishable from each other.

Plant a Tree (Or a Bottle of Liquor!)

Trees offer tons of symbolism for a secular wedding ceremony. It’s a living organism that grows both deep into the earth and high into the sky. It’s something that is only as healthy as its foundation, and even though it can grow big and strong, it can be cut down with relative ease. If you and your partner are nature lovers, consider a ceremonial tree planting as one of your non-religious wedding ideas. A variation on the tree planting is to take a page from classic Southern weddings and bury a bottle of bourbon. It’s one of the wedding traditions with murky origins, but the intent is to ensure sunny weather on your wedding day. One month before you marry, plant an unopened bottle of your favorite brew at your ceremony site. Once your ceremony is done, you’re free to dig up the bourbon and drink up! Of course, you’re free to adapt these traditions to suit you and the wedding style of your choosing. Plant a bush or a group of flowers instead of a tree; seed a bottle of vodka instead of bourbon.

Ring Warming

Most wedding ceremonies, whether a non-religious wedding ceremony or religious, don’t involve the guests much. Thought to be Celtic in origin, ring warming is one of the few rituals that includes every person in attendance and is a great way to personalize your ceremony. Either by passing the ring to wedding guests using a uniting ribbon or thread or by encouraging guests to “warm” your rings as they enter the ceremony space, ring warming asks your wedding guests to place a silent blessing, intention or well wish onto your wedding rings.

Wine Box Ceremony

Wine lovers rejoice because this non-religious wedding idea allows you to celebrate your love of your partner and your love of vino. The concept includes each partner writing a love letter to the other. The contents are entirely up to you to personalize, so you can write about why you chose to marry this person, or your hopes for your future together, or anything else. Then, work together to create a decorative box that will fit your favorite bottle of wine. Some couples elect to have a special family member or friend create the box, or purchase from a place with significance. It’s up to you, but you can definitely use each part of this ceremony as a sharing opportunity. Next, you’ll select a bottle of wine (or sparkling wine, or prosecco, or champagne—it’s your choice!) to store in the box. Alert the person officiating your ceremony that you want to include this ritual into your wedding, and your officiant will likely want to say a few words before placing both the bottle and your love letters into the box. Lastly, the box will be sealed and won’t be opened until your fifth anniversary.

Unity Candle Lighting

While unity candle lighting is popular for weddings, even in a religious ceremony, it doesn’t have inherent ties to a particular faith. It’s a fairly simple ritual that is said to symbolize new marriages. Choose three candles—one to symbolize you; one to symbolize your partner and one to symbolize your new marriage. Often, the last candle is larger than the other two, but it’s not a rule. Before the ceremony, each set of parents will light one of the smaller candles. During the ceremony, your officiant will prepare a script that speaks to the significance of two people joining together to create one partnership. When prompted, each of you will light the larger candle using the flames from your smaller candles.