Selecting and Adapting Rituals for Gay and Lesbian Ceremonies

Cindy and Sharon | Same Sex Wedding Photographers

Wondering how to symbolize your new lives together during your wedding ceremony? Concerned that the “traditional” doesn’t quite fit your personal vision for your Big Day? Here are some options, both traditional and unique that you might consider incorporating into your same-sex wedding ceremony.

The Unity Candle

While it is commonly associated with heterosexual wedding tradition, many gay and lesbian couples find the symbolism of joining their two families perfectly appropriate and authentic to their stories. In a traditional unity candle ceremony, the mother of each bride or groom lights their family’s taper candle before the ceremony begins. After the couple takes their vows, the newlyweds use the family candles to simultaneously light the center pillar candle representing their united lives. Some couples extinguish the family tapers, however most will leave them lit. Any family member can perform the “mother” role, and often couples will have older children light the family tapers. Unity candles can be kept as family keepsakes and passed on from generation to generation.


Derived from a Wiccan or “neopagan” tradition, handfasting is the ceremonial binding of hands with ribbon, rope or cloth. Tying the hands of the newlyweds together symbolizes the joining of two lives, and is generally performed by the celebrant, although in some weddings a significant family member or very close friends ties the couple’s hands.

Tree Ceremony

Increasing in popularity across all weddings is the Tree Ceremony. In one variation, each partner provides soil from his or her family home. After the vows are taken, the newlyweds use both containers of soil to plant a new tree or shrub (something perennial of course!) together, which they will watch grow just as their new lives will grow and develop. Where a family home isn’t convenient or appropriate, new soil can be used for the ritual. Likewise, if the ceremony is held at the couple’s home or another personal location, the tree or shrub can be planted right in the ground instead of in a container.

Ring Blessing

Most appropriate for intimate weddings, the Ring Blessing ceremony can be a lovely way to involve your guests in the joining of your lives. Before the exchange, the celebrant passes the rings (often in a cloth bag or special container) to the guests, who each take a turn saying a silent blessing over them. After all guests have blessed the rings, they are returned for the ring exchange. Of course, this is a ritual appropriate only at small weddings among intimate friends and family. It requires explanation, as well, as most guests haven’t participated in such a blessing before. It can be very meaningful and touching at even the smallest of weddings. There are many ways to symbolize the joining of two lives. Choose one that is significant to you as a couple, and adapt respectfully to fit your personal love story. You will never forget sharing that special moment together on your wedding day.