How to Perform a Wedding Sand Ceremony

... zysman/iStock/Getty Images

The sand ceremony is a symbolic addition to traditional or iconoclastic wedding rituals. It is similar to the unity candle custom in which two candles, representing the individual families or the bride and groom, are lighted and used to ignite a third candle that merges the two flames. Sand ceremonies are especially appropriate for beach weddings, but they may be used in any venue to enrich a brief exchange of vows or to create a lasting memento for the new couple.

1 The Procedure

A basic sand ceremony is simple to set up and perform. It requires two containers of sand -- usually of two different colors -- an empty glass vial and an optional funnel for the empty vial to guard against spills. The funnel may be made of some meaningful paper twisted into a cone -- a page from a favorite book or a sheet of music. The empty vial may be etched or engraved with the bride's and groom's names, the wedding date or a brief, meaningful phrase or quote. At the appointed time during the service, the bride pours some of the sand from her container into the empty vial. Then the groom pours a little of his sand into the vial. After that, the two pour the remaining sand into the common container so it mixes and becomes inseparable.

2 The Meaning

The separate grains of sand symbolize all the minutes, breaths, dreams or hopes of the individuals getting married. As they each pour sand from their separate containers into the one vessel, they are merging the essence of their lives together into one inseparable whole. Beach sand is fine to use in the ceremony. Colored sand creates individual layers on the bottom of the single container and then a blended color on the top when the wedding couple pours sand simultaneously. The officiant or the bride and groom may enhance the ceremony with favorite quotes or a version of the pledge to join their lives together to create one lasting, united family.

3 Blending Families

A sand ceremony is a thoughtful way to involve stepchildren in a wedding and include them emphatically in the lives of the new couple. A larger glass vial with a stopper will hold the final product, to display prominently in the blended home. Each child has a vial of sand, and each is called forward to pour his sand into the common vessel. With just a few children, the ceremony may begin with small separate pours of individual colors, including those of the bride and groom, and then a group pour to create the final blended layer. A larger contingent might take turns adding sand of the same color to the vial. Each child may speak her own dedication, or smaller children may all repeat the same mantra -- "These are my hopes and dreams for our new family" -- or some other simple phrase.

4 Measuring the Hours

Use an hourglass as the blended sand container to deepen the symbolism of the ceremony. There are special hourglasses made for sand ceremonies that have a removable top so the sand can be added before the hourglass is sealed. For an hourglass, be sure to measure the sand to be blended carefully so the correct amount creates a functional timekeeper. In this version of the ceremony, each participant pours his or her own sand into the vessel, which is then sealed and turned upside down to activate the hourglass and begin to blend the two colors of sand.

Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .