Ceremony ideas from symbolic bridges to group candle-making

Copyright National Lilac Publishing, LLC

Here you'll find ceremony ideas as well as symbolic items you can make to bring meaning to the ceremony.

Crossing a bridge: Create a symbolic bridge crossing, this is an excellent ceremony idea for unique weddings, accomplishments in clubs and schools, or even home life transitions. A symbolic bridge can be as simple as two small logs about five feet long lying side by side.

Cutting open a barrier: Made familiar with the ribbon cutting ceremony, a barrier can also be broken through when crepe paper ribbon is used instead of regular ribbon. It can be freeing to take the bare hands and force the barrier apart!

Freeing oneself from ties: This can be acted out symbolically with colored yarn or ribbon tucked gently into the folds of clothing or belts, and then removed during the chosen time of the ceremony. Instead of being yanked or cut away (leaving residue on the body), they should be completely removed from the body. For example, if crepe paper ribbons are tucked into one's belt, they are fully pulled out in totality rather than yanked at, which could make them break and leave bits and pieces to be found later or needing to be further removed.

Setting something free: Freeing butterflies or doves are the most popular of these activities, and when done properly, can happen in a humane way, such as when environmentalist-sanctioned butterfly farms raise and sell butterflies for release, or a pigeon owner with white tamed birds allows them to be released, as pigeons always find their way home. We’re not suggesting capturing something wild, interrupting its cycle and imprisoning it just for a ceremony. You can, though, even raise your own painted lady butterflies and often pre-determine close to the date of their needed release. As another alternative, garden centers sell live ladybugs for release. They could be purchased the day before the ceremony and kept refrigerated until their release.

Burning something old, or sending a new wish to the heavens: Write down the wish or something old you want released from your life on paper, fold it, and toss into a burning bowl.

Food and drink as symbols: Bread and wine, and other foods have had deep ceremonial meanings and can even make real changes when the symbol they stand for has meaning to the participants. A family bonding ceremony can consist of baking a special loaf of bread that stands for family unity, and having all family members cut off and eat a slice. Grape bunches, sparkling organic ciders, homemade sweetbreads, and just about any wholesome food or drink can be turned into a symbol.

Making candles: Not only just using candles for the ceremony, but making candles can be an act of a ceremony. For example, making candles every Saturday after Thanksgiving can be a family or group’s ceremony for welcoming in the upcoming winter and darker days. Making candles in certain shapes or colors for everyday use can mark other seasons and accomplishments. The couple getting married can gather with others for making candles that will be lit at their ceremony. And heated beeswax is known to create healthy, unifying ions in the air, which is perfect for almost any ceremony’s atmosphere, as well as during the candle making itself.

Make your own incense: While incense has long been popular in ceremonies of all types -- from conservative religious services to pagan rituals, if you make your own, you can add special ingredients that further the meaning. For example, harvesting your own sage, drying it, and adding it to the incense. Here's our simple recipe for making your own incense for ceremonies.

Letting ice melt: An ice cube can be placed on top of cedar chips with moisture absorbing potting soil or pretty paper towels beneath the chips and within a water holding vessel such as a shallow dish. The ice cube represents something participants want to release, complete or have closure with. When it melts and disappears, it signals the completion of one thing and the beginning of something new.

Making masks: Like making candles, making masks can be part of the ceremony itself whether the wearing of the masks are also one of the ceremony ideas or not. It can be a rite of passage for 13-year-olds to gather for making masks for younger children. Or, women can enjoy a ceremony of making masks to be burned or used only as decoration to symbolize being who they really are, no longer "wearing a mask" anymore. And of course, after making masks, using them in the ceremony is as old as human tribes themselves, whether the masks are worn throughout to stand for the cunning of the fox or the intelligence of the raven, or taken off during the ceremony.

One of my favorite unique ceremony ideas for weddings is a twist on the bride’s veil. Both the bride and groom come out wearing half-masks (his is masculine, hers feminine), and they remove them when they meet at the end of the aisle as a symbol of releasing old ways of being into something honest and "unmasked" and new.

Vessels and boxes: Waterproof vessels can be used to either be filled with special water as a symbol or have water released to the earth as yet another ceremony idea for releasing the old for the new. Antique wooden boxes can hold polished stones in which each participant chooses one at the end of the ceremony to take home the “energy” of the ceremony. Again, like making candles or making masks, actually making paper boxes can be a ceremony itself, such as boxes of certain shapes made for keepsakes, or even as vessels to be burned for releasing something to the heavens.

More ceremony ideas and thoughts

Today, individualism doesn’t have to give way to forced conformity in order to have rites of passage rituals and group ceremonies again. We can choose ceremony ideas, whether making candles or burning wishes, to devise our own, and they work as long as they have meaning to us. Personal beginnings, accomplishments, mergings, completions (completion ceremonies turn endings into something safe) cycles, birthdays, anniversaries, healing after trauma, and so forth.

Symbols and symbolic acts speak to the subconscious, which can actually then create real changes from within. But symbols and ceremonies have to have meaning to those who are participating. If a cross means everything to one group, but means nothing or even something negative and punishing to someone else, it won’t have the desired effect for that person. The symbol itself is benign until we give it life with our own symbolic meaning. That’s why sometimes actually making candles, or making masks, for example, rather than just lighting store-bought ones can give far more meaning to your ceremony ideas.



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