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Joint Session: Inspired Alternatives To The Unity Candle

While the unity candle ceremony, in which a couple lights a large pillar candle using two lit tapers, will always remain a classic wedding tradition to symbolize the joining of two lives, many couples are changing things up. 

“We wanted it to be completely, wholly us,” says Emily Bynum, who married Derek Nelson last October at Castaway Portland. “Mixing sand or lighting a candle felt too much like a cliché.” Instead, Bynum and Nelson mixed a Sazerac cocktail, their favorite four-ingredient concoction, from which the couple and their parents would each take a sip. “Our officiant talked about how each ingredient is tasty alone, but together they create something unique,” she says. “The drink [is] sweet, rich and warm, which symbolizes the happiness and joy that Derek and I will share.” (above)


For Sarah Awa’xe-Melnick and Martin Awa’xe-Melnick, married last June at Camp Angelos in Corbett, a modified Native American blanket ceremony infused culture and heritage into their secular celebration. The bride (a member of the Mandan tribe) and the groom were wrapped individually by members of their families in colorful patterned blankets that were then tied together to represent the joining of two lives and two families.

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Last spring during a Portland wedding filled with mythical, folkloric details, a couple incorporated handfasting, an ancient ceremony in which the couple’s joined hands were wrapped in ceremonial silk ribbon to symbolically bind them. The two then invoked a spiritual bond with a selection of spoken passages. According to wedding coordinator Kirsten Smrtka of Lake Oswego’s Bridal Bliss, “It’s a simple, ancient unity ceremony that is easy to personalize with a couple’s unique choice of material and words."

Photos courtesy of Dylan M Howell photography, Sarah Lynn Photography

Ashley Perlberg from Weeno Photography

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