Religious Symbols in a Secular Wedding Ceremony

A beautifully written ceremony can feel like poetry, often using familiar symbols to evoke a romantic and celebratory mood. We’re accustomed to wedding rings symbolizing the love and commitment the couple has for each other; they have no beginning and no end. Other symbols represent meaning as well.

At this time of year, you may see symbols being used to celebrate holidays associated with various religions such as crosses, menorahs, and lanterns. Religious symbols have deep meaning and can add another layer of poetry to your ceremony. October’s blog talks about holiday-inspired ceremonies. Religious symbols can inspire too!

Let’s explore the meaning of some, and discover how they can be connected to your wedding ceremony:

Bahá’í— Nine Pointed Star:

  • Meaning: the nine points of the star symbolize comprehensiveness and culmination, simply because nine is the highest single digit number.
  • Making the Connection: Each of you has experienced unique situations that have shaped who you are as single individuals. It is the culmination of these events that has prepared you for each other and your new life together. Your union as a married couple will provide you more happiness than either of you could acquire alone.

Buddhist—The Wheel of Dharma:

  • Meaning: This symbol resembles the captain’s wheel on a ship. The round shape of the wheel represents perfection of the teachings. The rim speaks to the mindfulness and concentration it takes to hold the practice together, and the hub signifies moral discipline. Each of the spokes on the wheel represents teachings or principles to live by: understanding, good intention, compassionate speech, ethical action, making a living through non-harmful means, wholesome effort, whole body mindfulness, and dedicated concentration.
  • Making the Connection: This symbol lends itself nicely to vows. All of these principles are key to a successful relationship and can be aspirations for what you hope to bring to your marriage.

Christian—The Fish or Ichthys:

  • Meaning: In the days where Christians were persecuted, the fish symbol represented God and served as a type of code used to identify other Christians. One person drew one arch to form half of the fish and the stranger he met would draw the other to complete the outline. But another common meaning for the symbol signifies the miracle when Jesus fed thousands of people with just a few fish.
  • Making the Connection: You may consider using this symbol to speak to the life of love and abundance you have as a married couple. Your friends and family will serve as your community, providing endless amounts of caring, support, and wisdom. And in return, you will receive more blessings and happiness than your hearts can hold.

Taoist—Yin and Yang (Taiji or Tai Chi):

  • Meaning: The Taiji is a familiar Chinese symbol meaning two opposing but complimentary forces bringing balance to the universe.
  • Making the Connection: This one is a favorite because it signifies the coming together of two people to make a perfect union. It’s easy to describe the different attributes of each person in the pair; for example, one is an enthusiastic dreamer and takes the couple to new heights. The other is grounded and keeps them safe. Together, they are the perfect balance of sky and earth. This is what marriage is all about.

Jewish—Star of David:

  • Meaning: The overarching meaning of this symbol is protection. God protects us from all sides, north, south, east, west, up, and down; the directions symbolized by the points of the star.
  • Making the Connection: To be successful, your marriage becomes more important than anything else in your life. You must choose to make it your priority every day. In your vows, you consider promising to protect your relationship and guard against threats that may approach. Protect each other, support each other’s goals, and honor the person that you have chosen to love for the rest of your life.

If you’d like to include these symbols in your ceremony, speak with your Justice of the Peace. Together you can explore something that would make your ceremony unique and meaningful to you. Using religious symbols brings a sense of spirituality to your day. There are different ways to do so. Your marriage officiant can expresses the metaphor or a loved one might include it in a reading. And of course, you could say it in your vows!

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Cindy Dumont is a Justice of the Peace in North Hampton, New Hampshire.

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