Manitoba Marriage Commissioner and Marriage License Vendor
Sheryl Hunnie and Associates     email, text 204-771-6736
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Some essential (and not-so-essential) information about wedding ceremonies and what you can expect from having me conduct yours.

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Current Trends in Wedding Ceremonies and other unity symbols

Posted by anonymous on March 18, 2012 at 2:10 PM

Although the wedding ceremony itself is a Unity Symbol of sorts, many couples include “a symbol within a symbol” to have a visual representation of their wedding.  In many cases, these ceremonies also result in a beautiful keepsake that may serve as a memento of your special day. Gaining in popularity, some of these are recent innovations, while others are cultural traditions that go back hundreds and hundreds of years.


Unity Candle: The Unity Candle is one of the most common ceremonies,though it seems that many couples are by-passing it in favour of more modern ceremonies.  The unity candle has many variations and still can one of the most beautiful ways to include your parents in your wedding ceremony.  Here are a few variations:

1. The bride and groom each take a lit candle and simultaneously light a third larger "unity candle." They may blow out their individual lights, or leave them lit, symbolizing that they have not lost their individuality in their unity.

 2. This version works best if you have a five candle candelabra. The parents of the bride and groom each light a single candle representing the family of origin.  The bride and groom each light their tapers from their family candles and then light the central candle together.

3. All guests are given a candle, and the first guest's is lit. Guests pass the flame until all are lit, and then the bride and groom together light their unity candle. This variation typically includes a proclamation that this ceremony represents the unity of friends and family supporting the couple in their marriage and is best suited to a small gathering of family and friends.

Wine Box Love Letter Ceremony: This ceremony is gaining in popularity and for good reason.  The couple places a bottle of wine, goblets,and personal love letters in a box with is sealed, only to be opened at a specified anniversary date.  The text that accompanies this ceremony is moving and beautiful.  I love it!

 Rose Ceremony: This may be a simple unity ceremony where the bride and groom exchange roses or a longer version which is scripted.

Variations:The families exchange roses, the bride and groom exchange roses with their families, the bride and groom exchange roses, then present their mothers with the roses, or an arrangement of roses is created as members of the wedding party, parents, and other participants each place a rose in a central vase to acknowledge their contribution.  The flowers can then follow the couple to the reception as a centerpiece at the headtable, or taken to a family member who may not have been able to attend the ceremony due to illness.

Sand Ceremony: The blending of coloured sands represents the union of the bride and groom and can also include family and friends. The separate sands once poured into the unity vase can never be put back into their separate vases. Some couples prefer to leave a small amount of sand in their respective container to show that even though they now function as one, they remain individual. This ceremony is particularly meaningful when blending families together as children can easily take part in the ceremony.

Handfasting: Handfasting is a traditional Celtic ceremony of  betrothal or wedding. It usually involved the tying or binding of the right hands of the bride and groom with a cord or ribbon for the duration of the wedding ceremony, or for a specific part of the ceremony (as it is difficult to exchange rings and sign a license with your hands bound together).

Celtic Oathing Stone: The couple holds or puts their hands on a stone during their vows to "set them in stone".

Wine Glass Ceremony: The bride and groom each take a carafe of wine and pour it into a single glass, which they both drink from.

 Water Ceremony: The couple each pour a different colored water into a single glass, creating a third color.

Breaking Bread Ceremony: The bride and groom tear off pieces of bread,and then each eat a piece. Sometimes the bread is also shared with family and friends. It symbolizes their future as a family together.

 Tree Ceremony: If the couple is to be married at home, the planting of a tree or shrub to “grow as your love grows”is a lovely symbol.  A variation if being married elsewhere can be to transplant the shrub from its nursery pot to a decorative planter.  I suggest using “Bridal Veil Spirea”.

Seven Steps: It is the role of the Hindu priest or 'pandit' to lead a couple and their families through the sacrament of marriage. An important aspect of the Hindu ceremony is to light a sacred fire to bear witness to the ceremony. The highlight is 'Saptapadi', also called the 'Seven Steps'. Here, traditionally the bride’s sari is tied to the groom’s kurta, or a sari shawl might be draped from his shoulder to her sari. He leads, her pinky linked with his pinky, in seven steps around the fire, as the priest chants the seven blessings or vows for a strong union. By walking around the fire they are agreeing to these. With each step, they throw small bits of puffed rice into the fire, representing prosperity in their new life together. This is considered the most important part of the ceremony, it seals the bond forever.

A niceway to adapt this into a creative, contemporary ceremony is to light a traditional fire, or use a candle, placed on a small table in front of the wedding altar. Bride and groom take seven steps while seven blessings are spoken in English. Here are Seven Blessings adapted from a Hindu ceremony.

1. May this couple be blessed with an abundance of resources and comforts, and behelpful to one another in all ways.

2. May this couple be strong and complement one another.

3. May this couple be blessed with prosperity and riches on all levels.

4. May this couple be eternally happy.

5. Maythis couple be blessed with a happy family life.

6. May this couple live in perfect harmony… true to their personal values and their joint promises.

7. May this couple always be the best of friends.

 As you can see, the possibilities in creating a beautiful, meaningful, and unique ceremony are endless!  I would love to help you create the wedding of your dreams.


Making Your Ceremony Unique

Posted by anonymous on July 23, 2011 at 7:40 PM

What I love about the ceremonies that we create together is that although the structure is inherently the same, no two weddings have been identical. There are some elements that have to be included according to the Marriage Act of Manitoba, but there is plenty of room for creativity.

In order to ensure that your ceremony reflects who you are, you may want to consider the readings that are offered throughout the service. Countless words have been written on love and marriage and you can draw from a myriad of sources. Poets, prophets, and philosophers have waxed eloquent on love and having friends or family share readings during the ceremony helps to create a context of community. Your readings may invoke a sense of spirituality or simply confirm your feelings and beliefs about what marriage means to you.

The public declaration of what is, essentially an intimate act, is most evident in the promises you make to one another. While some couples choose to write their own vows, others are more comfortable choosing vows from a selection or finding the elements they like in a number of texts and editing these to create their own. What is most important is that the words you choose reflect the feelings of your heart. It is not necessary for you each to say the same vows; in fact, often the most heartfelt ceremonies are those where each of you can express your feelings in the way the best suits your personality.

Many couples also choose to incorporate elements from their cultures into their ceremonies. These symbolic rituals can add depth of meaning for families as traditional elements combined with modern sensibilities work together to create a fresh beginning for the newlyweds. The plethora of wedding shows on television has brought a number these elements to a new audience. Whereas in recent years unity candles were status quo, hand fastings, ring warmings, and sand ceremonies are becoming increasingly popular.

Finally, do not underestimate music as an essential element in your wedding ceremony. Traditional selections such as Pachebel’s Canon in D are lovely, but feel free to consider other music as well. However beautiful the tune of your favourite song, be sure the lyrics are in keeping with the spirit of the day. Processional music tends to be more formal in nature (although there are some notable exceptions to formal processions on Youtube), with the recessional music often being a little more whimsical (my favourite recessional this year was the theme to Married With Children).

If all of this seems a little daunting, remember that I am happy to help you create the perfect ceremony for your special day. I have a wide range of readings and vows that I have compiled from a variety of sources and can facilitate the selection of these so that your wedding ceremony is a unique reflection of the love you share.

Inquiring Minds Want to Know

Posted by anonymous on June 12, 2011 at 5:20 PM

One of the questions I am asked most frequently is, “Why did you become a Marriage Commissioner?” To be honest, the reasons were, at first purely selfish; I have always love weddings! When I was younger, I was part of a large family and it seemed that there was always a wedding being talked of and planned for.  The photo albums of my childhood are punctuated by these festivities: brides-to-be festooned with paper plate hatscovered in bows, bridesmaids in pastel dresses, beaming grooms in ruffled shirts.  As I entered young adulthood,the brides and grooms were my friends and colleagues, and then I, too, was collecting Brides magazines and planning for my future.   For a while we were attending the weddings of younger cousins and few friends, but then,all at once it seemed, the wedding bells stopped ringing.  I had to become content with watching at a distance, catching the odd celebrity wedding in the news, and eventually succumbing to reality television series. Many of the weddings I watched were so different from the traditional wedding I had had years ago, and I was moved by the intimacy and ingenuity of these celebrations.   When I remarked on this to my husband one evening, he replied, “You know, with your background in English and drama, you should somehow figure out a way to be involved in creating wedding services for people. “ 

I am not sure why I had never seriously considered it before that moment.  I had toyed with becoming a marriage commissioner once years ago when a friend was having trouble finding someone to marry her and her fiancé.  I had all of the paperwork ready, but hadn’t followed through and when the fiancé’s uncle stepped up to perform the service, I let the moment pass.   My husband’s comments had given me new resolve, however, and within a short time I successfully completed the necessary steps and gained my license.

Becoming a Marriage Commissioner is one of the most fulfilling things I have done in my adult life. I absolutely love meeting and working with couples, planning for and officiating at their wedding ceremonies. I enjoy hearing their stories and helping them choose readings and vows that help them to share their very public commitment to one another in a meaningful way.  I enjoy the process when we create something that is wholly their own, or simply want to try a new twist on a traditional ceremony.  It is most fun when a bride and groom want to incorporate cultural aspects into their services.  

And the weddings! From small, intimate weddings on my back deck overlooking the Red River to extravagant affairs, each of the weddings I have had the pleasure to officiate have been occasions of such joy and hope, happy tears and laughter.  It has been an honour and privilege to have been a part of each couples’ special day.