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How to Perform a Unity Sand Ceremony (for Wedding Officiants)

Published Friday, Feb. 26th, 2021

Illustrations by Jessica Levey

A Wedding Officiant's guide to performing a sand ceremony: Everything you need to know to add a romantic sand ceremony to your wedding. 



Sand ceremonies are popular and beautiful unity rituals. They symbolize the uniting of two distinct personalities and lives in devoted partnership. They can also represent the blending of two separate families into one, especially when there are meaningful elders or children present. 
If you’re performing or planning a sand ceremony for the first time, or will be setting one up in a new or unusual venue, you may wonder about the best approach to take. You’re in the right place!


First, we’ll cover supplies, then move on to set up, rehearsal, delivery, and what to consider after the ceremony. 





What supplies do you need to do a sand ceremony? 


Supplies are chosen and purchased/provided by the couple being married, but officiants will want to make sure that all of the items are on hand at the location before the ceremony starts. Officiants can also offer couples guidance on what to use, if they aren’t sure how to get started.


1. Two small vessels to hold the sand at the start of the ceremony 
(You can have more than two if you want to include anyone else in the unity ritual, such as kids, parents, or other meaningful people)

2. A larger vessel that will have sand poured into it during the ceremony 
(This container will need to be sealed for transporting, keep this in mind)

3. Sand 
(You might want to choose two or more colors for a cool visual effect or mixing, or you can use beach sand or other alternatives*)

4. A table or stand to hold the vases and decor

5. Decorative touches for the table


*Couples can customize this ceremony by using something other than sand! 


Pro Tip: When choosing supplies, it’s important to make sure the opening of the large container is wide enough that sand can be poured into it easily. If it isn’t, suggest that the couple choose a new container, or plan to use a funnel. Clear vessels, such as glass jars, vases, decanters, an hourglass, or other decorative glassware, are popular choices because the sand is pretty to look at while it mixes, and will make a great keepsake for a shelf or mantle! 


illustration of many colorful vessels and glass containers to use to perform a sand ceremony including champagne flute and glass skull

Glass vases, champange flutes, and even quirky skull-shaped bottles...

Any clear container can work well for a sand ceremony, as long as the opening is wide enough to pour sand into. For smaller containers, a funnel can make things easier. Illustration by Jessica Levey.



Set Up


Where is the best place to set up the sand ceremony table? 


Before the ceremony, make sure that all of the supplies are set up and ready for use on the table. The sand should already be poured into the smaller vessels before the ceremony begins. The large vessel should be placed between them, and it should be confirmed that sand can be poured into it easily. 


Decorate the table with flowers, candles, crystals, tea lights in glass jars, colorful fabric table cloths, and any other meaningful items that speak to the couples’ unique relationship. 


Where you place the table matters a great deal! This should be decided and planned early, before the rehearsal. Here are a few popular options to consider:


- Off to the side: 


Sometimes, officiants and couples will choose to place a table off to the side, behind a groom, so that the couple can walk to the table easily (without a bride tangling a long dress when she turns around). If a wedding has two brides in long gowns, you’ll probably want to choose an alternate placement.


- Close to the audience: 


Some officiants and couples like to place the table close to the audience, up front and just to the side. As the couple steps forward to perform the ceremony, they’ll move closer to the guests, which can feel more interactive for everyone involved. 


- Behind the officiant: 


Others will prefer to set the stand or table behind the officiant. The officiant will step behind the table when it’s time for the ceremony, and the couple will not need to move much to take their places. This is a popular choice because the stand isn’t noticeable until the officiant steps behind it, and the audience will not need to shift their attention. 



Pro Tip: At the rehearsal, remember that everyone will be wearing different clothes on the day of the wedding. Keep this in mind when you’re choosing where to place the table and any candles (fire!), adapting as needed to accommodate long gowns and bridal trains, theme wedding costumes, robes, or decorative sleeves or shawls.



illustration of a sand ceremony set up, using two colors of sand and an hourglass on a burnt orange red tablecloth with a green background

Custom hour-glasses are a creative choice for sand ceremonies. 



What to do & What to say


What do you do during a sand ceremony? What do you say? 


A sand pouring ritual can take place at any time during the marriage ceremony, but usually fits seamlessly after the vow or ring exchange, as a continuation of these symbols of love and commitment.

During the rehearsal, decide which partner will go first. Discuss how much sand to pour, and when to stop pouring. Keep in mind how much time the ritual takes during the rehearsal, and consider whether the vessels the couple has chosen will pour quickly or slowly. These small details matter! 


Transitions are key when shifting from another part of the ceremony into a unity ritual. Officiants should offer a few words to let the couple and guests know what’s coming next, and then talk about what the ritual symbolizes and means to the couple. 


Here’s an example of something an officiant might say: 



Unity Sand Ceremony Sample Script 


“The couple has exchanged vows and rings as a symbol of their devotion to one another as whole people, supporting each other’s individual dreams and goals. But marriage is also about the blending of two distinct lives, and two distinct personalities, into a new, collaborative and meaningful partnership. While both will stay whole, their paths will join and become one. 


To honor this, they’ve asked us to join them as they perform a sand ceremony, symbolizing this blending of two into one.


Partner One and Partner Two, you may take turns pouring (adding) your sand to the larger vase, thinking, as you do, of the journey you will now walk together. Partner One, would you like to go first?”


After the ritual is done, the officiant will transition into the next part of the ceremony, using the closing remarks before the pronouncement. They might say: 


“Thank you both for sharing this beautiful ritual with us! Now, please join me back at the altar/front/here.”



Pro Tip: Don’t worry about spilling sand or getting it perfectly into the large vessel! And if something goes wrong, or if pouring the sand is taking too long, it’s ok for the officiant to let the couple (discreetly) know to stop pouring and ask them to join in the next part of the ceremony. 




After the Ceremony 


Do couples keep the sand from a sand ceremony? What about clean up? 


Sand ceremonies are popular because they provide visual storytelling and result in a decorative keepsake that can be placed on a shelf or mantle to be appreciated for years to come. We’ve even heard stories of couples taking the sand from their ritual to a local glassblower or artist, to transform even further, into a meaningful piece of art. 


And a final planning note: Decide who will be in charge of clearing away any remaining sand (or pouring it into the larger vessel) after the ceremony. This can be a friend or family member, chosen by the couple. 


Small vessels can be sealed with cotton balls, tape, or corks. Vessels (like mason jars or decanters) might come with their own caps or lids, making the job an easy one. 



Updated November, 2022


Looking for more wedding ideas?

Try one of these wedding ceremony scripts that include a sand ceremony: 






Want to use something other than sand? 



Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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