Plan the Perfect Wedding Sand Ceremony

A bride and groom pour black and white sand into a unity sand vase on their wedding day.
Copyright Eric Reichbaum/Getty Images

A type of unity ceremony, the wedding sand ceremony expresses the coming together of two people or two families into one new family.  It is a very simple idea that can be incredibly powerful. Typically, each person has different colored sand and takes turns pouring it into one clear vessel, forming a layered effect. Sometimes just the couple participates, and sometimes the couple's children and/or parents join in with their own colored sand, adding to the layers of colors, and expressing the harmony of the entire family.

The sand ceremony is based on the unity candle -- a bride and groom together light a central candle from their own flames. Yet with a candle, the flame eventually will blow out. The advantage of the sand ceremony is that there is a lasting memento to display in your home. Sand is also a better choice for an outdoor wedding, since wind is less of a concern than it is with a candle.

How a Wedding Sand Ceremony Works

  1. First, the officiant says a few words about the ceremony and its meaning. Then he or she hands each person a vase of colored sand.
  2. The first person (often the groom) starts by pouring his sand into the central vase.
  3. Next, the second person (often the bride) pours her sand into the central vase, forming a second layer.
  4. If there are other family members participating, they each pour their sand into the central vase. If it's just the couple participating, they typically each add another layer to the vase.
  1. To finish, everyone pours at the same time, forming a mix of colors at the top that represents the united family. Some couples choose to reserve this last step just for themselves, while others include the whole family. Keep in mind that the more people you include, the more difficult it will be for everyone to pour at the same time.

    When Does a Sand Ceremony Take Place?

    There are no strict rules: couples may choose to place it at any point in their wedding ceremony, and even as a separate ritual at the reception. The most popular (and perhaps the most logical) time, however, is immediately following the ring exchange and vows. This allows the sand ceremony to feel most like a culmination of the ritual, once you have already been joined in marriage.

    What You'll Need for a Sand Ceremony

    • A different color of sand for each person participating. The amount you'll need depends on the size of vase you're trying to fill. A pound per person is usually a safe bet. You can find colored sand at craft stores like Michael's, Amazon, or from bridal retailers like David's Bridal. You can also purchase complete kits that include everything you'll need from a variety of retailers.
    • A pouring tube or vase for each person, filled with their sand. Make sure that it has a narrow enough opening that it will pour cleanly.
    • An empty central clear vase or jar. Make sure it's something that you'll want to display in your home after the wedding. It should be large, but not so large that there's a lot of empty space after the sand ceremony. A 10-inch tall vase with a 2- to 3-inch diameter should work well.
    • A small table near the altar or vow site where the sand ceremony can take place.
    • Cotton balls and clear tape: You'll want to be able to transport the vase after the wedding. The easiest way is to fill any empty space with cotton balls, and then tape the top to secure them. If you're traveling far, you may also want bubble wrap to protect the glass pieces.

    Special Touches for Wedding Sand Ceremonies

    • Consider monogramming your vase with your last name or monogram. You could buy a personalized vase or make a DIY one using glass etching cream.
    • Use sand from beaches that are special to you, such as those near where each of you grew up, or from memorable vacations. It works best if it's distinctly two different colors so that you can see the layers.
    • Use sand ceremony vows to make the ritual more meaningful.
    • If you're having a religious wedding, consider having the officiant start by pouring a white sand to represent God as the foundation for your lives and your relationship.