• The Festival Celebrant

Sand in your ceremony. Much better than sand in your sandwiches.

Updated: Mar 4

You may have witnessed or taken part in a sand ceremony and if you have you’ll probably agree that the pouring and blending of sand is a powerful symbol of unbreakable union.

One possible origin for the sand ceremony is the Hebrew ‘salt covenant’. Salt is a great preservative and was a widely prized and valuable commodity. Two merchants might seal a deal with salt (the salt would make the deal symbolically permanent). Salt is also a powerful cleanser so any agreement sealed with salt would be symbolically ‘pure’. I like to think that sand is a great substitute for salt because it is (a) predominantly created by actions of salty waves and (b) is itself comprised of lots of mineral salts. That’s my theory anyway.

Back to the sand ceremony. Sorry!

Typically a small quantity of sand will be placed in individual containers and these will be arranged on a table in the ceremony area. Accompanying them will be one big jar or vase which is left empty. During the ceremony the stars of the show will come forward one at a time, chose a container and pour its sand into the empty vessel – top tip! - make sure your blending vessel is big enough. Not having enough room for everybody’s sand is not the kind of symbolism you’re aiming for. Alternatively, if there aren’t too many participants, they can gather round the blending vessel and all pour together.

As for the sand itself, there are lots of options. Clearly if your ceremony’s on a sandy beach, the local stuff would make for a simple and fabulously ‘grounded’ ceremony. But please, as in everything, be mindful of the environmental impact and don’t take too much! You can buy coloured sands which look great when poured in distinct layers, and you can chose colours that are symbolically significant though personally I think you lose some of the ‘blending’ symbolism with this one. I’d prefer coloured sands to be thoroughly mixed into a colourful melange (More about this below).

You can customise your containers too. Ideally they’ll be transparent but otherwise it’s over to you. The big one may be something you wish to keep and display so chose something you like and can live with long term.

Why chose a sand ceremony over say, a unity candle? There might be several reasons. Not least of all sand is safer than fire! If your ceremony involves children or your venue doesn’t allow naked flames this might be a decisive factor. Candles also have associations with many traditional religious rites so sand might suit you better. It’s also more convenient if lots of people are taking part – if having two or three naked flames waving about makes you edgy, lots of naked flames waving about might make you too anxious to enjoy the moment.

Use a sand ceremony to accompany your vows if you’re getting hitched. Use one if you’re bringing together two families. Use one to symbolically seal an important deal (Remember the salt covenant? You might even want to use salt).

So, there’s the sand ceremony in a nutshell. If you want to know more there’s plenty of information out there, or contact me for ideas. Here’s one as a parting gift.

Remember how I said I prefer my sands mingled rather than layered? Here’s a little ritual add-on if you want to get mingling. Chose a blending jar a bit bigger than you’re going to need and with a lid. Once the sand has been poured in, secure the lid then give it a good shake! Pass it from participant to participant. If you like, and there aren’t too many of them, pass it round your guests. Ask them to think good loving, blending thoughts as they give you a shake. But ask them to try very hard not to drop it!

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