Okay, I’m going to get this out there straight away, I love sand ceremonies!

When I first discovered them, they reminded me of summer holidays to Spain as a youngster. I always insisted that I was bought a tiny glass container filled with sand in bright colours showing some kind of summer scene.

Fast forward 30+ years and now I’m fortunate enough to help families create their own sand ornament (minus the Spanish palm trees in mine), and theirs are SO much more meaningful!

There are many symbolic ceremonies around and they are not all as woo as some of you might think. I find sand ceremonies SO appealing as they can be used in so many different celebrations and they are a fantastic way of engaging children within the ceremony.

As a celebrant I’ve used them as unity ceremonies in past weddings, vow renewals and naming days. I don’t think any of my couples had heard of a sand ceremony before we first met, but once I explained the meaning behind them and what symbolic value they could add to the ceremony they were all super keen to include one within their ceremony. Especially if there are children involved as what child doesn’t like playing with sand?

One large heart shaped vase filled with different layers of coloured sand, next to 4 smaller heart shaped vases containing a small amount of coloured sand.
Vow Renewal symbolic sand ceremony

What is the meaning behind a sand ceremony?

A sand ceremony can be used as the visual symbolisation of the creation of a new family unit during a wedding or vow renewal ceremony. Or perhaps the promise of lifelong support of guide parents to a child during a naming ceremony.

As the individual grains of sand can no longer be separated in the final container, the bond of the people taking part is also inseparable.

How do you do a sand ceremony?

Each person taking part chooses a different coloured sand to represent themselves. Colour choices are personal and can mean anything that you like, maybe even your favourite sporting team!

Like colours of the rainbow, we are all different and special, valuable and precious. Each of us has unique qualities and talents which make us the individuals that we are, and we use colours to represent these.

One by one these containers of sand are poured into the larger one and start to mix together. Creating distinct layers as the different coloured sand is alternated. As this happens it symbolises that the sand within the individual containers no longer exists as a solo entity. The sand can never be entirely separated and poured again into the individual containers. It can never completely return to be the individual colour. This symbolises the joining of all the contributor’s lives.

The colours compliment and support each other, just as the family compliment and support each other. The patterns formed are unique, just like them and their family.

Large heart shaped vase filled with layers of different coloured sand, next to two empty smaller vases.
Naming day sand ceremony

Is the sand all poured at the same time or one by one?

I usually invite everyone participating to take turns pouring a little sand in one at a time, and then at the end all together. This creates a layered effect.

When the ceremony is used for a naming day I encourage the child to go in the middle so that their sand is surrounded by the sand from their guide parents like a warm protective embrace from every direction.

Lady holding a funnel over an empty vase with seven vases of sand next to her.
How to use a funnel during a sand ceremony

How do you get all the sand into the final vessel without spilling it?

I have a variety of funnels that I suggest using so that all the sand makes it into the final container. This is especially needed if there are children participating.

How can you personalise the containers?

There are many ways to personalise both the pouring vessels and the final container.

The individual pouring vessels can have the initial of the person put onto them, and the final container can have words and a date etched onto the glass, or you could have a decorative sign hanging off it.

You can also get personalised shadow boxes to use as an alternative for the final container.

How can you make the ceremony even more personal?

You can use whatever containers you like as pouring vessels for for the final container. These can be something that has a special meaning to the family. For one past naming ceremony the parents used pharmacy conical vases as the pouring containers as they were both scientists.

Five conical vases filled with different coloured sand surrounding an empty larger container.
Personalise your sand ceremony with unusual pouring vessels

Are there any additional things to consider when including children in the sand ceremony?

You will need to think about the height of the table used as some younger children may not be able to reach. To overcome this I bring a small wooden step that I keep under the table in case they need it.

It would also be advantageous to use a final container with a wider neck for the sand to be poured in, and I would definitely recommend using a funnel so that there is less spillage.

I also suggest to parents that they have a practice with the children and regular sand at home prior to the ceremony so that they get used to the slow pouring.

I hope this blog has explained the visual symbolisation behind a sand ceremony and sparked your interest in including one in your special day. Leaving you with a beautiful keepsake of the day to display and help remember the occasion forever.