I'm wondering about meaningful alternatives to the unity candle ceremony. I've read up on some options out there, but really haven't found anything that I've fallen in love with. The sand ceremony is nice, but so many of my friends have used it that I feel like I'd be ripping them off. Exchanging roses with the mothers from each family seems a little too simplistic, my FH doesn't drink wine (or any alcoholic beverage, for that matter), and I have a black thumb, so I'm afraid I would kill a money tree plant (THAT can't be a good omen for the marriage!). Any advice for a truly offbeat and meaningful ritual that I can include in our wedding ceremony? -Rachael
Personally, I don't see anything wrong with doing a sand ceremony just because your friends have done it. There's always that risk with nontraditional weddings that, rather than blindly follow tradition (ie walking down the aisle to Pachelbel's Canon because that's what everyone's supposed to do), you blindly refuse to do something that's been done before. If a sand ceremony resonates for you, tell your friends how much they inspired you, and then DO IT. It's not like your friends invented the idea and it could be a great opportunity to share with them how meaningful you found their weddings.
It may be that a ring warming ceremony is the perfect solution. The concept is simple: near the beginning of your ceremony, have your officiant let your guests know that your rings will be making their way through the assembled guests, with an invitation for each guest to hold the ring, say a silent prayer/blessing for your marriage, and then pass it to the next guest. Then the officiant can pass out the rings, and continue on with the ceremony until it's time for you and your partner to present the rings to each other.
Obviously, there are limitations to a ring warming: it wouldn't work well for super large weddings, and if you're having a big wedding you may want to have someone watching the progress of the rings and keeping them moving in a timely manner through your guests.
Some people worry about rings getting dropped during the ceremony — if you like, you can affix them to a pillow or book or some other symbolic item for the passing.
If you'd like some inspiration, check out ring warming ceremonies featured on Offbeat Bride.
Oh and PS: if a ring warming doesn't appeal, you could always do a guest bouquet!