Hows about a little chemistry with your unity ceremony?

January 24 | Guest post by BunnyFu  
Photos by: J. Scott Photography
Photos by J. Scott Photography
Photos by J. Scott Photography

I wish to propose a hypothesis: A 5th grade science activity can make a meaningful and exciting unity ceremony.

That's what we did for our unity ceremony — we opted to do something more like a unity experiment or unity reaction. When I proposed this idea it was met with lots of "Are you sure?" and "I don't know…"

Our officiant loved the idea, but didn't really understand what we were trying to convey, or even the science behind it. He requested that I send an explanation, so I did. Much more to my surprise he liked it so much he read it as the explanation of the ceremony at our wedding.

Here's how we explained it:

To better explain our unity ceremony of science: A chemical reaction results in an entirely new compound from two or more separate ones. They are unique on their own, but brought together they form something new.

Rather than flat out calling it the baking-soda vinegar reaction, we'll call it Sodium Bicarbonate and Acetic Acid (for science). When brought together the individual molecules break apart and form three different substances — Carbon Dioxide which form bubbles, which escape from the mixture and go into the air. Sodium acetate which is widely used, but also acts as a buffer in other solutions meaning the remaining solution will not easily become too acidic or too basic. It will remain at a fairly constant pH even when acids or bases are added. The last component it produces is water, the molecule of life. I could prattle on about other cool stuff water does, but it would probably bore everyone.

Regardless of whatever we try to do we can never again separate the baking soda and vinegar because they are no longer in the beaker, they have come together never to be separate again.

Another approach I considered was to speak about how molecules interact with each other. Two molecules can come into contact and have no reaction. Other molecules can react very violently with each other, while the right set can create incredible things together. What is that phrase people use when two people get on really well together? Oh yes! Chemistry!

Now here's the fun part:


Our ceremony used three graduated cylinders, two small (100-200ml), one large (1000ml).


To help with the visual aspect we added food color to the two baking soda solutions so when they mixed together they formed a different color when they were done.


We opted for 2/3 white vinegar and water solution in the large beaker (around 200-300 ml) and two half baking soda and water solutions in the smaller beakers. This created a nice overflowing bubbling rather than an explosive spray out of the top of the beaker. Some people might want a big explosion. (FYI: Some experimenting is in order before you do it live.)


Here is me feeling delighted about the whole thing. Once the CO2 stops bubbling its way out the resulting color was purple.

The unity reaction was met with mostly positive results. Guests enjoyed it, and those who didn't have stayed politely quiet about it. People seemed to enjoy the ninja science lesson with the ceremony, and felt the explanation helped give it meaning rather than being dramatic or contrary for the sake of being different. Do what feels right for you and your partner. Guests are remarkably ok with something out of the ordinary.

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  1. As an IU chemistry graduate student (in a serious, committed relationship with another IU chemistry graduate student), this post not only hits close to home, but is also COMPLETELY AWESOME!

    13 agree
  2. I'm so excited I found this post. It will be perfect for my wedding as I am a chemist and an atheist. I was looking for something non-traditional to include and this will be it!

    6 agree
  3. We are definitely doing something along these lines! Working out the details now.

    1 agrees
  4. How cool!! What a neat way to show unity!!

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  5. Um. Talk about timely. The Fiance and I were just talking about doing a science experiment for the wedding last night!

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  6. We were planning to do a sodium bicarbonate/acetic acid ceremony but weren't sure about things like the concentrations or what containers to use. Your post will help out a lot! I'd also like to quote your explanation, if that's alright. If so, pleas let me know who to credit.

    0 agree
    • Given how you want to use it for your wedding ceremony, you don't need to worry about crediting me personally on this. I considered this to be fair use the moment I posted it to the tribe. You are welcome to use it how you like. If people ask, tell them where you found it.

      6 agree
  7. I am so interested in doing this one. I'm a chemist and now its just a matter of finding the right reaction.

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  8. Oh I love this!! And you look like you are having so much fun! Great!!

    1 agrees
  9. I LOVE!!! This is so ME – I was hoping to use Einstein quotes in the program and this would be amazeballs altogether!

    Also, you were a beautiful bride.

    1 agrees
  10. As us internet dorks often say, this is made of awesome, with sprinkles of win all over it! :D :D :D So fabulous! And yes, you were a gorgeous bride. Huge congrats!

    1 agrees
  11. Words cannot express how much I love this. I usually think unity ceremonies are a little *meh* but this is awesome. Reading the description literally made me tear up. Thanks for sharing such an amazing, creative idea!

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  12. AMAZING!! I was looking for an unusual unity idea and this looks fabulous! I was also thinking of the elephant toothpaste experiment too!

    Question: where did you find your graduated cylinders?

    Thanks!

    1 agrees
  13. Ahh! I love this idea! I am a chemist, and while my fiance is a nerd of a different flavor (computers), I have been trying to come up with a cute way to incorporate my career. We aren't having a traditional ceremony, and I have been struggling to come up with ideas to make the ceremony last longer than 5 minutes. So clever and so cute. May adjust so that we don't make a mess all over our venue tho!

    0 agree
  14. Two of my best friends lit a fire in an enormous bowl using chemicals at their wedding. Love the chemistry unity ceremonies!

    1 agrees
  15. Hi! was wondering a0 Where you got your cylinders and B) if you could explain your ratios (i.e. is it 2 parts vinegar to 1 part water to equal 300mL? And how much baking soda did you use? A tablespoon added to 200mL H2O?) Thanks! Love love love this idea! And my wedding color is purple so this is great!

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  16. I have convinced my fiance that we have to do this. My mom is a chemist and I think this is so much cooler than the unity candle. Thank you!

    0 agree
  17. I am looking at doing a chemistry related thing for our unity celebration…we are looking at using two acid base indicators mixed together to get our wedding color, and to go from clear to colored, all it takes is just that one little extra bit to make the difference. :) Ours will be purple as well and the indicators will most likely be thymolphthalein and phenolphthalein. Glad to know I'm not the only crazy one. And a B1G Ten shout out from a very near future MSU grad.

    0 agree
  18. I just attended a wedding where they did an amazing unity ceremony…

    There was a large globe shaped glass bowl about half full of (I assume) water. The couple had their kids from prior marriages each pour a clear sugar water solution in there. Then the bride poured a deep purple almost shocking violet liquid in, and the group poured another clear liquid…. the color change was amazing! Bright violet, to deep purple, to dark blue, then to green, then to almost a teal, then finally to a rich golden color… so very cool!

    Love this idea for a wedding

    0 agree
  19. My husband & I combined potassium permanganate and glycerin to make fire during our wedding ceremony. However, when we'd practiced it prior to the ceremony it had been indoors, and warm. When we did the reaction at the wedding it was outdoors and cool(around 40F), and the reaction took longer. So, we kept adding more of each reactant to try to get it to light. By the time it lit the flame was HUGE. Luckily we all had on protective goggles. :)

    2 agree

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