The Marriage Tree

Updated 05/14/19
© Adele Booysen | Flickr

Planting a tree to celebrate a marriage is an ancient tradition shared by numerous cultures around the world. It is also a ritual that is catching the eye of modern brides who are looking for a fresh twist on the candle or sand unity ceremony.

“We love gardening, and we work hard to be environmentally conscious,” writes Kenley Leigh in an article on her blog, Green Door Hospitality. “So the idea of planting a tree as part of our wedding ceremony was the perfect fit ... You have to care for it and nurture it in order for it to grow and be strong enough to withstand all the elements."

On her website, For This Joyous Occasion, Leigh offers beautiful wording to represent the meaning of the wedding tree ceremony. You can adapt the ceremony to your celebration by including a religious reading, song, poem or quote about trees. Further personalize the moment by asking the officiant to share the story of why you picked this particular tree.

Elements of the Wedding Tree Ritual

In addition to writing the words for the ceremony, you will need to gather two small buckets of dirt, preferably from a significant place. This can be the spot where you got engaged or from your childhood homes, where the ground has already been fertilized with love. For a picture-perfect snapshot, decorate two garden trowels and a watering can with your wedding colors. Opt for a clear pot so that the guests can witness the combining of the soil. You can choose a more decorative container once the sapling grows larger.

Although most couples choose to perform the tree ceremony alone, many have asked their parents, attendants or guests to participate as well. After the bride and groom add the dirt and water the plant together, others can add their own scoops of soil, sprinkle in wildflower seeds or deposit slips of paper with their marriage wishes. This is a beautiful way to include your young children into the ceremony or to symbolize the blending of two families

Trees to Symbolize Marriage

The best tree to choose is one that has special meaning to you as a couple, perhaps one that you shared a kiss under or that represents your hometown. You can either buy a sapling or propagate a cutting from a meaningful location. Although most couples prefer to only plant one, sometimes the bride and groom each select a tree, or in the case of a remarriage, the children each get their own.

Types of Trees to Choose From

Drawing upon mythology, cultural lore, and the healing properties long associated with trees, there are some great choices to symbolize the union of marriage.

Oak represents strength of character and courage. Bamboo is considered a lucky plant in China, and it promotes wisdom, good fortune, and physical harmony. Birch trees are one of the fastest growing kinds of trees, and the unique bark and brilliant autumn colors of this tree are associated with truth and new beginnings among Native Americans.

Elm trees are considered to stimulate communication and strengthen relationships. Maple trees are symbolic of generosity and balance. Japanese maples grow quickly, remain small, and provide striking beauty every spring and autumn. Willows are hardy, rapidly growing trees that are viewed with great respect in China, where it is associated with renewal and immortality since you only need to stick a healthy branch in the soil for it to regenerate. Among Native Americans, the willow represents inner wisdom and a harmonious mind that is open yet stable.

Consider Trees That Bear Fruit—Literally

In addition to traditional trees used in ceremonies, you can also choose a tree that produces flowers or fruit, which you can bring into your home to decorate the dinner table or add to a delicious dish.

Apples are an ancient symbol of knowledge, faith, and fertility. Danish folklore maintains apple trees wither around adulterers—apple trees could be a good match for a long, faithful, and fruitful marriage. Hanging from the branch in twos, the seed-filled fig symbolizes multiple fortunes and fertility. If figs aren't your style, pear trees that produce fruit for up to 50 years represent longevity and comfort and come with dainty white blooms. Pomegranates are an ancient symbol of life and love. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus all associate the seedy pomegranate with fertility and prosperity.

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