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Planting a tree to celebrate a new marriage is an ancient unity ceremony recognized in many cultures throughout the world. It's also an eco-conscious practice that catches the eye of modern-day partners looking for a fresh twist on more traditional wedding ceremonies, like lighting a unity candle and jumping the broom, for example.
The wonderful thing about a tree-planting ceremony is that there's no set-in-stone way to observe it (and no specific religion is affiliated with it, either), so it can be highly customized according to your theme. "The symbolism behind the tree is simple and beautiful," says the North Carolinian blogger, Hali Schaefer, of Dammit, Hali, who planted a dogwood tree at her wedding as an homage to her home state. "It represents [a] relationship taking root, growing, and flourishing as [you] officially become a family."
If planting a tree (or potted plant, even) sounds like something that will bring even more meaning to your big day, here's what you'll need to consider to get the party started.
While most tree-planting ceremonies are more apt to take place during an outdoor wedding ceremony, it's also possible to conduct one indoors, where the tree could take the form of a potted plant, for example. Either way, here's what you'll need on hand:
- One small table, but the altar or another surface also works
- Two small containers (ideally attractive ones) full of soil collected from places meaningful to the couple. Places could include, say, your respective childhood homes or the area around where you became engaged.
- One potted tree (or shrub, or flower, or houseplant) with special meaning to the couple
- A watering can, filled with water
- An empty pot (optional)
- Two shovels to handle the soil (optional)
There are many different ways to perform the ceremony. Music is often played in the background and it can take place at any point in the wedding ceremony, or even as a separate moment during the reception. But the basic gist is this: First, the officiant (or anyone else you prefer) acknowledges the tree by talking about its significance. Then, the partners plant the tree, each adding soil to the pot and watering the tree in tandem. Although most couples choose to perform the tree ceremony alone, many also ask parents, attendants, and guests to participate.
Planting the tree can take many forms, depending on how hands-on (aka possibly dirty) you want to be, but each of these three options is just as nice as the next.
- Choose a sapling (with its root ball intact) and actually plant it inside an empty pot or directly into the ground.
- Plant a pre-potted tree by simply topping up the soil inside its container.
- Symbolically plant the tree by watering it as a couple, while fitting words are spoken.
Choosing the Tree
You may choose to plant the type of tree that you once shared a kiss under—or one that represents your state or geographical area. But really, any tree that has special meaning to you as a couple is good enough. Although most couples plant just one, sometimes both partners plant trees. In the case of a remarriage, it's a sweet idea to allow young children to plant their own trees, too, to symbolize the blending of two families.
Trees are strong and characterized by deep roots, their ability to grow high over rooftops, and weather even the roughest storms. All that, combined with the cultural lore and healing properties long associated with trees and their fruit, makes them represent a healthy marriage. The specific type of tree you choose should also have significance. Here, some popular options and their symbolic meanings:
- Oak represents life, health, and family unity.
- Bamboo, a tree-like grass, embodies strength, flexibility, and renewal in Asian cultures.
- Birch trees are fast-growing and appeal to eco-conscious couples. They signify adaptability, regeneration, and new beginnings.
- Elm trees portend unity, a new perspective, and freedom.
- Maple trees symbolize longevity, abundance, and protection.
- Willows are hardy, rapidly growing trees associated with adaptability, renewal, and survival.
- Apple trees suggest love, truth, beauty, and fertility. In Danish folklore, they're said to wither around adulterers. (We'd like to see that in action.)
- Fig trees indicate faith, stability, and enlightenment.
- Pear trees have pretty white flowers, can produce fruit for up to 50 years, and represent longevity, good health, and abundance.
- Pomegranate trees are ancient symbols of fertility and prosperity.
What to Recite
One of the best things about a tree-planting ceremony is that it can be easily adapted to fit the traditions and tone of your wedding. Basically, you can say anything you want. But usually, the couple writes a few words explaining why they've chosen that specific tree (and what it means) or asks the officiant (or a loved one) to recite an apropos reading or poem. A special song, too, is also a nice touch.