Salt's Symbolism as an Unbreakable Promise in Marriage
The Covenant of Salt – The Unity Ceremony
The sound of wedding bells is in the air as wedding season is in full swing. After 2 years of a global pandemic, couples are more than ever to tie the knot in front of their friends and family, eagerly awaiting to say those two little words "I do."
As couples begin to plan their big day, they will go down the checklist of the wedding "to-dos," deciding on the venue, flowers, food, colors, who to invite, and more! However, there is one tradition full of symbolism that almost everyone does but is not the first thing that comes to mind when planning a wedding – the unity ceremony.
The unity ceremony, which now has many variations, is when two people perform an act that represents them joining together as one, creating a new union and family during the wedding ceremony. Many might have seen this done with two lit candles lighting one candle together or pouring two bottles of sand into one vessel. But recently, an old tradition is rising in popularity again - a Salt Ceremony also called the Covenant of Salt.
The Covenant of Salt is similar to that of the Unity Sand Ceremony, where two people take sand, or in this case salt, from their vessels and blend it into one larger vessel. Each bottle of salt is to represent the individual and all their hopes, dreams, ideas, and promises for a successful marriage. As each person pours their salt simultaneously into the larger container, what were two people now become one – blending all their desires for the success of their unity in marriage. Although the unity ceremony has symbolism on its own, using salt adds additional ones making it the perfect choice to make your wedding even more special.
When using salt in a unity ceremony it represents something deeper than just joining two people together as salt has a long-standing history of symbolism among humans. Salt has been seen as one of the purest substances on earth and will purify the relationship and unity when used during a unity ceremony, while also bringing good luck to the couple. Salt also a known preserver of food translates into preserving the bond and newly formed unity between the bride and groom – symbolizing a lasting marriage.
Historically, salt has also been used during negotiations to seal many agreements and promises. Having salt on the table when meeting another was a demonstration of doing no harm to each other, it created a safe space for peace. When a bride and groom have salt on the table where they will perform the unity ceremony it symbolizes, they will do no harm to each other. It was also common practice for agreements and promises to be sealed by a salt covenant, an act in which each person would take a pinch of salt from their pouch and place it in the pouch of the person who they made the agreement with. This agreement could not be broken, for to do so the person would have to retrieve the grains of salt they had mixed with the others. Since it was near impossible to do this, salt became a strong symbol of agreeing to unity. This is why the salt during a Salt Ceremony at a wedding is the same color so that when mixed no one can separate the grains of salt, hence trying to break the covenant of the newlyweds.
A Salty Location
Choosing a venue is a one of the most important details of a wedding. Will it be an outdoor wedding, indoor, at the courthouse, or in a church. These are all typical venues couples think about. However, if you are looking for a place to incorporate more salt into your wedding look no further than a church or mosque made out of salt!
The Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá in Colombia, the Wieliczka Salt Mine Salt Cathedral in Poland, and the Khewra Salt Mines in Pakistan that has an illuminated mosque made out of salt rock are all locations people can get married at. This takes salt and weddings to a whole new level!
Wedding Salt Customs in Different Cultures
Although salt ceremonies are on the rise in the United States, the use of salt in weddings is not new in many cultures. It is a common practice to either give or use salt in some aspects of a wedding, the only difference may be the symbolism behind it. Here are just a few cultures that use salt in their wedding journey.
In a traditional Irish wedding, it was customary for the bride and groom to consume salt usually with oatmeal on their wedding day to ward off evil spirits – salt is a known protector against evil spirits, ghosts, and spells in many cultures.
In Japan, salt is used for purification at weddings. Sometimes two piles of salt in the shape of cones are placed on either side of the entrance to purify the building and bring good energy, also helping to ward off evil. Salt is also seen to provide the "force of life."
During an Indian wedding, it is customary to include salt. Sometimes a Salt Ceremony, different than the one described above is performed. During the ceremony, the bride passes a handful of salt without spilling it to the groom. The groom in turn passes it back. This is performed three times. After the third time, the bride exchanges the salt with the groom's family. Performing this act symbolizes her becoming a new member of his family.
A tradition in Turkey not only involves salt but also coffee! Those who have read my blog "Salt and Coffee, Together Forever!" already know salt is added to coffee in many parts of the world but this tradition in Turkey takes it to a whole new level with symbolism. When a man and woman have decided to marry, the man and his parents join the woman and her family to agree to the marriage. Once both families agree to the marriage, the bride-to-be leaves the room to make everyone a cup of Turkish coffee. However, there is a catch. The woman will put a bit of sugar in everyone's cup except the groom-to-be – he gets salt. The symbolism around this activity is to remind the groom that marriage is not always "pleasure and sweetness," but can have its "salty" days.
Salt as a Wedding Gift
In my previous blog post, "A Salty Gift – The Symbolism Around Giving Salt," I briefly mention giving salt was a common wedding gift in some cultures. One way salt is given is as a housewarming gift for newlyweds. Giving salt represents filling the new couple's life and home with spice and flavor; helping to avoid staleness in a marriage. In some cases, salt is just given to the bride on their wedding day to bless her with fertility. Acts of salt giving are not new and have been done for centuries. It is fun to think how an everyday item can hold such importance.
Now days giving salt might not hold the level of symbolism it once did but giving salt can still be a great gift! For new couples, filling their pantry with infused salt or different salts around the world can be a great way for them to explore different flavors and dishes in their new kitchen as a newly married couple. Cooking together is a fun way to bond and create intimacy especially when life can get a bit hectic. Help create a space for the couple to bond by giving the gift of salt, a gift that will preserve their love forever!
Until next time – keep it salty!
-Alyssa aka the Salt Woman