Like wine, sharing coffee is a ritual of fellowship,
hospitality, and the celebration of life. Recent
events have thrown our romance with and dependence
on expertly made coffee into high relief. It seems
that a good barista-made coffee is high on the list
of things people miss in lockdown.
No matter what the ritual, I individually craft
appropriate words to suit the occasion, who the
couple is, are, and the choices they have made for
the ritual. An individually crafted narrative adds
so much, so I won’t share any specific narrative
There are a number of ways you can frame a coffee
unity ceremony. And not all of them involve liquids.
The first choice you, and your couple, need to make,
is whether the ritual will emphasize the blending of
the couple’s lives, or a joining of their lives
while retaining and maintaining their individuality.
This might take a lot of probing and understanding
of their relationship and their view of marriage. It
definitely is not as simple as asking an either or
question, but it is a question that must be
The "usual" unity ritual emphasizes the blending of
two lives. The traditional words about marriage are
two become one, words that are often repeated even
in modern, contemporary, wedding ceremonies. But for
many people this feels uncomfortable because it
harks back to the days when marrying meant that the
couple became one legal entity, the reality being
that wives were subsumed into their husband’s legal
identity, and therefore lost their own. Framing a
unity ritual as mixing rather than blending,
provides a visual and ritual acknowledgement of the
couple's intention to be on the same team, working
towards common goals, each bringing their own
skills, talents, and commitment to the relationship,
but without relinquishing their own personalities or
interests, or compromising individual autonomy.
using liquid coffee
The simplest ceremonial blending ceremony could be
one party pouring coffee (from a carafe or pot) into
a mug or cup, while the other pours milk. In warmer
weather, or when the ceremony is outdoors, cold or
cold-brew coffee is a good choice. Where coffee
making facilities are available and handy hot coffee
and frothed milk may be possible. An alternative is
to use coffee of two different origins or species.
Sharing such details in the narrative provides
guests with an insight into the couple’s heritage,
travel history, and/or social justice values.
The ritual can be further personalized by the choice
of vessels. The possibilities are endless.
Does their favourite source of takeaway coffee use
branded disposable cups? Could a purchased keep-cup
become a sentimental memento of the day? Would they
like to honour parents or grandparents by using a
borrowed or inherited cup, or mug? Do they already
have ‘signature’ mugs?
Generally speaking, most available choices are
opaque. Using a glass cup or mug gives both guests
and photographer a view blending in process.
And then there is the option of the Espresso
Martini! With its equal parts of espresso, coffee,
and vodka plus three whole coffee beans it is
perfect for a Me, You, Us
take on the
ritual. It is, however, very potent. One Espresso
Martini equals two standard drinks.
using ground coffee beans
For an organic variation on the sand ceremony, have
your couple blend dry ground coffee beans. Beans can
be roasted for different lengths of time to achieve
a Light, Medium or Dark (Espresso) Roast. Each has
its own distinct colour, taste, and caffeine
content. Most supermarket coffee is Medium/Dark
Roast, so it might be necessary to source the coffee
from a specialty coffee roaster. The couple could
choose ground beans from two or more of the four
relatively easily obtained different species of
coffee (Robusta, Arabica, Liberica, or the rarer
Asian-grown Excelsa) or coffee grown on different
continents or different parts of the same continent.
Each species and where grown delivers a different
coffee experience. I'm a particular fan of Kenyan
grown Arabica with its notes of orange blossom,
super-appropriate for weddings.
Using ground coffee beans provides the opportunity
to add an extra element of fun to the ritual while
demonstrating their capacity to work together by
grinding the beans before they pour them. Battery
operated and manual coffee grinders require no
using whole coffee beans
All the choices made when designing a sand ceremony
or ground coffee come into play where your couple
chooses to mix whole beans. Suggest (rather
strongly) that they choose a wide-mouthed glass jar
for their central vessel and that they put some
thought into how they will seal the jar to preserve
the contents. Alternatively, they can choose not to
seal up the container and just use the mixed beans
to make coffee, reserving a few to be set in resin
to create a permanent memento. Businesses that
provide this service are available as are DIY kits
for making paperweights and other items.
Some people really do prefer tea over coffee! For
others, the cultural significance of tea is reason
enough to choose a Tea Unity Ceremony rather than a
Coffee Unity Ceremony. Luckily, there are even more
varieties and sources of tea than there are of
Tea has significant meaning for weddings because it
is a product of a variety of camellia (camellia
sinensis), a flower that speaks to the heart and
expresses positive feelings. In the language of
flowers, the most common meanings assigned it
include passion, faithfulness and longevity.
Using a tisane (herbal tea), such as lavender,
symbolic of loyalty and devotion, works too. Herbal
teas open up a world of symbolism as so many have
long-standing association with love, relationships,
and marriage. When your couple chooses to blend
black teas, you might suggest that they add spice or
herbs to the mix because these can enhance the
symbolism and provide all sorts of possibilities for
the narrative about it.
To avoid cultural appropriation, formal tea
ceremonies being a feature of Chinese and Vietnamese
weddings and of Japanese culture, I would suggest
that you pass on using liquid tea.
On the other hand creating a cocktail with a tea
base or sweet iced tea with a shot of liquor has
possibilities and appeal for some. The combination
of black, green, or other tea with a shot of
bourbon, Irish whiskey, cognac, tequila, vodka, or
other alcohol plus sweetener can make for a fun
variant on the ritual. Recipes abound.
in the ritual
Unity rituals do not need to be restricted to the
couple. A sand ceremony, for example, is the ritual
of choice to symbolize the blending of two families,
with children, parents, and/or others all pouring
sand into the central vessel. Translating this to
dry ground coffee or coffee beans is
straightforward. Using liquid will require
application of imagination together with a bit
of ducking and weaving.
Another way to include others is to choose people to
formally present all the various items that will be
used in the ritual. This adds both movement and a
visual enhancement to the ritual. Every part of the
formal presentation can also add depth to its
symbolism. Who presents and the choice of how the
various elements will be presented – the containers
and vessels – add meaning, provide photo-ops, and
allow the couple to put a very personal stamp on the
When they will be blending or mixing varieties of
coffee or tea, I suggest to my couples that
they pre-prepare the same mix to gift to their
guests as favours. I also suggest that, as a
reminder of their ceremony. they attach card or
label that describes what the blend comprises and
what it symbolizes to them.
We’ve all had to become much more aware of infection
control and have been required to adopt practices to
avoid passing on an infection. Sharing drinking
vessels is actively discouraged. Should your couple
wish to go ahead a ritual that includes sipping or
drinking, suggest that they have two cups, that they
create the blend by pouring into a jug, for example,
and then pouring from the jug into two cups which
they use to toast one another.
A coffee ceremony is a perfect inclusion in a
virtual ceremony where the couple is in their own
home. Guests can be included by giving them notice
of the intention to include the ceremony and asking
them to join in with their own cup of coffee, or
cocktail. [Comment added November 2022: Works
for weddings that are livestreamed to include
family members not present.]
Some expert guidance never goes amiss when couples
are planning to create a mix or blend of either
coffee or tea, or wine for that matter. It is not
difficult to end up with a less than optimal, or
totally horrible, result if poor choices are made.
Your local coffee roaster or speciality tea supplier
is a good place to start. Most love being involved
in such a romantic choice.
Before committing to including a coffee unity ritual
in a ceremony, it would be wise to make sure that
there is nothing that would prevent or inhibit this.
Venue policy may preclude the consumption of
anything brought in from outside, for example. Local
authority regulations may preclude consumption of
If the ceremony will create a legal marriage,
exercise care to ensure any consumption of alcohol
will not compromise, or be assumed to compromise
their capacity to consent to their marriage. As with
a wine ceremony, small sips only! The remainder of
the cocktail can be used to toast themselves and
their guests at the point of presentation of the
certificate, after the signing is complete.
Virtually all unity ceremonies, as used in
contemporary weddings, are to a greater or lesser
extent invented traditions. There is no “authorised”
version, although widespread copying of the words
someone else invented may lead couples to assume
that there is, and that that is what should be used.
Disabuse them of that idea, and then work with them
to develop a unique version of the ritual for them.
Thanks for reading!
Interested in including a coffee ritual in
your ceremony? Or having me develop an original
unity ceremony just for you?