Hand Washing Ceremony

Updated: Aug 20, 2020

The hand washing ceremony is an intricate love language that is spoken in all cultures and spiritual practices. The Bahai Faith performs this act before saying obligatory prayers, in a Shinto a natural basin “tsukubai “is provided with a long ladle where laypersons cleanse their hands and mouth as a purification rite. In Islam, “wudu” is to ceremonially clean one’s body before engaging in prayer and in Judaism, “netilat yadayim” which is the washing of hands with a cup is traditionally practiced signifying a cleaner state of mind. As written in Matthew 27: 4, we see that even in Roman culture, Pilate washed his hands as a sign of his innocence. While some of these spiritual practices as still practiced today, people tend to perform this act more so for hygiene reasons.

Apart from religious and hygiene benefits, hand washing may have some type psychological benefit shifting the individual’s mindset. How does it do that? Something mysterious happens in our mind where we associate water with cleanliness , the washing away of sin , and/or  the removal of mental residue. Once this correlation is made, the mind is more optimistic about our current situation or the future. Zhong and Liljenquist (2006) coined this term as the “Macbeth Effect”. My literary fans may recognize the name from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, as she imagined violently washing her hands to get rid of Duncan’s blood. This priming effect sometimes have that same effect on individuals who tend to have a more positive outlook after simply washing their hands.

From a mindfulness perspective, the hand washing ceremony is seen as a wonderful exercise to ground the mind, body and soul(spirit) for a few seconds as the individual focuses on the sensation of the water, the slip of the soap between in the fingers, and the aromatic scent of the soap. This mindful activity distracts the participant and allows the participant to be in the NOW. By fully engaging in the present, the person ‘s anxiety or nervousness’ may reduce. For a few seconds or minutes the individual is no longer focused on the million things he must complete at the end of the day but gets to enjoy the simple sensation. That does not mean your mind will not wonder, but with a few redirections or observing the drift and returning to the hand washing, the participant will greatly benefit from this calming activity.

So where am I going with this? Spiritually, hand washing provides a space of gratitude. It reminds you how fearfully and wonderfully you are made. It reminds you, that you are the workmanship of the Father’s hand and you too pose the ability to create, caress, embrace and nurture lasting relationships. But how does this fit with the wedding ceremony? After all, this is a wedding ceremony blog!! In a wedding ceremony, the hand washing ceremony ties all these benefits together creating an astounding experience. It allows the wedding couple to focus on the NOW for the few seconds as they become fully in tune with their new and profound oneness.

One of my favorite things to do is to add my favorite essential oils (jasmine+ rose + peppermint oils) to the water which is poured over the couple’s hand. Immediately, the couple notice their olfactory senses will kick in and will create a sensory imprint that will last a lifetime.

The hand washing is a great unity feature to add to your wedding ceremony for couples who appreciate a sensory unity feature and love aromatherapy. This feature will gently ward off negative thoughts and increase your energy as both partners totally immersed by, scent, thoughts of endearment and a hopeful future. What a better way to end a meaningful and mindful wedding ceremony that focuses on the joining of hands (and hearts) as one


Reference(s): Zhong, C., Liljenquist, K. (2006). Washing away your sins: Threatened morality and physical cleansing. Science, 313, 1451–1452. 

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