Atonement. You touch one willing creature whose alignment has changed, and you make a DC 20 Wisdom (Insight) check. On a successful check, you restore the target to its original alignment.
Bless Water. You touch one vial of water and cause it to become holy water.
Coming of Age. You touch one humanoid who is a young adult. For the next 24 hours, whenever the target makes an ability check, it can roll a d4 and add the number rolled to the ability check. A creature can benefit from this rite only once.
Dedication. You touch one humanoid who wishes to be dedicated to your god’s service. For the next 24 hours, whenever the target makes a saving throw, it can roll a d4 and add the number rolled to the save. A creature can benefit from this rite only once.
Funeral Rite. You touch one corpse, and for the next 7 days, the target can’t become undead by any means short of a Wish spell.
Wedding. You touch adult humanoids willing to be bonded together in marriage. For the next 7 days, each target gains a +2 bonus to AC while they are within 30 feet of each other. A creature can benefit from this rite again only if widowed.
Casting Time: 1 hour
Components: V, S, M (25 gp worth of powdered silver, which the spell consumes)
School: 1st-level abjuration (ritual)
Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, pg. 151
Ceremony is a fun little flavor spell that adds numerical benefits to different rites of passage. While it doesn’t normally see much play, it can offer a way to give player(s) in your group a long-term, no concentration buff — the perfect thing for the most difficult part of your adventure.
But for now, let’s get into the spell’s mechanics and rules questions. Then we’ll get into its uses and tips for DMs running up against the age-old question of what constitutes “widowed” status in a polygamous marriage.
Who Can Cast Ceremony in 5e?
The following classes have Ceremony on their spell list:
No subclasses get Ceremony for free, but Divine Soul Sorcerers have access to it via their expanded class spell list.
What Does Ceremony Do in 5e?
Ceremony requires the caster to touch a target and for the target(s) to remain within 10 feet of the caster throughout the casting. Ceremony causes one of six unique effects:
Atonement. Restore a creature to their original alignment on a successful DC 20 Wisdom (Insight) check.
Bless Water. Make one vial of water holy water.
*Coming of Age. Give a young adult +1d4 to ability checks for 24 hours.
*Dedication. Give a creature recently converted to your religion +1d4 to saving throws for 24 hours.
Funeral Rite. Prevent a corpse from becoming undead for 7 days (excepting a Wish spell).
Wedding. Targets 2+ adult humanoids and grants +2 AC to them while they are within 30 feet of each other for 7 days. May only benefit from this again if widowed.
**A creature can only benefit from Coming of Age and Dedication once in their life.
Blessing requires 25 gp worth of powdered silver to cast, which the spell consumes.
What Are the Rules for Ceremony in 5e?
The rules for Ceremony in DnD 5e are as follows:
Ceremony can be cast as a ritual in 1 hour and 10 minutes. This also doesn’t expend a spell slot (PHB 201-2). Paladins and Sorcerers cannot ritual cast, but Clerics can.
You can marry more than two humanoids at once. The spell only indicates touching “adult humanoids,” so your only real limit per casting is how many humanoids are able to get within 10 feet of the caster.
“Widowed” is up to DM interpretation. Some players may go for the cheeky trick of a safe, controlled death followed by a casting of Revivify, for example.
Hey — they were widowed for <1 minute, but widowed all the same as far as Merriam-Webster is concerned -- "lost a spouse or partner by death and usually has not remarried." There's also the case of polygamy. If you marry five spouses and one of them dies, are you widowed? It's likely most polygamous cultures would see it that way. Does that mean the character can re-marry new spouse(s) to gain the Wedding rite benefits again? Up to your DM.
Clerics and Paladins can already bless water without the Ceremony spell. Same cost, time, material requirements, and 1st-level spell slot requirement — although it can’t be done as a ritual, so Ceremony is superior for Clerics with 10 extra minutes on their hands.
How Do I Use Ceremony in 5e?
Here are a few ways to use Ceremony in DnD 5e:
Have ceremonies before big adventuring days. Coming of Age, Dedication, and Wedding give significant long-term combat buffs — with no concentration requirement. Take advantage of that fact by performing these rites before facing a big challenge.
It’s not even really meta-gamey to do something like this. The roleplaying elements are easy, as detailed in the next tip.
Use it to enrich roleplaying experiences. There are plenty of easy ways to imagine working the combat buff Ceremony effects into normal roleplaying moments:
Someone who’s coming of age may decide to celebrate this fact before the climactic battle with an enemy they’ve been chasing down. Or their tribe might grant them a blessing before they take on some task of great importance.
A group of adventurers might decide that their party member’s god is the real deal after seeing him use divine energy. They decide to sign on to his faith so that they can enjoy the protection of the god before a big battle. No atheists in fox holes, after all!
Before embarking on an incredibly dangerous mission together, two party members (or a party member and an important NPC they’ve been traveling/adventuring with) decide to give in to their emotions and tie the knot with marriage. Who knows if you’ll survive this encounter, after all?
Become a “black widow” type character. Regardless of your DM’s stance on polygamy or quick-revive, short-term “widowing,” one perfectly legitimate (but decidedly evil) way of getting the sweet, sweet 7-day, +2 AC buff from marriage is to continue killing your spouses.
Of course, this comes with some logistical issues. As in, courting a series of people to actually marry you, getting them to come on dangerous missions with you and stay within 30 feet of you at all times, and not get suspicious about your string of dead spouses.
If you’re able to overcome these obstacles, you can certainly chain the marriage benefit more than once with NPCs. But be prepared for some DM pushback and counterplay — you’re kinda asking for a comeuppance with behavior like that, after all.
Stop necromancers from messing with your friends’ bodies. This hardly comes up, but it can be a good one if a powerful NPC leads you into a Lich’s lair (or some other undead-creating bad guy) and then dies. Hey, you’d really hate for that guy to pop up in the middle of a battle, right?
Just prepare it for the big day. Being a Cleric or Paladin, there’s no reason to prepare Ceremony most of the time. When you need it, add it to your spell list for the day and cast it. Then exchange it for a more useful spell after your next long rest.
Who Can I Target With Ceremony 5e?
All targets of Ceremony must be willing to take part in the rite, except for Coming of Age, which can affect a young adult regardless of whether they’re willing to be affected by it.
The vial of water (Bless Water) and corpse (Funeral Rite) also don’t need to be willing targets since they are objects.
Is Ceremony 5e a Good Spell?
If Ceremony could be serially cast, it would be an incredibly powerful, long-term, no-concentration buff. Which is why the serial marriage/murder trick is so frowned upon (not to mention, you know, the moral issues with building such a character).
In reality, Ceremony can offer a great buff for your party’s most important adventure if the circumstances are right. But what I love about Ceremony is that it encourages narrative choices.
And since it’s a Paladin/Cleric spell, you don’t need to commit to using Ceremony forever — just long enough to cast it and get its long-duration effect going before you take a long rest to swap for something else.
Ceremony 5e DM Tips
DMs have one big decision to make with Ceremony; what does the word “widowed” mean. I personally don’t like the “kill spouse, Revivify, re-marry” trick and so disallow it.
But the polygamy idea does seem to hold water — multiple spousal deaths = multiple instances of widowing. Of course, you’ll still have to get your spouse to adventure with you and stay alive through dangerous scenarios (at least for 7 days).
And the “black widow” character is fun, but it will definitely change any player’s alignment to evil. I think any philosophy would agree that tricking someone into marriage to gain a one-week combat advantage, only to murder them afterward isn’t “good” or “neutral.”
Ultimately, you can always make legitimate, believable real-world consequences. A town would take notice if multiple members of their community married the same person and died a week later.
Maybe the party stops being received as trustworthy and quests from good NPCs start to disappear. I’d imagine suitors would start to be less enamored with anyone holding this reputation as well.
Other than these cheesy tricks, Ceremony is a neat little spell that makes adds a potent numerical advantage as a reward for achieving some great rite of passage. Used appropriately, it’s the perfect spell to make a session feel extra special.