Jon and I decided we didn't want to do a unity candle or sand or spices or any of that stuff, but our mothers brought the malas up at the end of the ceremony for us to put on each other before the kiss, essentially welcoming each other to our respective families. Officially.
I had planned on making them myself (shocker) on the day before the wedding by going to the florist, grabbing whatever was available and stringing it up. So the day before at the mehndi, when my godmother's 89-year-old mother said she had something for us, I was beyond touched. She and a bunch of her grandchildren had made these malas for us by hand. It's something they do in their tradition: Take strips of cotton and carefully remove some of the woven threads, making a very very soft fringe. It must have taken a very long time. I was teary.
These are so much better than what I would have slapped together. And they'll last a long time, too.
Jon loves orchids. We definitely would have used our own orchids (we have a couple very impressive plants) if we could, but of course this is the year they're both dormant.