It may seem like a small thing, but having a unity candle ceremony adds romantic symbolism to your wedding ceremony. Your guests will feel that they are witnessing something very special.
For most of your guests, this is going to be one of the most memorable parts of the ceremony, and perhaps something they have never seen before! Making your ceremony unique sets an amazing tone for the rest of the day and will make it even more unforgettable for you and your guests.
“Lighting candles as part of a unity ceremony makes your wedding even more romantic in front of your family and friends” - Tim Downer
A unity candle ceremony is where you as a couple during the wedding ceremony, use two lighted candles, which symbolises the individuality of you both, then using these two lit candles you would both simultaneously light a larger candle, which would symbolize you as two people joining together in marriage.
What is the history of the unity candle ceremony?
Although the unity candle has somewhat gained a reputation as one of the ‘classic’ unity rituals used in ceremonies such as a wedding, a renewal of vows or any other ceremony, it is actually a relatively new tradition. While researching for this article, I came across this information from Wikipedia about this unity ceremony, and it stated “that the use of a unity candle in a 1981 episode of General Hospital may have helped to popularise the practice” so, when compared with all the other popular ceremonies and rituals such as ring warming, handfasting, jumping the broom, the Rose ceremony . . . and the list goes on, the unity candle ceremony is a fairly new ritual!
The unity candle ceremony is a popular choice for both religious and non-religious ceremonies, because it is non-denominational, and has no religious significance.
The Candle Lighting Ritual
This symbolic ceremony normally consists of two slender candles (also called tapers), with a large pillar candle in between the two slender candles (image below). What normally happens is at the beginning of the candle ceremony, a representative from each of your families would step forward to light up each of the two slender candles. Now this would usually be the mother’s of the couple getting married, but as always, this would be your choice as to whom you would want to choose for this honoured position.
As they light up the two candles, this would symbolize the love, the support, the guidance and nurture that they have provided you as they raised you up and helped shape you into the person that you are now – but at the same time, not forgetting that this representative is from both your parents, and the person you have chosen represents the whole family!
Later in this ceremony (usually after you have exchanged your vows) you will both stand next to these lit candles and simultaneously light the pillar candle with both your candles. Whereas these two slender candles symbolize you both as individuals of that moment, each flame is distinct, each are still able to go their separate ways. But lighting the pillar candle, symbolises you as two individuals coming together as one, as a united couple.
So do you keep the slender candles lighted or should I blow them out?
The two slender candles represent your individual lives before the wedding vows. They represent all that you are from your vast life experiences, and as you each take a single lit candle and light the center candle, you can extinguish your individual candles (if this is what you have decided to do) to signify an end to the single life and are now together as one with the new flame.
Often one of the partners will blow out the other partners slender candle and then they in turn will blow out the other partners candle. This represents the closing of the chapters in your individual Books of Life and the beginning of new chapters as you begin to write a new book of Life as a new couple in marriage!
If you choose to keep the slender candles lit? Another way to do this is to allow the two slender candles to continue to burn. By allowing the flame of the two slender candles to remain lit, it represents that you and your partner accept the individuality of each other as a means to fulfilling their commitment to one another.
The finishing touches . . .
The table on which these candles stand on is often decorated, perhaps with your wedding invitation, and you could have a photograph of you as a couple (which I always think is a lovely touch) maybe some flowers and coloured ribbon to reflect the colour of the wedding theme you have chosen for you special day. This pillar candle itself may be inscribed with your names and the date of the wedding (I can get these done for you at an added cost, or you can get these done yourselves)
The candles selected for this ceremony are almost always white in colour, however depending on your personalities and taste, you could really have them in any colour that you desire! Your choice of candles is limited only by your imagination – You can get them in any colour, shape and size, and have them decorated how you want. It is your choice and there are no rules on the colours!
Something else to include would be a special song for this ceremony, which would be playing in the background. This could be a song which has special meaning to you both, or just a song you both love!
If you are creating a new family you may want to include the children in the lighting of the Unity Candle. Often this is done by having the two couples light the candle for the children and then everyone lighting the center candle together. This is an excellent way to involve children from a previous marriage.
Something else to consider if you are having an outdoor ceremony is the weather. If there is a slight breeze, then we could get a hurricane candle cover as shown below. If it is going to be somewhat windy, we could change it the candle ceremony for a sand ceremony! Why? Well if the weather starts acting up, we don’t want the flame on the unity candle to be blown out!
After the wedding day . .
Light is the essence of our lives, we exist because of light! Each one of us possesses an inner glow that represents our hopes, dreams and aspirations in life, which is why I think the candle ceremony is an awesome ceremony that can really have meaning on your wedding day. As your celebrant, I would offer the suggestion that you keep this candle somewhere safe (maybe in a storage box, unless you want them out on display), and then on each year of your anniversary, or vow renewal ceremony or any other family occasion as required, you can re-light this candle to remind you both of the events and emotions you shared and experienced on your wedding day together.
It can also give you the time to reflect and remind you that although you remain separate as individuals, with your own unique strengths and weaknesses, that together as a couple, you have a relationship that can only strengthen each of you as individuals through the love, the honour and respect you have cultivated for each other in your marriage.
For me, I love these concluding words from a unity candle ceremony script that I was reading the other day: “Notice that the flames burn the brightest with both candles joined as one, participating, cooperating and present. A marriage is just like that. Be forever present for one another, and your light and beauty will shine bright”
I love this variation on this unity theme:
If you would like to have the entire audience participate, give everyone a candle as they enter. As the first guests candle is lit, they pass the flame on from their candle to the next guests candle . . . And so forth until it arrives at the final guest. A nice piece of ribbon tied to the base of the candle would save hands from melted wax! This final guests candle would come to the couple and light up their two candles. This ceremony nicely symbolises a proclamation that at this ceremony, your friends and family support you as a couple in this marriage.
Another variation on the above idea . . .
When lighting the Unity Candle, each of you turn and share your light with the first row of seated guests on your side. Let the guests share the flame from their own small candle with the person sitting next to them until all the candles are aglow and you are pronounced wife and husband. The celebrant can suggest that everyone make a good wish for the Bride and Groom and blow out the candles.
These Candles do not have to be the traditional, long tapered candles as spoken about at the beginning of this article. You could use the short, fat candles as pictured below from a wedding i attended earlier this year. You could even have these inscribed as pictured as wedding favours, and the guests would have something to take home and they too will be reminded of this awesome wedding they went to and participated in every time they see the candle.
So would you consider having a unity candle ceremony at your wedding? If you have read this and you actually did have a unity candle ceremony on your wedding day, I would love to find out how you enjoyed it and what it meant to you on the day in the comments below 😁 Tim x
If this sounds like something you would like to have for your ceremony, or you wish to know more, then please give me a call on 07557 803814 or fill out the contact form below and i will get back to you.