The Unity Candle Ceremony
by Vanessa Kasal Kunze
The Unity Candle Ceremony has become a very popular and symbolic aspect of weddings within the last 10 years. The lighting of the Unity Candle symbolizes the new union of a husband and wife, two individuals who are becoming one through marriage.
A unity candle is actually a set of candles: a large single candle in the center, with two slim taper candles on either side. The candles are placed in holders, either a special unity candleholder or individual bases. The unity candle is often placed off to the side of the area where the wedding ceremony will be performed. Some time during the ceremony, the couple will each take a lighted taper, and together will light the big center candle, symbolizing their unity and commitment to each other.
There is no “standard” way to perform the Unity Candle ceremony, nor is there a specific place where it will occur within the ceremony. It is very common to have the Unity Candle ceremony after the exchange of rings and before the pronouncement of husband and wife. But one very nice thing about this ceremony is that it can be customized and the individual details are completely up to you.
Here are some ideas to help you with the planning of your Unity Candle Ceremony:
- Prior to the ceremony: The unity candle area is set up. It is often a good idea to light the wicks ahead of time then blow them out. A pre-burned wick is easier to light (many couples have been in the middle of their ceremony and couldn’t get the wick to light!)
- Lighting the tapers: There are many different variations on lighting the side tapers.
- Some people have them already burning before the ceremony starts, to symbolize the bride and the groom as individuals.
- You can opt to have the mother of the bride and groom each light one candle with special music playing while this is going on. The mother of the groom is escorted in by either an usher or a male member of the brides family, where she will then light a taper then is ushered to her seat. The mother of the bride is escorted in by the groom himself, an usher or a male member of the grooms family, where she will light the other taper, then gets escorted to her seat. At this time the bridesmaids music begins and the ceremony starts.
- The groom will light a taper before the ceremony, and after the bride is escorted in, she will light her taper.
- If the couple are bringing children into the marriage, you can opt to have the children light the tapers.
- Lighting the center candle: The couple will move to the area where the Unity Candle is displayed. Each will take a taper, and together they will light the large center candle. Some people choose to blow out their tapers, to symbolize their commitment to each other and as a show of their unity. Other couples leave their tapers lit, to symbolize that they are still individuals even though they have been united in marriage. No matter if you plan to keep your tapers lit or not, the choice is totally up to you.
Some couples choose to have a special song played while they are lighting the unity candle. Any song you wish can be used; popular Unity Candle songs include “Here and Now” by Luther Vandross, “Ava Maria”, “ Grow Old With Me” by John Lennon or Mary Chapin Carpenter, and “To Make You Feel My Love” by Garth Brooks. You can also choose to have a special poem read or you can choose to have a moment of silence.
If you are having an outdoor ceremony, you may want to consider not only pre-lighting the wicks of the candles, but also putting them inside glass hurricane lamps to protect them from the wind. There is nothing more frustrating than being outside and the wind prevents you from lighting your candles! You can find hurricane lamps in a variety of sizes and shapes at most craft, department or discount stores.
The Unity Candle Ceremony is non-denominational, which means it has no religious significance. This makes it a popular choice for both religious and non-religious ceremonies alike. One thing to keep in mind; many houses of worship may not allow this ceremony, so if you have your heart set on it, you may need to check with the appropriate people to see if this is allowed.