Unity Candle

The unity candle ceremony represents the union of the two families. The bride and groom light the individual tapers and bring the two flames together to light the larger column.

unitycandle3.jpgUNITY CANDLE


The ceremonial lighting of candles is found in many cultures. From the western tradition of lighting candles to celebrate a birthday, to the Chinese Lantern Festival on the first full moon of the lunar year in the east; from the Jewish Hanukkah or Festival of Lights celebration, to the Catholic ritual of lighting a candle at the foot of the Blessed Virgin. It is thus no surprise that the lighting of a single candle to symbolically represent the new union of husband and wife has become a popular part of the wedding celebration.

The Unity Candle rite has only become popular in the last quarter of a century, so there is little standardization of the practice. However, the rite does commonly have this structure:

1. Prior to the wedding ceremony, a large single Unity Candle and two slimmer tapers are placed in holders and arranged in the area where the wedding ceremony will be performed.

2. During the wedding ceremony, after the exchange of vows and rings, the bride and groom move to the area where the candles have been readied, careful to not obscure the congregation's view of the candles with their bodies. Two honored participants, one representing each side of the family (usually the bride's mother and the groom'€™s mother), come forward and light the individual tapers for their children. (Alternately, the single tapers may have been lit prior to the ceremony or when other candles are lit for the service.)

3. The bride takes her lighted taper; the groom takes his lighted taper.

4. Simultaneously, the bride and groom use their individual tapers to light the single large Unity Candle between them.

5. The bride and groom extinguish their tapers and returns them to their holders.


The lighting of the single candle symbolically represents two individuals joining as one, and the extinguishing of the individual tapers shows the bride's and groom's intent to sublimate their individual needs to the greater needs of their union.

Two popular variations on this tradition have also developed:

Those who wish to place a greater emphasis on their continuing individuality may opt not to extinguish the individual tapers, and the three candles, lit and in their holders, stand as a celebration of the bride and groom as individuals and of their union.

Couples who are bringing children into the marriage, may choose to have additional tapers representing the children, who can come forward and join in the lighting of the Unity Candle.

The lighting of the Unity Candle is usually followed by the pronouncement of the couple as husband and wife.

Because the Unity Candle ceremony is not strictly associated with a single religion or culture, it can readily be adapted by couples of various beliefs or backgrounds to express the sentiments most important to them. Incorporated into a Christian ceremony, the lighting of the candle can echo Christ'€™s role as the "Light of the World." Or for those of Indian descent, it could pay homage to the Hindu Agni Sthapana tradition in which the priest lights a holy fire into which the couple makes offerings.

Most couples keep their Unity Candle and relight it on special occasions, such as their wedding anniversary. Others may decide to use it more broadly as a part of special celebrations, incorporating it into their annual observation of Hanukkah or Advent. If you intend to use your Unity Candle as a part of ongoing spiritual observations and celebrations, you might want to choose a candle that is less "bridal" in its ornamentation.

Because of its versatility and adaptability, the Unity Candle tradition has become a familiar part of today's wedding celebrations.

May the blessing of light,
Be with you always,
Light without and light within.
And may the sun shine
Upon you and warm your heart
Until it glows
Like a great fire
So that others may feel
The warmth of your love
For one another.

(Adapted from an Irish Blessing)