Weddings are full of symbolism, but nowhere is this more obvious than with the lighting of the unity candle. However, you may be surprised at how this romantic tradition became part of so many modern weddings.
While the tradition’s exact origins are not known, experts believe it developed in the 1970’s. After the Women’s Movement, mothers decided they needed a more active role in the wedding ceremonies of their children. That’s why many unity candle lighting services begin with the mothers of the couple lighting the tapered candles which symbolize each grown child’s single life.
The tradition remained fairly uncommon until a huge event brought unity candle lighting to a broad audience. One of the biggest television moments of the early 1980’s was the wedding of Luke and Laura on the soap opera General Hospital. During their wedding, the couple lit unity candles. Afterward, the tradition boomed and more couples opted to include the unity candle lighting in their ceremonies.
Unfortunately, not everyone has become enamored of the tradition. Many Christian churches forbid unity candle lighting as part of the weddings they perform. Because the lighting is not part of the original wedding ceremony, it is viewed as wrong to include it in the service. However, that view has become less common as more and more couples opt for bringing unity candles into their ceremony.
If you’re considering adding unity candle lighting to your ceremony, here’s basically how the process works:
The mothers of the bride and groom step to the front before the service begins and light the respective tapered candle for each of their children. These candles can be on a table in front of the altar and between them should be a large pillar candle (i. e. the unity candle).
At a certain point in the service, the minister will give the couple instructions, then the couple will take their tapered candles and together light the unity candle as a symbol of their connection and their commitment to one another.
Additionally, you may need to consider a few things before you start planning your own unity candle ceremony. First, never light the candles outside. The weather is fickle so even a mild breeze might make lighting the candles and keeping them lit nearly impossible. Instead, have this part of the ceremony held inside. Second, you may want to have music playing in the background, perhaps something romantic such as the first song the two of you danced to.
Also, remember to add the unity candle lighting to your wedding programs. You may even want to explain the activity since some guests won’t have seen it before. Otherwise, you’ll see a lot of confused faces in the crowd. Explain why you’ve chosen to add this to the ceremony and what lighting the unity candle meant to you.
If you’re interested in maintaining consistency in your wedding, then don’t forget to choose tapered and pillar candles that match everything else.
Some brides and grooms aren’t keen on the idea of fire so you can use an alternative – bottles of sand. You can use colored sand if you want, but the important thing is to fill two smaller vessels with sand then pore them into one large vessel. The nice thing about the colored sand is that it can create a beautiful look in the bigger bottle and that bottle can be kept as a decoration in your home.
Unity candles definitely add something special to your ceremony but make sure your officiant or your ceremony location won’t object to having it included.