What is a Unity Candle ritual, what is involved and how can you include it in your modern wedding ceremony?
What do I mean by a ritual?
First of all, what is a ritual? A ritual is the term we use to describe an element within the ceremony, usually an action that is symbolic. Rituals are great ways to add a bit of fun and personality to a ceremony.
What happens in a Unity Candle Ritual?
The Unity Candle arrangement is typically made up of three candles, two outer candles that are similar to dinner table candles, and a central candle, usually in a pillar style. The two outer candles represent the couple as individuals, their lives, their families, their cultures. The central candle is the unity candle and this represents their marriage. Celebrants will have their own way of doing this ritual, and even couples might have their own ideas, but the way I do it is at the start of the ceremony the two outer candles are lit, and then once the couple have exchanged vows and rings, they light the central candle.
Why is this a good one to include in your ceremony?
The Unity Candle is a good one to include for a number of reasons. First of all, it is easy. We light candles all the time, there is no speaking involved, so it is a great one to include if you want to get people involved in the ceremony. Very often the couple’s mothers will light the outer candles, but you could also ask siblings, friends, grandparents, whoever. You can of course just light them yourselves as well.
It is also one we are very familiar with. The lighting of candles is a ritual we see in church weddings and civil ceremonies as well as Celebrant led ceremonies. While I don’t suggest you bend to what someone else thinks you should do for your wedding, if you have a parent or grandparent who is unsure about you not getting married in a church, then this is a good ritual to include to ease the transition for them. The sense of familiarity can give some comfort.
The Unity Candle ritual symbolises your lives coming together. You both light candles representing your individual lives, which is also celebrated. Once you have exchanged vows, you take a light from your individual flame and together light your unity candle, symbolising the new journey you will take together. You are still individuals, but are taking this next leap as a team!
We light candles all the time at celebrations, and the lighting of candles often symbolises a happy occasion.
It can also symbolise the natural element of fire, and if your ceremony is more spiritual or nature based, it is a good way to bring in the element of fire.
Finally, it represents the spark between you, that spark of passion and interest that brought you together in the first place.
While this may seem like quite a traditional ritual, it can be given a modern twist. You could use more than the typical three candles, and have other candles representing things or people that are important to you.
If you have children, or are blending two families together, each person in the family could have their own candle to light as part of this ritual.
You could use different coloured candles, to match your wedding theme, your country flag, your county colours. If you are a same sex couple, you could have candles representing the rainbow.
You could incorporate smells and textures into the candles, for example sea shells for beach lovers, or the scent of pine trees for hikers.
You could even get a candle making set and make your own!
One final thing to note – the Unity Candle ritual can be hit and miss if it is done outdoors.
Lots of ideas there to incorporate this simple and beautiful ritual into your ceremony.
Yvonne Cassidy (Busher) is a Dublin based wedding celebrant and legal solemniser. She is an innovative celebrant who seeks out ways to give each ceremony a ‘one of a kind’ feel. Yvonne has worked with couples and families from all over the world, creating ceremonies full of fun and joy. Details of how to contact Yvonne to arrange a call are below: