Published: Friday, Apr. 29th, 2022
Unity candle ceremonies are popular and beautiful unity rituals. They symbolize the joining together of two distinct personalities in devoted partnership. They’re also chosen to represent the blending of two separate families into one, especially when meaningful elders or children participate.
If you’re performing or planning a unity candle lighting ceremony for the first time, or will be setting one up in a new or unusual venue, you may wonder about the best approach to take.
You’re in the right place!
We’ll cover supplies, set up, rehearsal, delivery, and what to consider after the ceremony.
The light of love
(These candles might already be lit when the ceremony starts, or two family members might light them and pass them to the couple, or the wedding officiant might light them to start the ceremony, etc.)
(After this speech, the officiant asks the couple to light the third candle together)
(This third candle is the ‘unity candle’)
(These are usually left burning)
The couple will provide the supplies, but the wedding officiant should make sure that all of the required items are set up and ready to go before the ceremony starts.
(Many couples choose taper candles for their individual candles. Use an additional candle for anyone else you want to include in the unity ritual, such as kids, parents, or close friends.)
(This is the ‘unity candle’ which will be kept as a memento after the ceremony. Specialty candles with carved names and dates can be purchased, but many couples just choose a large pillar candle in a favorite color. )
(Keep aesthetics in mind – this lighter might be visible and even photographed during the ceremony. And don’t forget to bring a backup!)
*Customize this ceremony with sculpted, scented, hand poured, or colored candles. To add a dash of witchcraft and magic to the day, choose a candle in a symbolic color.
Pro Tip: Choose a low smoke or clean burning candle for indoor ceremonies, and don’t forget to trim the wick! If your wedding guests are sensitive to strong odors you may want to purchase unscented candles.
What type of candles will you choose?
Take your pick from various shapes, colors, scents, materials, styles, and more!
Make sure that all supplies are set up and ready for use before the ceremony starts. And don’t forget to bring a backup lighter!
The smaller candles should be placed on either end of the table so that they’re easy to reach.
Make sure the table is at an appropriate height so that the couple will not need to bend down, and clear away any drapery or decorations that might accidentally catch on fire.
Decorate the table with flowers, herbs, crystals, framed photos of family members, colorful fabric table cloths, and any other meaningful items that speak to the couples’ unique relationship.
Where you put the table matters a great deal! This should be decided before or during the rehearsal.
Here are a few popular options to consider:
Off to the side:
When placing the table off to one side, choose a spot that the couple can walk to easily (without tangling a long dress). If a wedding has two brides in long gowns, you’ll probably want to choose an alternate placement.
Close to the audience:
To give your guests the best view, place the table up front and just to the side. As the couple steps forward to perform the ceremony, they’ll move closer to the guests, which will feel more interactive for everyone involved.
Behind the officiant:
The simplest choice is to place the table behind the officiant. The officiant will step behind the table when it’s time for the unity ceremony, and the couple won’t need to move much (or at all) to take their places. This is a popular choice because the stand isn’t noticeable until the officiant steps behind it, and the audience will not need to shift their attention to a different location.
Pro Tip: You should absolutely have a rehearsal. During the rehearsal, remember that everyone will be wearing different clothes on the wedding day. Keep this in mind when you’re choosing where to place the table and candles to accommodate long gowns and bridal trains, theme wedding costumes, robes, or decorative sleeves or shawls.
Be mindful of decorations and clothing when setting up your candles
When do you light the unity candle?
A candle lighting ceremony can take place at any time during the marriage ceremony, but usually fits seamlessly after the vow or ring exchange, as a continuation of these symbols of love and commitment.
Who lights the smaller / individual candles?
Before the rehearsal, decide who will light the two individual candles. You have options!
This is entirely up to the couple. Asking a parent or friend to light the candle is a great way to involve loved ones in the ceremony.
Keep in mind how much time the ritual takes during the rehearsal, and consider whether or not there’s time to involve other people. These small details matter!
Transitional phrases & ceremony wording
Transitions are key when shifting from another part of the ceremony to the unity ceremony.
Officiants should offer a few words to let guests know what’s coming next, and then talk about the ritual’s symbolism and meaning for the couple.
Below, you'll find an example of what to say during the unity ritual.
(Following the vow and ring exchange)
Officiant to the Couple
“Partner A and Partner B, you’ve exchanged vows and rings as a symbol of your devotion to each other.
Now, we celebrate you as individuals and as partners, as you join forces to build a bright and joyful future together."
(The couple picks up the lit candles, or takes the candles from a friend/ relative.)
These two flames represent all that you are as individuals – the spark and light that you bring to life. The two of you bring such joy to the people in your lives. You burn brightly, shining with an unstoppable curiosity and passion, hope, and determination.
Today, the light and joy you bring to life is doubled. As you light the unity candle together, let its warmth remind you that neither of you outshines the other. You are two twin flames, dancing, daring, and burning brightly.
As you join together, let the flame you create light your path forward in happy and harmonious union."
(The couple lights the unity candle together using the smaller candles.)
The officiant might say:
Officiant to the Couple
“Thank you both for sharing this beautiful ritual with us! Now, please join me back at the altar.”
Pro Tip: If one of the candles goes out during the ceremony, simply light it again using the second candle or the lighter and continue with the ceremony. And don’t worry about spilled wax!
Watch a simple demonstration of a unity candle lighting below.
Unity candle ceremonies are popular because they bring a visual storytelling component to the wedding ceremony, and the couple will have a decorative keepsake to place on a shelf or mantle at home.
In fact, some couples light the candle again each year on their anniversary, to reflect on their relationship while sipping a glass of wine!
A final planning note: Choose a friend or relative to be in charge of cleanup after the ceremony, and someone to take the candle for safe-keeping.
Wedding altar arranged with flowers and vases for a sand ceremony
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