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FAQs About the Unity Candle Ceremony, Including When, How, Who, Where, and Why!

Published Monday, Nov. 14th, 2022

Close up as a bride and groom perform a unity candle ceremony during their wedding. The couple are holding small candles to light a larger candle, and holding their free hands up to block the wind so that the flame doesn't go out. They are wearing formal wedding attire, including a white gown with lace sleeves, and a blue suit.

Answers to common questions about how to include a unity candle in your wedding ceremony. 



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AMM Audio Articles · FAQs About the Unity Candle Ceremony, Including When, How, Who, Where, and Why!



You’ve got questions about the unity candle ceremony, and we’ve got answers! But first… 


If you’re officiating a wedding with a unity candle ceremony for the first time, we recommend this article: 



How to Perform a Unity Candle Ceremony 
(for Wedding Officiants)



It covers everything you’ll need to know in detail to help you officiate with confidence, and even includes a sample ceremony script.


If you’re getting married and want to include this ritual, or just have a couple questions about it, keep reading! 



FAQs About the Unity Candle Ceremony




1. Is the unity candle lit before or after the vows exchange? 


Ah yes, one of the most common questions ever when it comes to unity ceremonies! When is the unity candle lit? Is it before or after the vows and rings? 


Usually, the unity candle is lit right after the exchange of vows and rings. But this isn’t set in stone – some couples prefer to light the candle before the vows. This is more common when a unity candle ceremony is added to a handfasting ceremony (to keep the cord or ribbon from catching fire). 



2. What is the meaning of the unity candle? 


Most often, a unity candle ceremony symbolizes two unique lives merging together into one bright and happy marriage – represented by two small taper candles used to light one larger ‘unity’ candle. But because this tradition is so old and shows up in many different cultures and religions, it can mean different things to different people. 


In Catholic and other Christian weddings, the candle’s flame sometimes represents the light of God that’s carried within each partner, joined together in the holy covenant of marriage. In pagan weddings, unity candles are lit on the solstice to symbolize a return to longer days and the promise of a bountiful future, or as part of a candle magic ritual. 



3. Who lights the unity candle? 


The unity candle is lit by the couple during the ceremony. They light the candle together when instructed by the wedding officiant, using two taper candles – one for each partner. See the short video below for a simple demonstration. 




+ Watch all AMM wedding ceremony script videos on YouTube



After lighting the unity candle, the couple will set their lit tapers in candle holders, or pass them to a wedding attendant to hold until the ceremony is over.


Sometimes, the taper candles are lit by a parent or elder, and then passed to the couple to light the unity candle. In this case, a bride or groom’s mother or father lights the candle to symbolize their love and support for the marriage, and may be asked to hold the tapers again after the unity candle is lit. 


4. Do you blow out the unity candle? 


No one wants to look silly on their wedding day, so we get this question a lot. When do you blow out the unity candle? Do you leave the candles burning, or blow them out when it’s time to move on to the rest of the wedding ceremony? It depends! 


Option One: (This is the most popular option, and the one we recommend.) Don’t blow out the unity candles until the wedding is complete and the couple has made their exit down the aisle. Then, the wedding officiant or another wedding attendant will blow out the candles and put them away as a keepsake for the couple.  


Option Two: (This is the less popular option.) The couple blows out their individual candles after lighting the unity candle, to represent that they will never be fully separated from each other again, and now exist only as one. This is powerful symbolism, just make sure your guests know what to expect. 


5. What do you say during a unity candle ceremony? 


This is an important one! What does a wedding officiant say during a unity candle ceremony? What does the couple say? 


In general, the officiant will explain the symbolism of the ritual to the guests so that they feel included in the magic. Then, they usually offer a few words of wisdom to the couple before directing them to light the candle, but the exact wording is up to you. 



Most often the couple remains silent while lighting the candle, as do any other guests who participate (for example children, or a bride or groom’s mother or father). 



Close up photo of a young couple lighting a unity candle during the wedding ceremony, the candles are brown and carved to look like pieces of wood for a nature themed ceremony

Choose candles that match your wedding theme and color


6. How long does a unity candle ceremony take? 


The timing of your ceremony will depend on how much (or how little) you say. Usually, lighting a unity candle will only add 2 to 3 minutes to the wedding ceremony. 



To save time, set up a table near the wedding altar before the ceremony begins. Arrange the two small candles and the large unity candle so that they’re easy to reach, and place a lighter or matches nearby. Some couples prefer to light the smaller candles before the wedding ceremony begins, so that they’re already lit and ready to go. 


7. What can I do instead of a unity candle ceremony? 


Great question! This beautiful ritual won’t be appropriate for all settings and styles: Some venues don’t allow open flames, candles are hard to light outdoors (consider a lantern), and the aesthetic might not suit everyone’s tastes… But luckily there are plenty of creative alternatives. 


If you’re looking for unique unity ceremony ideas, head here: 



Unity Ceremony Ideas


Close up photo of a knotted white handfasting cord and two gold wedding rings





Looking for a wedding ceremony script? 


These full-length wedding ceremony script examples include wording for several different unity rituals, including sand ceremonies, tree planting, ring warming, whiskey blending, and more. Use them as-is, or change the wording to suit your tastes and style.


Browse Wedding Ceremony Scripts with Unity Ceremony 




You might also like: 



A young couple embrace on the wedding day, while posing for photos

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Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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