From pelting the bride and groom with uncooked rice as they exit the venue, to tossing a bouquet of flowers in a crowd of unmarried female guests, weddings are filled with tradition. Among the most common traditions performed at western weddings, however, is the unity candle.

How it Works

The unity candle, as shown in the photo above, is a wedding tradition in which the bride and groom use two small taper candles to light a larger pillar candle (referred to as the unity candle). A member from both the bride and groom’s family (usually the mothers) will first light the taper candles at the beginning of the ceremony. After the bride and groom have exchanged vows and said their “I do’s,” they will each take a taper candle, using them to light the unity candle.

Unity Candle Symbolism

The symbolism behind the lighting of a unity candle is open for interpretation, but many people view it as the joining of two families. One of the taper candles represents the bride’s family, while the other represents the groom’s family. By using both candles to light a new candle, it symbolizes the union of two families.

The two taper candles used in the unity candle ceremony can either be blown our or left burning. According to Wikipedia, the majority of couples prefer to leave them burning, as this symbolizes each family’s love their son or daughter. But there are some couples who choose to blow them out, symbolizing the permanent merging of their lives. Whether you choose to leave the taper candles burning or blow them out is completely up to you and your soon-to-be spouse, though.

Of course, there are other ways to symbolize the union of you of your fiancé’s families. Check out some of the popular unity candle alternatives listed below.

  • Pour two bottles of differently colored sand into a vase or jar. Much like the unity candle, this symbolizes the union of you and your fiancé’s families.
  • Tie a double fisherman’s knot using two short but thick pieces of rope. This is said to be one of the strongest type of knot, with the rope breaking or snapping before the actual knot comes undone.
  • Create a cocktail together.
  • A “unity painting” in which the bride and groom paint together on a single canvas.
  • Plant a tree. If permitted by your venue, you and your fiance can plant a tree together.
  • A handwashing ceremony in which the officiant pours water over the hands of the bride and groom.
  • These are just a few of the many alternatives to a unity candle. Feel free to come up with your own ceremony. After all, that’s part of the fun of planning a wedding!

Photo credit: Barry Lenard