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FAQ: Your Wedding Unity Candle Questions Answered

Grooms lighting the ceremonial unity candle
(Once Like A Spark) Photography
The Knot
by The Knot

Wedding ceremonies are more diverse than ever before. While religious ceremonies remain popular, new, secular options have become increasingly mainstream. The lighting of a unity candle isn't based in any particular faith, but the practice has become more and more common in modern wedding ceremonies. It's not hard to see why – the beauty of two flames coming together as one can be incredibly poignant. If you're considering including the tradition in your upcoming nuptials, be sure you understand the history, function and procedures associated with unity candle ceremonies.  

How does the unity candle work? 

The unity candle is lit by the bride and groom from two separate family candles, representing the union of your families and the fact that you and your fiance are creating a family of your own. Often your mothers light the family candles, and then you two each hold your family's candle to light the unity candle together (it may be a larger candle or one that's a different color and is placed in the center, with the family candles off to your respective families' sides). But your dads can be in on it, too -- a nice option, because it mirrors the commitment you two are making and reminds everyone present of your parents' commitments. 

When is the Unity Candle Lit?

Usually the unity candle is lit directly after you exchange vows.

Can the two sets of parents light it, and then the bride and groom use it to light theirs?

Unity candle traditions are flexible, giving couples the freedom to customize the experience for their special days. If it is important to you for both sets of parents to be involved in the wedding unity candle ceremony, by all means, include everyone.

Where Does the Wedding Unity Candle Tradition Come From? 

Unity candle ceremonies are a relatively new trend. The use of a unity candle in weddings only became popular in the last few decades. The exact origins are unknown, but the use of a unity candle in a 1981 "General Hospital" episode may help explain the initial popularity of the trend. Symbolically, flames are said to represent the love and passion each partner has for the other. Joining them together is a physical representation of the couple's enduring commitment. 

Are Unity Candle Ceremonies Rooted in Christianity?

Believe it or not, there is no reference to a unity candle in the Bible, at least not as it pertains to weddings. Many Christians associate flames with the Holy Spirit and work that belief into their ceremonies. Still, you don't have to be a believer to incorporate a unity candle ceremony into your wedding day.

What are Some Alternatives to the Unity Candle Ceremony?

If you're not sure you want to use a unity candle in your wedding ceremony, consider alternatives like a wine ceremony instead. Instead of lighting two candles, couples each pour from their own carafe of wine into a single glass. This represents the joining of two individuals into one delicious union. 

A sand or water ceremony is another alternative to the unity candle tradition. Similar to the wine ceremony, couples take different colored water or sand and pour into a single glass. This creates a beautiful new color that mirrors the matrimonial pairing of the couple.

What Kind of Candle Should I Use?

You can use any kind of candle you like for your unity candle ceremony. Most are white or ivory, but you don't have to limit yourself to these shades. Many unity candles are decorated to match certain themes or color schemes; you'll have no shortage of options. 

Are There Certain Phrases or Verses to Recite During a Unity Candle Ceremony?

This part of the ceremony is entirely up to you and your partner. Your officiant may have specific guidelines or recommendations for how to conduct the unity candle ceremony, so turn to them for guidance.

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