Sometime during the 1990's, the unity candle ceremony became a big part of weddings, and while it is a fairly new practice, dating back to around the 1970's, it is becoming more and more popular. Because it is so new, however, couples are still unsure of exactly what it is. And since it is so new, it is still being formed and defined, which adds to the confusion. The youth of the unity candle ceremony lends it to many possibilities; this is a part of the wedding ceremony where you can have a little freedom since it is not set in stone. What is true is that it is a lovely way to symbolize the union of two people or two families.
The actual unity candle has three tapers or three wicks, and the ceremony consists of the lighting of two side tapers, and then the lighting of the middle one with the two side tapers. The question of who lights the individual tapers is up to you to answer.
This is a way to not only bring two individuals together, but also a way to represent the union of two families. And for this reason, many couples choose to have other family members light the individual tapers. One popular version of the unity ceremony is to have the mothers light the individual tapers, and then the bride and groom use the tapers to light the middle taper. Couples who have children often have their kids light the individual candles to represent the union of two families. Sometimes, the grandparents are asked to light the tapers. And of course, if choosing between all these different family members is too difficult, you and your spouse to be could simply light the individual tapers yourselves.
Another thing you will want to consider is when the individual candles will be lit. On one hand, you could light them at the beginning of the wedding ceremony and then unite them at the end. While this is lovely, sometimes the tapers melt down quite far during long ceremonies and can look messy at the end, so if your ceremony is going to be a long one, you may want to wait until the end of the wedding ceremony to perform the entire unity candle ceremony.
You will also want to plan out what to do once the middle candle is lit. In more traditional ceremonies, couples extinguish the individual tapers to signify giving up their individual lives to become one. Some couples, on the other hand, prefer to keep the lit to symbolize that they are coming together as one, but without losing their individuality.
While the ceremony is truly a beautiful way to bring the union of two together, it is a good idea to check with your minister or rabbi (if you are getting married in a church or synagogue) before scripting it into your ceremony. This is because some religious leaders, especially stricter Catholic and Jewish ones, will not include the unity candle into a wedding ceremony because it is not a part of the traditional litany. If you can plan it into your wedding, I am sure that you and your guests will find it to be a meaningful and lovely way to demonstrate the purpose of the most special day.