Durwin Randle

When to Light the Unity Candle at a Wedding

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If you are currently planning your wedding are you’re helping someone to plan a wedding, “when to light the unity candle” or “who should light the unity candle” are questions that come up often during the wedding plans?

When it comes to planning a wedding, I’ve never seen two weddings just alike, and doubt if I ever will.


Because each couple has their own creative style and idea for the wedding they want to have.

So, let’s talk about…

  • the history of the unity candle.
  • how it works.
  • and what is the purpose of the unity candle is for.
When to Light the Unity Candle at a Wedding

Where did the unity candle tradition come from?

Ceremonies with the unity candle are relatively a new tradition. Its use has become more popular in the last few decades.

However, the exact origin of the unity candle is unknown.

  1. An episode of “General Hospital” in 1981 may help explain the initial popularity of the unity candle.
  2. Symbolically, flames are said to represent the love and passion the bride and groom have for each other.
  3. Joining the two flames together paints a picture of the bride and groom coming together as one.
When to Light the Unity Candle at a Wedding

So, is the unity candle rooted in Christianity?

I’m not aware of any reference to the unity candle in the bible pertaining to marriage.

Many Christians associate flames with the Holy Spirit and they incorporate this belief into wedding ceremonies.

But you do not have to be a Christian if you wish to have a unity candle a part of your wedding.

How do unity candles work?

The lighting of the unity candle is lit by the bride and groom from the two separate families.

This represents the uniting of two families through the bride and groom coming together and creating their own family.

Most often the mothers of both sides of the family will light the candle.

The bride and groom will then take the lit family candles and light their unity candle together (which could be a larger candle, different color, or different design).

Another option would be to have the fathers participate as well.


Because it gives the reflection of the commitment each of you is making to each other and it reminds everyone present of your parents’ commitments.

In this sense, when to light the unity candle could be lit at different times by different family members

When to Light the Unity Candle at a Wedding

Are there any alternatives to the unity candle?

I’ve heard of a wine ceremony or a water and sand ceremony but I have not witnessed either.

  • Wine Ceremony – Couples for the wine ceremony would pour their own carafe of wine into a single glass.
  • Sand and Water – This represents the uniting of two souls together as one

In Conclusion – When to light the unity candle?

Is a relatively new tradition that started a few decades ago.

An episode of General Hospital in 1981 may have helped ignite the popularity of the unity candle, and when to light the unity candle.

Tradition shows the mothers of the bride and groom lighting a family candle (but the fathers can participate to show their commitment to each other).

The bride and groom can then use the family candle to light the unity candle directly after the exchanging of vows.

However, if you like the idea of the unity candle but would prefer an alternative.

A “wine ceremony” or “sand and water ceremony” or two alternative options. Each of these represents the coming together of two families through the bride and groom creating their own family.

But the answer of when to light the unity candle could be immediately after the exchanging of vows, it could be at a different point in the wedding ceremony.

I hope this helps! An excellent resource for wedding ideas, vendors, and more is The Knot.

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‘Til the next episode,
Have fun taking pictures!

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Josef Koudelka

I Don't Like Captions. I Prefer People to Look at My Pictures and Invent Their Own Stories.