First, it’s been done. To death. Your parents probably did it along with all of their generation. If you look carefully when visiting the home of a married couple, you might even see a monstrous, half-burned, decorated white unity candle lurking on a mantle or shelf somewhere. The couple is supposed to burn it every year on their anniversary, but who remembers? So it becomes part of the furniture until it collects enough dust or melts away and ends up in a landfill.
But candles are traditional symbols and the ceremony does add a little life to your typical wedding, so they’re not all bad. They need very little in way of introduction or explanation during a ceremony as they speak for themselves. The lighting of the tapers can involve family members (typically mothers) who are sometimes looking for a role to play in the ceremony. They can be stunning works of elaborate art and semi-permanent reminders of your wedding day. I’ve done a couple of candle lighting ceremonies that include the children and they are very moving for everyone involved.
These days, a lot of folks who would have done a unity candle in the past are opting for the Blending of the Sands ceremony instead for a couple of reasons. Sand doesn’t pose a danger to little fingers. Sand doesn’t blow out during outdoor weddings. It comes in pretty colors. Not everyone has seen the sand ceremony (yet. Give it another 10 years). It offers a couple of options and variations that candles don’t allow for such as a “foundation pour” of a color by the family to signify their support and a “blessing pour” by the officiant to signify God’s love (either blended with the couple’s sands or over the top). Also, sands can be collected from significant places (the beach the bride visited every summer as a child or the sandbox the groom played in as a child perhaps…), making the ritual more personal and a little less like art class.
Of course, there are many other blending rituals couples choose; wine blending, water blending, bread and salt, the unity tree, God’s knot, flower rituals of various stripes, chocolate sharing, and many more. They all have more or less the same symbolic flavor but can be tweaked and edited to better reflect the needs of each couple as they see fit. If doing something “new and different” is your thing, you’ve probably already turned our nose up at the unity candle in favor of one of the above or something else entirely.
But don’t count the Unity Candle out just yet. Sometimes a classic touch without any fanfare is exactly the thing you need. Candles are cheap and can be easily custom decorated to suit any theme.
Sometimes the old standards are perfect and sometimes they need a little updating but it really depends on you. What do you think, are unity candles still relevant or old-fashioned?