There are, in Protestant weddings, more than a few different traditions allowing the bride and groom to show their families a symbolic representation of their union and devotion to each other.
The unity candle is one of those very traditions, steeped in only a few decades of history, but incredibly popular in today’s wedding ceremonies.
The unity candle’s birth wasn’t the first, nor the last ceremony to instill in a wedding the gravitas of commitment. Not only is there a definite focus on the importance of the candle, by couples as well as candle makers, there’s a sure gravitation towards the use of other unity ceremonies both new and old that allow both bride and groom to show their dedication to the union
The unity candle itself is a fairly elaborate affair. One can buy a unity candle from any gift store or bridal shop, complete with a brilliantly crafted unity candle and often the two lighting candles that the bride and groom use to light the central flame. A candelabra for carrying all three is usually also available. Options, including engraving of the couple’s names on the candle or similar keepsake additions make the package perfect for the ceremony.
There are however, other simpler unity ceremonies involving the sharing of a common object, food, or drink that accomplishes the same effect. Probably the simplest of these is the Rose Ceremony, in which the couple might exchange a single rose to show unity. Other such exchanges include the Garland or Lei exchanging ceremonies in which Indian or Hawaiian brides and grooms exchange a ring of flowers to symbolize their unity.
Other similar variations include the pouring of wine or water into a communal glass, or the simultaneous tearing of a loaf of bread to be shared. The purpose of all of these is to display the way in which the couple is giving a part of themselves to complete a new whole.
Appropriately, in the unity candle ceremony some couples choose to keep their individual candles burning as a sign of the individuality that they will retain beside the new entity created in their marriage.
The unity candle tradition’s growth then, is not as surprising as some might think. The concept of symbolically showing to your friends and relatives how you will become a new person and join with your spouse in a united marriage is a common procedure. The manner in which it is done is the only way in which it varies.