Ritual and ceremony candles have been around for years. Having visited more old churches, chapels and cathedrals in Europe, than my teenage son appreciated, I was touched by how many of them offer the invitation to light a candle to ask for support, offer gratitude or a prayer.
At one small wedding I conducted, the couple wanted the guests to come forward and light about 20 small tapered ceremony candles. As they lit one candle each they offered a blessing to the couple. The lit candle was then placed in one of the two shallow dishes either side of the floral arrangement behind us. The dishes were filled with sand to make placement of the candles easy.
Many cultures use candles in their ceremonies and rituals and carry rich symbolic meaning.
In ancient Greek marriage processions the mother of the bride would carry a lit torch from the family hearth to ward off evil spirits. Nowadays, in a candle ceremony, it is quite common for the mother’s of the couple to come forward and light the individual candles representing their family and the life of the individuals before the union. Toward the end of the ceremony the couple would then proceed to light the marriage candle using these two individual family candles to symbolize their unity.
However, there are no rules when it comes to a candle ceremony so you can have anyone light the candle/s and consider what the symbology means for you.
After discussing with Tim and Monique what they wanted for the candle ceremony at their wedding it was decided they wanted their mothers’, Marion and Sandy, to light the candles but they were not sure on the wording. I suggested that I contact Marion and Sandy and work with them to create a blessing of their own making. I asked both mums to consider what they loved about their son or daughter, and what they would wish for them on this journey of marriage. What would they like to pass onto them to inspire this journey?
What they wrote was very special and there wasn’t a dry eye in the chapel. They have given me permission to share their blessings with you.
Marion: Monique, this candle is a symbol of the beautiful unique person that you are, shining with your sensitivity, warmth and strength, your wonderful creative talents, the energy and passion in the way you commit yourself to life and your dreams, yet the peace and calmness you possess to be still and soak up the beauty of the moment and the love, thoughtfulness and tenderness you share with those close to you. You are such an absolute joy as a daughter and it has been and is, a privilege to share your life as you have grown and developed – so many exciting, beautiful and proud moments. We feel so deeply about all five of you and our life together and it is so special that you are all here in the wedding party sharing these special moments together.
It is a wonderful, fulfilling and beautiful gift to find that special person that becomes your soul mate, your partner, as you have found in Tim – just as Dad and I found each other. You have begun your journey together as two unique and special individuals, reaching for your dreams, walking together along life’s pathway, giving each other support through challenges and celebrating successes. One of the beautiful things is that as your lives intertwine, you are not like strangling vines competing and dominating each other but that you retain the full essence of yourselves as unique individuals and give each other support and strength. Your special relationship developing and strengthening has been wonderful to see and we wish you both so much joy and happiness as you journey on through life together. There are so many exciting, wonderful things and rich experiences ahead – lit by your love just like this candle.
Sandy: Tim, we are both very happy for you and Monique, as today is the start of a great journey together as husband and wife. Tim, you are very talented with a deep and meaningful passion for music and today you are matched with Monique’s similar unique passion for dance. May your music be the backdrop to a wonderful partnership that is recognised today, in the union of your marriage to Monique.
As you build your life together the road can take many unexpected turns and you will come to crossroads, but with the love and strength you both share with each other we are sure that you will remain on course for a long and a happy life together. Let your love and strength burn brightly like this candle.
A couple could light individual tapers acknowledging their own strengths, qualities and values. Using the individual tapers then would then light the single marriage candle as an acknowledgement that even when they join together their two lives as one it is possible to retain their uniqueness and brightness.
Delia and Nick wanted to involve all their children and asked me to read this simple acknowledgement before the lighting of the ceremony candles:
Delia and Nick feel honoured and are very proud to have their children, Rebecca, Jon, Samantha and Joshua as a part of their wedding. (To the children) They love each of you dearly. Coming together as a blended family has had its ups and downs and they wish to acknowledge and honour the love and acceptance you have given freely over the last six years, it hasn’t gone unnoticed. Their love for you has enhanced their relationship and they are both deeply appreciative of your open and playful hearts. They would like to ask if you would come forward and light a candle to signify your coming together as one family. (The four children each light a candle and give Delia and Nick a hug).
I would like to now invite Delia and Nick to come forward together to light the fifth remaining candle in recognition of the union of their family.
Let your light shine.
The couple may wish to offer candles to each other acknowledging their willingness to be bright and active partners in their union. Parents, grandparents, members of the bridal party, children of the couple or friends can be involved in offering a blessing to the couple while presenting a lit candle and encouraging the recipient to let their love shine. For example:
Martina and Brent may you continue to have lots of fun together, laughing often, resting in each other arms and enjoying the days you get to spend together. (As the person presents the candle to Martina and Brent). Let your love shine bright so that you can feel its warmth at all times.
At an early evening funeral ceremony there was one very large candle placed in the centre, front of the aisle about four metres away from the casket. With the extraordinary paintings displayed and floral arrangements the stage was set. The old lady who had died was a well known artist, violin player and musician. There were four pieces of classical music played throughout the ceremony by her family, friends and colleagues – a solo, a duet, and a quartet.
At the close of the ceremony everyone came to pay their respects to her coffin and they were given a taper to light from the main candle symbolising how her light had touched many people. The ceremony candles had shields at the base to catch any falling wax as the people walked out of the chapel and people were invited to place them in a few large basins of sand around the perimeter of the courtyard. Seeing the twinkling lights as the dark set in was magical.
Needless to say, candle ceremonies must be done with careful supervision during and after the ceremony so that the exposed flames do not cause any fires or burns to people. Also you need to check the insurance policy of the venue to ensure it is allowed.
Re-lighting the ceremony candles at other key moments in your life can be a potent reminder of the special times and be the start of a family tradition. I have had couples re-light their marriage candle at their children’s naming ceremony to symbolize the strength and love of their marriage illuminating throughout their lives and their wish to keep it burning brightly. Another couple chose to light their marriage candle every evening at the dinner table. They replaced it with another beautiful candle when the time came, lighting the new candle using the flame from the first one.
There are variations on lighting ceremony candles in my wedding and naming books.
Outside of ceremonies, I often light a candle when a group of friends are gathered at my home for a meal or, when I need insight or a focus for reflection or, at training sessions to honour the inspiration and support I have received from my teachers and colleagues… and to remind me to keep focused.
Consider the possible meaning of lighting a candle and light a bright flame today. May your inspiration and love shine out.
For another wedding candle ceremony click here.