A Guide to Unity Candle Ceremonies | Symbolic Acts at a Humanist Wedding

A Guide to Unity Candle Ceremonies | Symbolic Acts at a Humanist Wedding

Lighting a unity candle is becoming a popular part of many humanist weddings. Humanist ceremonies may include symbolic acts of your choice and today we’re exploring candle ceremonies in this guide.

What is a unity candle?

A unity candle is lit during a wedding ceremony to symbolise the union of two people. In this modern non-religious ritual, the couple each take a lighted candle and together light a larger unity candle to signify ‘two becoming one’. It is a newer wedding tradition used in secular ceremonies to represent the commitment being made. It is a popular unity ritual in humanist wedding ceremonies.

A bride and groom light a large candle from two long tapered candles. They look serious as they bring the flames together.
Lighting a unity candle at a humanist wedding. Photo: Simple Tapestry

Rituals like a unity candle ceremony don’t have to come from a religion. They reflect a human love of storytelling, and they can simply be part of the occasion you’ve devised to help tell a story to your friends and loved ones.

Symbolic acts within a wedding ceremony create a moment full of emotion and depth. The unity candle is a classic example in this genre – a brilliant way to make your wedding memorable, unique, and full of feeling for everyone involved.

Lighting a unity candle also makes a beautiful moment for photographs during the ceremony.

How to light a unity candle in your wedding ceremony

Bride and groom light a unity Candle at a humanist wedding
Lighting a unity candle. Photo: Ben Jenkins Photography

At an appropriate moment during the ceremony your celebrant will invite you to light the unity candle.

The celebrant could say some words to explain the meaning of the ritual as you light the unity candle, you could have music, or it can be quiet. The choice is yours.

Lighting the unity candle can be a peaceful moment in the wedding ceremony, where you and your guests take in the emotion of the day.

7 Tips for the unity candle ceremony

  1. Choose long candles for yourself and your partner to make it easy to light the unity candle from them.
  2. Make sure you have matches or a lighter to hand – this can be a job for a member of your wedding party or one of your family.
  3. It can be a good idea to light a couple of tea lights before everything begins, so that the flames can be transferred smoothly  during the ceremony.
  4. You can opt for unity candles which choose your colour scheme, or go for a simple white or cream.
  5. We’d recommend looking for non-drip candles if possible.
  6. You may want to purchase a unity candle holder, or to make sure that the candle is up high, so that your guests can see as you light it.
  7. When both your candles are lit, bring the flames together on the wick of the unity candle. Pause for a moment and hold them there until you are certain it is lit.

Candle ceremony options

Some couples choose to invite members of the family to join in the unity candle ceremony at their wedding. This is often the case with couples who already have children, to symbolise the creation of their new family. It can be a lovely way to involve children (and step-children) in your wedding ceremony.

Often the candles are lit by the mothers to express the joining of two families, but you can choose whoever you wish to help you in this special moment, or you can keep it just between you and your partner.

With a humanist ceremony, all options are open to you. Your humanist celebrant will work with you to help make your ceremony a perfect reflection of what you want your wedding to look like, the message you want to convey, and how you want your guests to feel.

Two grooms light a unity candle, their humanist celebrant watches and smiles

Planning the wedding ceremony may seem like a daunting task, but your celebrant can guide you through.

Humanist celebrants are full of wonderful wedding ceremony ideas – like unity candles, handfasting, and symbolic knot-tying – to help you bring your unique love story to life and create your dream wedding.

If lighting a unity candle appeals to you then chat to one of our celebrants about incorporating it into your big day. Whatever your choices, we hope that your wedding is full of meaning and special moments.

What is a humanist wedding?

A humanist wedding is ideal for couples who want a non-religious wedding that is unique, personalised,  and meaningful. It is a ceremony led by a trained humanist celebrant that takes place at a location of your choice and is completely built around you as a couple.

What is a humanist?

Humanists are non-religious people who believe that this life is the only life we have, that the universe is a natural phenomenon with no supernatural side, and that we can live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. They place human welfare and happiness at the centre of their ethical decision-making. Stephen Fry explains humanism in this short video.

How do you know if you’re a humanist? You’re invited to take our quiz and find out.

Interested in discussing your humanist wedding?

Find your local trained humanist wedding celebrant today with our easy-to-use map.

'My humanist ceremony was the most special day of my life. All my family were blown away. Both my parents said that they'd never been to a wedding that was more personal or heartfelt.'
Madeleine, 34

Read our wedding blog for feature ideas, inspiration, top tips, and real-life humanist wedding stories.

If you're planning your wedding now, then contact a celebrant as early as possible.