Symbolism and tradition have long been a part of the wedding ceremony. The wedding march, the act of giving away the bride, the bouquet toss, and many other aspects of the modern wedding originated out of historical necessity or symbolism. Compared to these other long standing traditions, the history of the unity candle is rather short and mostly unknown.
Most sources agree that the unity candle ceremony is a relatively new addition to the wedding ceremony and may have become a part of weddings sometime in the seventies. While this may be true, candles and fire have played a significant part in wedding ceremonies in various cultures all over the world. In ancient Greece, both the bride and the groom would arrive at the wedding location holding torches, once inside the temple, the bride and groom would join their flames. In early Norse Christianity, the bride and groom used two smaller candles to light one alter candle. Both of these ceremonies contain elements of the modern unity candle ceremony, and despite the muddled history, the lighting of the unity candle has become a popular part of modern weddings.
Today, the unity candle ceremony is performed during the wedding to symbolize the joining of two lives. The ceremony involves three parts: an explanation of the symbolism and importance of the ceremony, the presentation and lighting of two candles, and the lighting of the center candle by the bride and groom. Many weddings now include other family members into the unity candle lighting ceremony. Usually, the mother of the bride and groom will light two taper candles at the beginning of the wedding ceremony, and then later during their vows, the bride and groom will light the center candle to symbolize the two separate families becoming one.
Unity candles can be found at almost any wedding store or online retailer which sells wedding and bridal supplies. Because the ceremony has become so popular a range of candle styles are available to suit any wedding theme or style. Many unity candles and or unity candle holders can be adorned or engraved with the wedding date and the names of the bride and groom, making the candle a nice keepsake for the couples new home once the wedding is over.