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The lighting of the Unity Candle symbolizes the bride and groom joining as one. This rite commonly has the following structure:
Prior to the wedding ceremony, a large single Unity Candle and two slimmer tapers are placed at the front of the aisle.
- After the exchange of vows and rings, the couple moves to the area where the candles have been readied. Two honored participants, one representing each side of the family (usually the bride’s mother and the groom’s mother), come forward and light the individual tapers for their children. Alternatively, the single tapers may be lit prior to the ceremony.
- The bride takes her lighted taper; the groom takes his lighted taper.
- Simultaneously, the bride and groom use their individual tapers to light the single large Unity Candle between them.
- The bride and groom extinguish their tapers and return them to their holders.
- Two popular variations on this tradition have also developed:
Those who wish to place a greater emphasis on their continuing individuality may opt not to extinguish the individual tapers. Instead, the three lit candles stand as a celebration of the bride and groom as individuals, as well as of their union.
Couples who are bringing children into the marriage may choose to have additional tapers representing the children, who can come forward and join in the lighting of the Unity Candle.