Creating a ceremony with rituals that evoke a deeper sense of meaning and connectedness will ensure a truly unforgettable experience for you and those you love. As mentioned in my previous blogs, adding symbolic elements to a special day is the perfect way to put your unique stamp on the occasion. Using a celebrant gives you more freedom to do this. In this latest piece in a series on ‘Ceremonies and Symbolism’, I’d to talk about candle-lighting. You can give your special occasion an added resonance that you and your guests will never forget with this simple act!
The Power of Light
Since ancient times, the use of ceremonial flame has been an important feature of many faiths. In some Christian churches, candles are often lit in prayer or in memory of a person and a flame can signify the presence of God. They are also used to mark the passing of time during festivals. As a child, I remember my family lighting the candles on our wreath each Sunday during Advent (though I must admit I was less concerned with the symbolism of the flame than how close we were to Christmas)!
Warmth and light from the sun are the foundations of life. Fire holds a special place in our consciousness. This is why the lighting of candles can be an incredibly powerful ritual. The beauty of a candle-lighting ceremony is that, whatever your beliefs, the symbolism of the flame can have its own significance that is personal to you. From formal or religious settings to the more casual and homely, light represents different things to different people.
It’s amazing how candlelight can transform an atmosphere, creating a sense of significance and occasion. Birthdays are the obvious time when we use candles to define ceremony but even something as simple as a family meal becomes extra special when bathed in soft candlelight. In the chilly winter months, my children would often decorate the weekend dinner table with candles. As we had more time together at weekends, the meal was more special to us and lighting candles was our way of signifying that this was a time to be cherished.
How do we use candles in celebrant-led ceremonies?
The coming together of two lights into one is beautiful in its simplicity. The bride and groom, each holding a taper of their own, meld their flames to light the wick of a single candle. This one, stronger flame symbolises their love and lives burning brighter as they face the future together. It’s always wonderful to see the ways in which this ritual can evolve, taking a form that is personally meaningful to each couple.
Shelley and Mike’s special day was made all the more touching when the bride and groom invited their parents, bridesmaids and best man to light candles from the central flame the couple had created together.
This part of the ceremony was symbolic of the light they would bring as a couple to the lives of their loved ones and the warmth they would bring to their hearts. In turn, the flames held by their nearest and dearest represented the warmth and love with which they would support the couple on their journey through life.
The central wedding candle held a special significance on the day. Shelley and Mike also envisaged that it would play a part in nourishing and strengthening their relationship in the future. At difficult times, perhaps when one partner needed to talk but didn’t know how to broach the subject, lighting the candle would act as a sign for the other to pause and listen. If you use a candle during your wedding ceremony, you can reignite it on each anniversary of your union. This is a lovely way for a couple to reconnect with the happy memories and promises made on their wedding day. Nurturing the light, respecting its symbolism and rejoicing in its creation is a powerful way to reaffirm the love and unity of marriage as the years go by.
Personalising candles adds an extra special touch to the ceremony and is also a thoughtful way of including loved ones who are unable to join the celebration. Kirsty and Garod movingly incorporated candles decorated with the initials of lost and absent grandparents into their Winter Wedding ceremony. In a touching tribute to a grandmother who was too frail to attend, the couple lit their tapers from a candle dedicated to her. Their light then combined to ignite a candle bearing their own initials – the central flame in the candelabra representing their love and union.
Celebrating a new life is a hugely important day for any family. When thinking about your naming ceremony, why not consider lighting a candle decorated with the child’s initials? Candles symbolise the light of life. They help guests focus on the special promises made or the general celebration of this momentous day. You can also add a deeply personal and powerful dimension to what is already a special day using a candle. As the years go by, you can re-ignite the flame on birthdays or anniversaries – from one amazing day, a rather lovely tradition is born!
The practice of lighting a candle in memory of those we have lost is deeply rooted in many cultures and faiths. Within the funeral services I’ve led, the symbolism of a brightly-burning candle has brought great comfort to grieving family and friends. A particularly poignant example of this was the funeral of a local bee-keeper. The steady flame of a single beeswax candle burning throughout the ceremony was an especially moving and wonderfully personal element.
The beauty of symbolic practices such as candle-lighting is that they can mean whatever you want them to. We are all delightfully different and while some symbolic rituals might not be your cup of tea, others may be exactly what you’re looking for! I hope that by giving you an insight into different types of rituals, I can help you create a ceremony that is truly and beautifully unique to you