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Alternatives to lighting a unity candle

February 26, 2014
By MOLLIE WARNER - Staff Writer ( , Times Leader

INCLUDING A unity candle lighting as part of a wedding ceremony became popular in the late 1970s, and since then it has grown and evolved in meaning. Unity candle generally refers to a set of three candles, with one large candle in the middle and two smaller ones on either side. At some point during a ceremony, the couple will light their own candles and then together light the large center candle. Commonly, it's done right after rings are exchanged.

Some couples use the ceremony as a symbol of their own joining and commitment to each other, while others use it in a broader sense to symbolize the joining of their two families into one that will support their marriage. The unity candle ceremony is not attached to any specific religion or denomination. Some churches even prohibit the ceremony or suggest it be done at the reception.

While the unity candle hasn't been around too long as a wedding tradition, it's already come to see many variations and alternatives. If you're looking for something creative that will symbolize a marriage or the joining of families in a ceremony, here are some suggestions:

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- Use a bouquet of flowers. Have a parent from each side bring a bouquet of flowers down the aisle, and pick one flower from each bouquet. The couple can then place their flowers in a vase to begin their own bouquet.

- Mix colored sand. This is great for couples that already have children who want to participate. Find three containers, two of which will be filled and then used to pour sand into the center container during the ceremony. Colored sand can be found at most craft stores, and the colors can match the wedding's theme or be used to represent various aspects of the relationship. For example, red stands for passion and vitality, while blue is the color of self-expression and communication.

- For another child-inclusive ceremony, plant a small tree. Each member of the family can add soil to the planting pot, which will later be replanted at the family's home.

- Drink up! Pour two separate glasses of wine into one glass for the couple to sip from. The wine drunk together represents families joining, but leaving some wine in each of the separate glasses represents maintaining individuality as well.

- Have a hand-fasting ceremony. Bride and groom both hold out their left hands at heart level, then the officiate gives them a white ribbon. The ribbon is wrapped around the couple's joined hands while a song or poem is read, and then the officiate unwraps the ribbon. This ceremony is actually an ancient ritual that originated in Ireland and Scotland, and is the origin of the expression "tying the knot."

- Hold a Spanish Arras ceremony. Here, the groom gives the bride thirteen gold coins, which are meant to symbolize his reliability and trust. When the bride accepts the coins, she also accepts his trust and vows her own dedication. The coins are often presented in decorated boxes that will be kept as a family heirloom.

- If you want to involve all the wedding's guests, hold a stone ceremony. Each guest is given a small polished stone upon arrival, and asked to place good wishes for the couple on the stone. When the time comes, all the stones are collected and placed in a pile along with the couple's. Some couples choose to use the stones as decorations in a house or garden.

- Finally, for a ceremony that could have lasting effects, write love letters. The bride and groom each write a letter beforehand and place it in a box to be sealed without showing them to each other. If they fall on hard times later in the marriage, they're supposed to open the box and read the letters aloud to remind themselves why they fell in love.

These are just some of the more popular options for ceremonies to symbolize the union of a couple or family, but there are always other creative ideas that can be done to suit each individual's personality.



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