Out of two different and distinct traditions, the bride and groom have come together to learn the best of what each has to offer, appreciating their differences, and confirming that being together is far better than being apart from each other. As we bless this marriage under a huppah (wedding canopy), this Jewish symbol signifies that the bride and groom are joining together under one roof.
A marriage brings together two individuals, with separate lives, to perform the lifelong pledge of uniting as one. The lighting of a unity candle is a Christian symbol of two people becoming one in marriage. These candles before us symbolize the union of your marriage. The two outer candles represent the two of you as individuals. The center candle, which you will kindle together, represents the unity that will continue to develop as you are married. The external candles will remain lit, to show that, even in your unity, you may also remain as individuals.
[Mothers light the individual candles, Bride and Groom light the unity candle while music is played.]
Candlelight symbolizes the commitment of love these two people are declaring today.
A famous mystical rabbi, Baal Shem Tov, who lived centuries ago, said:
From every human being there rises a light that reaches straight to heaven. And when two souls are destined to find each other, their two streams of light flow together and a single brighter light goes forth from their united being.
To begin this wonderful ceremony, I would like to invite the two mothers to light the unity candle. In lighting these candles the two mothers honor the lives of their children, the lives they brought into this world. To the couple, the lighting of these candles symbolize the joining of two families. The two side candles represent the young couple’s individual lives and how each is unique and special. The center candle represents the new oneness they are choosing in marriage. In mutual up building, they give to one another: light, warmth, guidance, and love. But in marriage, the self is not extinguished. The side candles remain lit because wholeness and fullness of life depend upon the balance of individuality and togetherness. As the two mothers light their candle, they offer their love, respect and support for this marriage.
The tradition of the Unity Candles is meant to symbolize the stages of your lives. The two lit candles represent your lives to this moment. They are two distinct lights, each capable of going its separate way. To bring joy and radiance into your home, there must be a merging of these two flames into one.
As you each take a candle and together light the center one, you will extinguish your own candles, thus having the center candle represent the union of your two lives into one flesh. You begin to light the center candle as I say: “As this center light cannot be divided, let not your lives be divided. From this time onward may your thoughts be for each other rather than on your individual selves; may your plans be mutual, your joys and your sorrows shared.”
(Clergy states) “Before you are three candles. The two smaller candles symbolize the individual lives of the members of this couple. As they reflect on their lives, the couple wish to express their gratitude to their parents”.
The couple reads:
The Fifth Commandment is to honor thy mother and father. We thank our parents for the many sacrifices they made on our behalf, the guidance they give us, and the wonderful role models they have been. Our parents have experienced the challenges and joys of marriage, but through it all they have stayed together and passed on their values to their children. We hope and pray that we will be as successful in marriage as our parents.
Both members of the couple light a small candle. Then their parents use those candles to light the larger candle.
(Instead of three candles, use a seven-branched candelabra. Each partner recites in each other’s languages the names of those their partner chose to memorialize.)
COUPLE: Standing before us are candles waiting to be lit. Once kindled, light shows us the way. Endowed with love, light gives renewed strength. Light, that beacon of hope, kindles warmth within our hearts, wisdom in our minds, and passion in our souls.
OFFICIANT: Candle lighting has been traditionally used in a variety of ways in Jewish tradition. The bride and groom have chosen to use candlelight during their wedding ceremony to remember those who are especially missed on this day. The bride and groom have benefited from the love, devotion and guidance of those who have come before them and in whose memory they will now light these candles.
Fire is one of the basic elements on earth. Many ancient people worshipped it as the source of life itself. Throughout history, many different societies have used candle lighting to celebrate and acknowledge special holidays and events. For us, the light of these candles represents the foundation of love, its heat and its fragility.
These three candles represent each one of you and your marriage. You will take your individual candles and light the large candle in the center, the candle representing your unity in marriage. But I don’t want you to blow out your individual candles, for your individual selves will remain burning and bright even as you become unified in your lives together. Let the lighting of these candles reflect our thoughts on this day. Prior to this moment you each walked separate paths. Now as you light your candle, you embark on a marital partnership–a single path together.
-by Rabbi Miriam Jerris
As you light your separate candles, you honor your separate selves: your uniqueness and your autonomy. This candle represents the light of your being: your special talents, needs, visions and gifts–all that makes you who you are, you honor with this flame. As you blend your flames to light the third candle, you celebrate the power of separate lights to ignite a common flame of passion and commitment and to come together as one.
-by Rabbi David Roller
Return to the Jewish Wedding Guide for Interfaith Couples or view as a PDF.