Opinions of unity candle ceremonies in the west are like belly buttons. At best, people love them for their symbolism. At worse, people view them as unoriginal or cliche. No matter the opinion, it seems everyone at least has one.
From the beginning of our engagement, Tian and I have viewed combining our distinct cultures, languages, and more into a new family as an important endeavor that is as meaningful as it is challenging. So the theme of unity has been and will continue to be really important to us. We also really felt that the theme of our wedding week was already one of uniting our two different families, and we especially wanted to bring that out in the formal ceremony.
We decided on the unity candle for a few reasons. First, it is a classic western tradition, and we wanted to make sure, since our formal ceremony was happening in China, that western customs were also present and central. Second, after brainstorming other ideas for symbolically representing unity during the ceremony, we came up a bit short on practical options we liked. Third, we did have some of our own fun ideas for how to make the unity candle ceremony unique to our wedding.
In the end, it fit into the ceremony perfectly. After the vows and rings were exchanged, guests in the back row lit the individual candle that they had been given at the beginning of the ceremony. They passed the flame from candle to candle until it reached the row of immediate family in the middle of the semi-circle. Both of our mothers then brought the larger candles up to the stage and presented them to Tian and me. We took them and in turn lit the unity candle. During this time, we played Chinese harp music, and Chris occasionally spoke to share our reflections on the symbolism of the moment.
Everything turned out nicely, and we were really touched to view the candles passing to us from our friends and family. It also spoke to us about how our larger families are also combining in our marriage. It was a special and memorable moment.