The Wallflower Photography Blog


Detail photo of bride and groom lighting unity candle during wedding ceremony in Chapel on Echo Bay (Fox Island Chapel), by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

Some brides and grooms choose to add a special ritual to their wedding ceremonies to symbolize the blending together of their two lives, or their two families: the unity candle ceremony. In fact, Laura and I included one in our own wedding, and we’ve seen dozens in our nine years photographing weddings professionally, a few of which you’ll see below. In the last few years, however, we’ve seen a couple alternate forms of this ritual, which I’ll also be sharing with you today.

Let’s start with the traditional unity candle ceremony, which played out perfectly by-the-book at Aubrey and Mark’s wedding at University Place Presbyterian Church a few years ago. First, at the very start of the wedding ceremony, Aubrey and Mark’s moms took to the stage to light tapers, place them next to the unlit unity candle, and hug before taking their seats. Those candles symbolize the two families. Then, later in the wedding ceremony, Aubrey and Mark used those two tapers to simultaneously light the unity candle, symbolically unifying their two families.

Photo of bride's and groom's mothers lighting candles to be used for unity candle ritual during wedding ceremony at University Place Presbyterian Church, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

Photo of bride's and groom's mothers placing lit candles next to unity candle during wedding ceremony at University Place Presbyterian Church, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

Photo of bride's and groom's mothers hugging after lighting candles to be used for unity candle ritual during wedding ceremony at University Place Presbyterian Church, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

Photo of bride and groom lighting unity candle during wedding ceremony at University Place Presbyterian Church, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

Photo of bride and groom smiling after lighting unity candle during wedding ceremony at University Place Presbyterian Church, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

These next two photos are from 2004, our second year in business! I’m really just including them to make a point: Be sure to position yourselves so that your guests (and our cameras) can see you lighting the unity candle! Granted, Nicole and Ryan’s candle was on a table set deep into a narrow archway in the concrete bowl at the Washington State History Museum, which forced them to stand side by side, backs to the audience. Still, I think moving the table out of its nook so they could have stood behind it, or to either side of the table, would have been worth the trouble. We would have been able to photograph it, and their audience would have had the chance to watch it.

Photo of bride and groom performing unity candle ritual during wedding ceremony at Washington State History Museum, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma, Washington

Their unity candle was cute, too!

Photo of unity candle lit during wedding ceremony at Washington State History Museum, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma, Washington

We learned from Nicole and Ryan’s long-ago wedding, and now we regularly teach proper candle-lighting positioning to our brides and grooms. These next two photos, at Katie and Theron’s 2005 wedding at Immanuel Presbyterian Church, demonstrate the behind-the-table positioning. Also included is Katie’s daughter, placed in the middle of the newly unified family.

Photo of bride, groom and daughter lighting unity candle with three tapers during wedding ceremony at Immanuel Presbyterian Church, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

Photo of bride, groom and daughter who just lit a unity candle with three tapers during wedding ceremony at Immanuel Presbyterian Church, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

Marci and Matthew stood on either side of the unity candle table for their wedding at the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center last November, which also works well. (This wedding will be featured here on the Wallflower Blog in a few weeks.)

Photo of bride and groom about to light a unity candle with two tapers during wedding ceremony at the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

Photo of bride and groom lighting a unity candle with two tapers during wedding ceremony at the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

Jessica and Derek were halfway to the sides of the table and halfway behind it, which also worked great.

Photo of bride and groom lighting unity candle during wedding ceremony at a private residence near Gig Harbor, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

Erin and Rick used particularly long, skinny tapers to light their unity candle.

Photo of bride and groom lighting unity candle during wedding ceremony in Christ the King Catholic Church in Richland, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

Under the wisteria-draped pergola overlooking the meadow at Sanders Estate, Sara and Mitch’s wedding ceremony was gorgeous. What a great backdrop for this candle-lighting ceremony!

Photo of bride and groom lighting unity candle during wedding ceremony at Sanders Estate in Auburn, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

Closer photo of bride and groom lighting unity candle during wedding ceremony at Sanders Estate in Auburn, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

As beautiful as that Sanders Estate view is, it was also a pretty exposed location for a unity candle. It’s a good thing there wasn’t much wind to blow out their flame! Sara and Mitch protected their candles with hurricane glass, but trust me, they aren’t foolproof!

A more reliable alternative for this setting (and all sorts of others) is the sand-combining ceremony. Here, two containers of different-colored sand take the place of the candle tapers. The bride and groom empty them into a single, central vase. In addition to sharing a very similar symbology to the unity candle, this variation also results in an attractive piece of art that would be a nice addition to any fireplace mantle.

At Sheivon and Garret’s wedding at Thornewood Castle, their two moms filled the outer containers with blue and pink sand, which the bride and groom later combined. They poured their sand simultaneously, which blends the two colors.

Photo of bride's and groom's mothers filling vases with colored sand at start of wedding ceremony in sunken garden at Thornewood Castle, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

Photo of bride and groom pouring vases of different colored sand into single vase during wedding ceremony in sunken garden at Thornewood Castle, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

During their Lakewold Gardens wedding, Shannon and Liam used black and white sand, respectively, and a vase with pink sand already at the bottom. They took turns pouring sand into the vase, forming distinct layers.

Photo of bride and groom taking turns combining black and white sand into a single vase during wedding ceremony at Lakewold Gardens, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

Closeup photo of bride and groom taking turns combining black and white sand into a single vase during wedding ceremony at Lakewold Gardens, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

Donna and Josh also went with white and black sand for their Point Defiance Rose Garden wedding ceremony in June of 2007.

Photo of bride and groom combining white and black sand during wedding ceremony in Point Defiance Rose Garden, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

Chrissie and Austin, who just got married last December at the Chapel on Echo Bay (aka the Fox Island Chapel), also used white and black sand, but their container was very different — it’s a boxy photo frame with a wedding invite inside! They were careful to only fill it as high as the bottom row of text. (This wedding will be featured here on the Wallflower Blog in May.)

Photo of bride pouring sand into boxy document frame during wedding ceremony in Chapel on Echo Bay on Fox Island, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma, Washington

Closeup photo of groom pouring sand into boxy document frame during wedding ceremony in Chapel on Echo Bay on Fox Island, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma, Washington

Detail photo of layers of sand in boxy document frame, poured into it by bride and groom during wedding ceremony in Chapel on Echo Bay on Fox Island, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma, Washington

Quick tip: Remember to remove the labels and barcodes from the bottoms of your sand containers and candle holders! Did you notice them in the photos above?

Last, we end this post by showing off the unique variation at Kellie and Tim’s wedding — wine! Under their wedding arch in a Hotel Murano ballroom stood a small table with two glasses of white wine, one with a few drops of red food coloring and the other with blue, and an empty wine glass in the middle. During their ceremony, Kellie and Tim poured their wine into the center glass, then spoke an extra vow while taking turns drinking from it.

Photo of bride and groom about to combine two glasses of different colored wine during wedding ceremony in Venice Ballroom at Hotel Murano, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

Photo of bride and groom combining two glasses of different colored wine into single wineglass during wedding ceremony in Venice Ballroom at Hotel Murano, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

Photo of groom drinking glass of wine made up of two different colored wines that they had just combined during wedding ceremony in Venice Ballroom at Hotel Murano, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

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