Often a unity candle is decorated with the wedding invitation, an inscription, a picture of the couple, or other ornamentation. The candles are almost always white. The lighting ceremony may be accompanied by special music, an explanation of the symbolism, or just some period of mutual gazing by the happy couple. In some circles, it is customary for the couple to save the unity candle and relight it on anniversaries.
When the ceremony is alternatively performed to symbolize simply the joining together of the bride and groom, the tapers may be blown out, to indicate that the two lives have been permanently merged, or they may leave them lit beside the central candle, symbolizing that the now-married partners have not lost their individuality.
It is sometimes performed in Christian, interfaith, and secular weddings; however, it is not of Christian origin, and is even prohibited in certain conservative churches. It is not part of the Catholic wedding ceremony, and many priests do not allow its inclusion in the ceremony. It may have its origins in Zoroastrianism or New Ageism.
It may have become popular during the 1970's when mothers wanted a greater role in the wedding.
The lighting of a unity candle was also performed at the wedding of Luke and Laura on the TV soap opera General Hospital in 1981, which almost certainly popularized the ritual to a national, if not international, audience.
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