During a Sweet 16 candle ceremony, the person whose birthday is being celebrated lights each candle on the cake individually, to represent certain important people in her life. Generally, only girls have Sweet 16 birthday parties.
Each person or people assigned to a candle in a Sweet 16 candle lighting ceremony joins the birthday girl and helps her light the candle. The birthday girl usually makes a speech or shows her appreciation of the most important and influential people in her life, telling stories or specifically thanking the honorees for being especially kind or thoughtful on particular occasions. Guests often take photos at this time. Although the people honored and the order in which they are recognized can be customized for each party, there is a general process to follow.
- The first candle is for her mom and dad.
- The second candle may be for the next-closest family, such as brothers, sisters, grandmothers or grandfathers.
- The third to sixth candles are generally reserved for aunts, uncles, cousins or other family members.
- The seventh to 14th candles are dedicated to the birthday girl's closest friends outside of family.
- The 15th candle is usually assigned to the birthday girl's best friend.
- The 16th candle is reserved for a significant other or best male friend.
- Sometimes, a 17th candle is lit, to wish the birthday girl a happy 17th year.