The Unity Candle has to be the most widely known wedding ritual, even if it may no longer be the most common. When I was married twenty years ago, this was pretty much it if you wanted a visible metaphor for what you had just done verbally, i.e. a unity ritual.
The ritual has roots in the Christian tradition, and there is a four-candle version explicitly Christian in its symbolism. Today though, the ritual can be as varied as the couples who choose to include it in their wedding ceremony. There are secular as well as religious versions of the ritual; it simply depends upon how the ritual is written.
Like all other unity rituals, the Unity Candle can include family representatives or be reserved for just the couple. Some couples like to light their individual candles at the beginning of the ceremony and then join the two flames during the ritual, while others prefer to include the lighting of the candles as part of the ritual. Some versions instruct the couple to extinguish their individual tapers, but I confess I prefer they remain lit. Your individuality certainly should not be extinguished in a healthy marriage!
Unity Candle sets are widely available in a range of price points (just do a quick web search for them). You can also make your own with two tapers and a pillar for less than $20 at a discount store. The beautiful personalized sets cost a bit more, but in my opinion make nicer keepsakes if stored properly. (psstt... not in a garage in the sub-tropics)
The Unity Candle is lovely and the symbolism is exquisite as once two candles light a single candle, it is absolutely impossible to separate the resulting flame. This effectively conveys the couple's commitment to making their marriage endure forever.
Unity Candles are not for everyone though. Do not get your heart set on this ritual if your ceremony is going to be held outdoors. It does not matter if you are using hurricane globes or a wind screen. It will not make a difference if the day is so calm sailors are cursing the lack of a breeze. I promise you a puff of wind will inevitably appear at the moment you intend to light your candles. It will not work, do not risk it!
Even those having an indoor wedding may find the Unity Candle problematic as some venues have prohibitions against open flame. If you are getting married in an historical building, definitely find out if candles are permissible for use during the ceremony.
As with most wedding ceremony rituals, your officiant will explain the symbolism and guidie the participants through the actions. The ritual lasts perhaps 90 seconds, so it really is not conducive to a "unity candle song." Light music in the background is fine, but the song won't be the focal point unless you want to stand there after the candle is lit while the song is sung or played. In which case, it is a musical interlude and not really an accompaniment to the ritual.
At this time I invite (_____) and (_____) to come forward representing the families who raised and nurtured (Bride and Groom). They light the candles representing not only the love and support of the families who brought us to this moment, but also the two unique individuals pledging themselves to one another in the sacred bond of matrimony.
(Bride) and (Groom), the two outside candles burning here represent your lives at this moment. Each light is distinct, each able to go its separate way. I invite you to take your candles and together like the center one. To bring strength and happiness to your home, there must be the merging of these two lights into one light just as two people come together to support one another in a strong partnership.
This pillar represents the coming together of these two lives in a marriage relationship.(Bride) and (Groom) acknowledge that although they remain separate individuals with their own unique strengths and weaknesses, they now accept the other as their highest priority. The decisions they make will be shared and the consequences affect them both.A marriage neither results in two distinct personalities, nor the complete surrender of individuals into a partnership. Rather it is a relationship that strengthens the individual through love, honor and respect.As this one light cannot be divided, neither shall their union be divided.
Left: Craig Murray
Right: Indica Woodruff Photography