Question for Catholics...unity candle

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CatStandish Posts : 2,766 Registered: 6/20/08
Question for Catholics...unity candle
Posted: Dec 28, 2008 2:43 PM

My FH is from a Catholic Family (Hispanic Catholic, and mostly based out of Las Vegas). I am from a Protestant family (and live in the South).

A Southern tradition that does seem to be going all over the place, at least in protestant circles, is the Unity Candle. I know that all of my guests FROM HERE will know what this is. My question though....will my Catholic guests know what it is? Do I need to describe this ceremony in my program?

I'm already having to break down the symbolism of the Claddagh and the meaning of our handfasting ceremony (which we're doing in addition to regular vows). I have another ceremony which I do not want to explain (the Rose Ceremony -- because I think it will spoil the sniff sniff moment of it <G>). So if I don't have to explain Unity, then it makes sense not to explain Rose. However, I also don't want my guests all confuzzled about what's going on. Sure they can figure it out, I'm certain....but I think it would be weird to explain Unity and Handfasting, but not Rose.

(I'm also challenging them to find the 'hidden claddaghs'.... we have: rings, bridesmaid's necklace, my bracelet, my headpiece, the aisle decoration, the unity candle, the wedding logo <thus programs and all other bits of paper, including the wax seals of the invites>, the music list <so they know what kind of a song it is>, the favors, the cake topper....and since I'm doing my own veil, I might even embroidered a claddagh there)

So, are Unity Candles used in Catholic Weddings? Or are they popular enough that it is reasonable to expect that a Catholic would know what it is? (FH didn't, but he's a guy... you can't judge wedding knowledge by a guy <G>)


Misty

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HLYflute Posts : 1,282 Registered: 2/5/07
Re: Question for Catholics...unity candle
Posted: Dec 28, 2008 3:51 PM Go to message in response to: CatStandish

I don't know about the Catholic thing, but my DH's family is from Mexico (and also Catholic) and had never seen the Unity candle before. We explained it to his immediate family, since his mom had to light the candle for his side and all. But I think to people watching, it would be pretty obvious, as would the rose ceremony. Both are basically about joining the two families together, and I think people would pick up on it.

Maybe you could put a note in the program? That way you wouldn't have to explain every step of the ceremony as you go.

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CatStandish Posts : 2,766 Registered: 6/20/08
Re: Question for Catholics...unity candle
Posted: Dec 28, 2008 4:10 PM Go to message in response to: HLYflute

Thanks.... and that was what I was afraid of. The problem with the program: I've already got a lot of explication in my program plans:


We have both always loved Celtic symbolism. We have chosen to highlight one Celtic symbol (the Claddagh) and one Celtic tradition (Handfasting) in our wedding to represent that shared love.


Our Wedding Logo incorporates the Claddagh as well as an eternal love knot. You will see the Claddagh in many places as part of our ceremony and our style. It has been an important symbol to us as far back as when we were dating in high school. Therefore, it was only fitting that we incorporate it into our marriage ceremony. Think of this as our own ‘hidden Mickey' and try to find all of the places we have placed Claddaghs.


The Claddagh's distinctive design features two hands clasping a heart, and usually surmounted by a crown. The elements of this symbol are often said to correspond to the qualities of love (the heart), friendship (the hands), and loyalty (the crown). The expression which was associated with these symbols in the giving of the ring was: "With my hands I give you my heart, and crown it with my love."


We have also chosen to incorporate a modified Celtic Handfasting into our ceremony. Handfasting was traditionally a simple ceremony in which the bride and groom faced each other and joined right hand to right hand and left hand to left hand. Then they were bound by a ceremonial wrap or rope. The expression of "tying the knot" came from this early Celtic marriage ritual. Later Irish, Scots and the Welsh also adopted this ritual. Though pagan in origin, the symbolism of this ritual was so expressive it even found its way into the liturgy of some factions of Catholicism practiced in Britain after the rise of Christianity.


Handfasting ceremonies have many variations. Some use a single silk cord or a family clan tartan. We have chosen to perform a seven-cord ceremony, involving the members of our wedding party. Each cord has a specific meaning. Our cords are pink, representing love; blue, representing loyalty; red, representing passion; silver, representing purity; gold, representing longevity; grey, representing compromise; and purple, representing wisdom.



Since I already have so much in there, I am hoping to avoid having to explain the other ceremonies too.... I'm not sure how much room our programs will have, but I really don't want to have to buy a second program just to explain the other ceremonies. I may have to edit slightly in order to fit all in.


Misty

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kristinmarie09 Posts : 16 Registered: 4/10/08
Re: Question for Catholics...unity candle
Posted: Dec 28, 2008 4:18 PM Go to message in response to: CatStandish

I am Catholic and always have been. We are going to be married in a Catholic church and will be having unity candles. Catholics should know what this is used for since they too use them in their ceremonies. Every Catholic wedding I have ever been to has also used the unity candles, so I would not worry about it.
Daisypath Wedding Ticker

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CatStandish Posts : 2,766 Registered: 6/20/08
Re: Question for Catholics...unity candle
Posted: Dec 28, 2008 5:00 PM Go to message in response to: kristinmarie09

Thanks Kristin!

It's always nice to find out I'm worrying needlessly about something.... now I can proceed to my next unnecessary worry <G>

Misty

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mrsJLA Posts : 445 Registered: 5/25/08
Re: Question for Catholics...unity candle
Posted: Dec 29, 2008 5:09 PM Go to message in response to: CatStandish

Actually, Unity Candles are NOT a part of Catholic tradition in any sort of way. Both DH and I were married in a Catholic church this past October and were asked by the Deacon IF we wanted to do the Unity candle thing and both of us declined. The deacon (as well as our also Catholic wedding planner) told us that although tolerated, the Unity Candle is not in a traditional Catholic ceremony. So there is a chance some attendees will not know what one is. I didnt know what one was till the deacon told me either...

Just a correction!

Jaime Kiss

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CatStandish Posts : 2,766 Registered: 6/20/08
Re: Question for Catholics...unity candle
Posted: Dec 29, 2008 5:24 PM Go to message in response to: mrsJLA

I suspect that the original responder is used to them because we're both from the south and they are so prevalent down here.

Drat! Thanks, but Drat!

Misty

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FutureMrsNajar Posts : 159 Registered: 11/15/07
Re: Question for Catholics...unity candle
Posted: Dec 29, 2008 7:48 PM Go to message in response to: CatStandish

I am from California and I am Catholic. Although I do know what a unity candle is and what the symbolism is, it is not Catholic tradition. However, I think most people should know what it is. When my husband and i were getting married, our priest asked if we were lighting a unity candle. We declined, but the priest said that it is so common now that they feel obligated to ask. I think it will be obvious to the congregation what you are doing without having to explain it in the program.

"When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.

~ June 28, 2008 ~

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CatStandish Posts : 2,766 Registered: 6/20/08
Re: Question for Catholics...unity candle
Posted: Dec 29, 2008 10:18 PM Go to message in response to: FutureMrsNajar

Thanks!

If we were not already doing such an unusual ceremony for our area (handfasting), I wouldn't mind doing a blip about each -- however, since the handfasting portion is not common at all for this area and I will bet that none of our guests will ever have seen one (nor have we, except on youtube), that one really needs explained. We're bringing Catholics and Baptists into a Unitarian Church and doing a Unitarian wedding (which means we get to respectfully borrow from any religious tradition and our minister isn't going to cluck at us and our church members won't have a tizzy that a pagan ceremony was performed in their sacred space). It is going to be some religious culture shock for many of our guests.

But it is also US.

We're doing some things which we won't explain, that they won't guess (unless they happen to be of a certain faith tradition) -- like the Call to Quarters, which is an invitation to the four elements.

We wanted to include some of fthe 'familiar' along with some seriously personal touchs to the ceremony, and hopefully, our conservative Republican families will not go into meltdown <G>.

Misty

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Stephorse Posts : 138 Registered: 1/31/08
Re: Question for Catholics...unity candle
Posted: Dec 29, 2008 10:35 PM Go to message in response to: CatStandish

It depends on the church, but most Catholics I think would know what it is. I am Catholic myself and I knew someone who got married in a Catholic church that was allowed to do one, however my church is more conservative and even though I would love to do one, I won't be allowed to. I don't think that you should explain the unity candle ceremony in your program. Your guests should know and or be able to figure out what is going on. I would still list it in your program though.

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ArtBride Posts : 4,838 Registered: 5/9/07
Re: Question for Catholics...unity candle
Posted: Dec 30, 2008 4:04 PM Go to message in response to: CatStandish

Cat, we were married in a Catholic church that doesn't allow unity candles. I have no idea why, but there you have it, so I would call the church and ask whether it will be allowed. Catholic churches can be a little touchy about changes to the ceremony. By the way, it would also be a good idea to get prior approval for the handfasting ceremony. I could see some churches having an issue with that.

Back to the 'regionality' of unity candles, I've seen them in various places. I'm from the Northeast and live in the DC area now, and I had no idea unity candles were a southern tradition. Regarding the symbolism, I wouldn't bother writing an explanation. Most people have been to weddings of many faiths in many geographic areas, so they'll likely recognize it. And even if they don't, it's not hard to figure out - they'll get the gist of it.

If it turns out that the church won't let you do the unity candle or handfasting, just do them at the reception or rehearsal dinner. That's what our church suggested, though we didn't want to do any 'extra' stuff.

One more quick thing - don't be offended by this suggestion, but with little 'mini-ceremonies' (such as the handfasting and the unity candle) within a larger ceremony, I think fewer is usually better. One addition will be beautiful and poignant, but several might start to feel tedious. I'm sure your wedding is going to be MUCH classier than my BIL's, but just to give you an extreme example, within their ceremony, they had FOUR readings, a unity candle, a handfasting, a Irish bell ceremony, a special Native American blessing, etc, etc. And a few other things that I can't remember. Not that I think yours will be anything like that, but it really felt like she over-researched cool wedding traditions and tried to cram everything remotely appealing into a single ceremony. When seen one after another, none were as meaningful as they would have been on their own. I know you to be a much classier woman than my SIL, so I'm sure yours will be much more tasteful, but keep that in mind. If the church won't let you do something you want during the ceremony, it may be more meaningful as a stand-alone ceremony at the reception.

DaisypathWedding Ticker

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mrsJLA Posts : 445 Registered: 5/25/08
Re: Question for Catholics...unity candle
Posted: Dec 30, 2008 4:36 PM Go to message in response to: ArtBride

I kind of agree with ArtBride about over-doing the rituals/ceremonies. Your celtic theme semes beautiful and why tempt overdoing it? Unless the unity candle means that much to YOU nad your FH, why not leave it out? Honestly, the last wedding I was at where they did it, I could barely see what they were doing and it was a major distraction (not to mention I am totally ADD at anything ceremonial) . I dont know what you are planning but my DH and I had to sit on the altar for the entire Catholic ceremony and I thought I was going to die from being stared at for 30 straight minutes with all the readings lol... one pic you can see me rolling my feet around under my dress.... Also instead of the Unity Candle, we had a procession to present flowers to the Virgin Mary (I call it prayers to have lots of Catholic babies!!) Just my opinion, and whatever you do decide on, it will be beautiful if it truly reflects your to be marriage!

Jaime Kiss

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CatStandish Posts : 2,766 Registered: 6/20/08
Re: Question for Catholics...unity candle
Posted: Dec 30, 2008 7:08 PM Go to message in response to: ArtBride

We are not being married in a Catholic church (I can't be anyway, I'm not annulled <G>). We're being married in a Unitarian church.

We're doing
*Unity Candle -- Though -- you do bring up a good point. We're doing it because it is EXPECTED in this area. I've never personally been to a wedding here that didn't do it.

*Call to Quarters -- In a Unitarian church, the ONE ritual we have (and I do mean ONE) is the lighting of the Chalice. It is important to me that we do so. And with the lighting is a reading -- so we're doing the reading in this way. If I had to ditch one of these two, it would be the Unity candle.

*Vows

*Handfasting

*Rose Ceremony -- this one is just too sweet. If you've not heard of it, this is where AFTER we've said our vows and become husband and wife, the minister hands each of us a rose and says that the rose is a symbol of love. He asks us to exchange them, so that our first gift to one another as husband and wife is LOVE and that we should remember this whenever we need to throughout our marriage. We then take our roses. I give mine to his mom, he gives his to my mom, and this is just a nice touch to recognize our parents. There are two versions -- one is short and one is long. I am thinking, based on this, that while the long one is a true sniffy thing, with the handfasting, we should use the short version.

Fortunately, we don't have to do a full on mass.

We're not planning on a lot of readings -- probably only that bit from Corinthians about Love, and then one song (we've asked FH's mom to sing at the wedding). We've TOYED with doing a duet for my entrance, but I'm waffling on that. I don't want to miss an entrance because I get caught up in the moment, because then what I will remember is being mad at myself for screwing up the song (and yes....that is how I will remember it <G>.... besides, Nicole and Ewan do a lovely job <Come What May>)

Misty

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HLYflute Posts : 1,282 Registered: 2/5/07
Re: Question for Catholics...unity candle
Posted: Dec 31, 2008 1:32 PM Go to message in response to: CatStandish

You know, I went to a wedding once where they did the rose ceremony and the unity candle at the same time. They had the roses on the altar, so the couple went up, lit the unity candle, then took the roses to each of the mothers. This also helps to take up more of the music. It only takes 30 seconds to light the candle, then usually you stand around awkwardly until the song you chose is over...

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ArtBride Posts : 4,838 Registered: 5/9/07
Re: Question for Catholics...unity candle
Posted: Dec 31, 2008 4:12 PM Go to message in response to: CatStandish

Sorry - I guess I saw the title and assumed that it was in a Catholic church. Anyway, to answer the original question, unity candles are NOT part of a Catholic wedding (not even allowed, in my church), but I think most Catholics have seen them at weddings of other faiths. And even if they haven't, like I said above, they'll probably be able to figure it out, so I don't think an explanation in the program is necessary.

About the general 'too many rituals' question, try to think about other weddings that you've been to (if you can remember the specifics). If other couples have had that many rituals and you didn't feel like it was too much, then you're probably Ok. I never even thought of the question of 'too many rituals' until my BIL's wedding, so clearly, no one else I know has had too many!

Just make sure the symbolism of the different rituals doesn't conflct. Also, avoid doing more than one ceremony with similar symbolism, as it will seem repetitive. While you may notice (and love) subtle differences, remember that your guests won't pick up on every detail, so 'the rose stands for love' and 'the wine stands for love' (just to pick two random examples) can be a little tedious, even if the two ceremonies are fundamentally different. We came out of my BIL's wedding thinking, 'Ok...so the bell stands for harmony, the rose stands for love, but the bird stands for harmony AND love...huh? But in the vows they said X, which doesn't make sense with what they said during the handfasting...huh?' After the fact, it was a little confusing to remember which symbol stood for what. In contrast, the following weekend we went to another wedding. Their ceremony was simply vows and a rose ceremony. It was beautiful and everyone remembered exactly what the roses were all about.

Sorry if you feel like I'm criticizing your ideas - I think the handfasting AND the rose ceremony both sound lovely, but I wanted to give you a little feedback on how multiple symbols can be a little confusing and/or tedious. If it's not helpful, just ignore me!

DaisypathWedding Ticker

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