Identity, Individuality, and Marriage

Have you ever heard people debating the “unity candle” part of a wedding?

The debate seems to hinge on the question of whether to blow out the two individual candle (implying, I think, the extinguishing of self in the creation of the new “us”), or leaving them lit (letting the individual continue to exist along with the new entity of “us”).

~ ~ ~

At my wedding I received so many admonitions, cards, and printed sentiments warning me not to “lose my individuality” in this marriage, that I was rather shocked. Did people really think I could stop being who I am?

Last fall I thought of these as I wrote the card that was to go with a wedding present. I didn’t keep the words for me, but it went something like this:

Dear [Bride and Groom],

I am so delighted for you and your new life together. Marriage is so wonderful, and I hope you love it.

You may be getting all sorts of warnings and advice about “guarding your individuality” as you transition into this life-sharing that is marriage.

I would urge you to ignore it. You both have had more than 25 years experience doing that. It is your default, instinctual response to any situation. I truly believe your relationship and future will be better served by cultivating and guarding your “oneness.”…

I don’t know about you other wives out there, but in nearly seven years together I’ve become more like my husband, and that is a good thing.


For our first dance, Jay and I danced a very fast four-count swing (I don’t know anybody normal who’s heard of this outside of AK) to the song, We Rejoice in the Grace of God.  Jay was very good, and even surprised me by posturing for the applause.

We learned this type of swing dancing before we were engaged, with one of my (eventual) bridesmaids. Apparently his family didn’t know he could dance.  One uncle went to my mom and said, “She does good things for him!” Mom said, I imagine very seriously, “It goes both ways.”


God makes each soul unique. If he had no use for all these differences I do not see why he should have created more souls than one.

C.S. Lewis

The Bible reminds us we were created in the image of God. That’s my theory as to why there are so many of us– to show more facets of our creator than any of us could display individually.

For this reason I don’t believe God is calling us to disappear into a blob of non-identity. But neither do I feel that is so much a possibility that it needs to be specifically guarded against.

Our tendency is so much more to jealously guard our rights, when we are told that true love is laying down our lives for one another.


We didn’t do a unity candle at my wedding, since we didn’t want to deal with the many guests’ interpretations of an unexplained symbolic act.  If we were to do it now, I think we would both blow out our candles.

This entry was posted in Random.

6 thoughts on “Identity, Individuality, and Marriage

  1. “The Bible reminds us we were created in the image of God. That’s my theory as to why there are so many of us– to show more facets of our creator than any of us could display individually.”

    What an amazingly powerful thought. I love it!

    I’ve not been to a lot of weddings out side of my own religion, which are fairly peculiar, so I have never heard of a unity candle, but I think I would have blown mine out too. Saying that a couple should “become one” to me means that we should be one in purpose, direction, and love of the Lord. That makes it easier for me to let my dh have the reins when we are dealing with things that are his strength. I think it goes both ways. And, I find that we smooth each other out. (Except in the house cleaning realm–unfortunately we are both the same in that regard and it’s not a good thing.)

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. I always thought the unity candle symbolized leaving your families and begining a new one…I’ve seen the two moms come up and light the two small candles, then the couple uses those to light their big candle. That definitely changes the symbolism of blowing or not blowing them out.

    We did not have one at our ceremony, mostly because I was trying to avoid cliched wedding traditions that didn’t have any particular meaning to us.

  3. Now that you mention it, Becky, I have seen that too. It was a methodist wedding where I did first.

    The Nazerene-based weddings I watched (or watched my parents participate in, singing) I heard the pastor once discussing my version with the couple, and I remember my parents talking about it once.

    I suppose I don’t remember exactly why we skipped the candle, but it was probably a combination of what I mentioned above and really not-caring.

  4. My hubby & I did a unique thing for our unity candle to capture both the individuality and one-ness of our lives. My mom made a roll-up beeswax candle that had THREE wicks. We also had 2 separate candles that the mothers brought up the aisle at the beginning. At the unity candle part of the ceremony, we took the individual candles and used them to light the 3-wick candle, then blew out the separate ones. The 3 wicks symbolized me, my hubby & God — coming together in one flame. It was also symbolic of our wedding theme: “Marriage takes three.” I’ve never seen a wedding before or since do that, but I thought it was a special way to blend individuality and oneness with our commitment to each other and God.

  5. What a creative idea Esther!

    Such a thoughtful compromise.

    I’ll borrow that if I may. I find myself giving random advice to various people, and this is a great idea to share :) .

    I like it!

  6. Thanks, Amy Jane! I got the idea years ago from watching Fiddler on the Roof. In the wedding scene, the villagers marched through the village on the way to the wedding carrying what looked like braided candles. After I researched it, I discovered they were only 2-wick candles, but it got me thinking about the idea of triple wicks contributing to a single flame. I totally agree with you that we don’t abandon our individuality when we become one in marriage!

    Maybe my wedding could start a new trend in unity candle ceremonies! :-) If you e-mail me privately, I can send you to the link that shows a video clip of that part of the ceremony! We did a few unique things to add meaning to our ceremony.

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