I have two friends who became Catholics this past Easter at our parish. They were graduate students at our local University who also graduated this past spring and are engaged to be married next summer.
They were lucky enough to both get teaching positions at the same school in another part of the country. As soon as they were settled, they made plans to marry at their new parish.
With one being a former Southern Baptist and the other an Evangelical and their families still practicing these faiths they have proceeded cautiously but assured in their goal to have their wedding as part of a mass. Because both of their parents are divorced and remarried, this wedding has also been a balancing act in respect to parental feelings as well.
It was in keeping with thinking of the parents that the decision was made that the bride would walk down the aisle solo and that the unity candle would be eliminated from the mass as all of the parents and step-parents had made it clear they wanted part in that ceremony. The priest at their new church was fine with the bride "giving herself away" but still believed the unity candle should be included. Quite frankly, I had never heard of this "requirement" so when the emailed me asking about it because I am a cradle Catholic, I had no idea of the answer.
Enter: Faith and Family Live! where I asked the ladies during the weekly Coffee Talk session. There are many women in the community who know much more than I in regards to this matter. But, I was doubly lucky because Danielle picked up this thread and asked a priest who assured her that the Unity Candle was not an integral part of the wedding mass!
While we were collecting the answers, a very funny thing happened though, instead of just answering, many women decided they would pose their own "solutions" to this problem. One said that the biological mothers should do it because the bride's biological father would give her away (which was not going to happen) while another suggested that all eight adults should come to the altar and light a candle each so that the bride and groom could somehow combine all these flames, and then there was the lady who suggested that they should do "unity sand." What is so interesting about this was that the question posed to these women wasn't "how do you include all these people" but "is it okay to exclude this ceremony." In fact, the best man in the wedding, the best childhood friend of the groom, happens to be Jewish and when he read the response about all eight adults lighting a candle, he jokingly suggested donating his family's menorah.
Because the original priest at the new parish was so adamant, in desperation, the bride contacted our priest back here who had an opening that weekend and is allowing the couple to not use the unity candle.
Nothing was wrong with their decision to remove the ceremony from the church's stance and the bride and groom had decided to do this to respect the feelings of all of their parents. The stance of many of the women who responded who obviously thought the ceremony should still be included, was a stance taken that did not respect the unusual (at least in the Catholic church) family situation or the feelings of the bride, groom, and other family members. In fact, there were other women who responded that a priest had not allowed them to have a unity candle and some who said that priests in their parishes no longer allowed them at weddings because they detracted from the actual vows and are actually a Protestant tradition "borrowed" for the symbolism.
The decision that was made by this couple is one that will still allow their love to be center stage as they take these important vows, and will keep the peace among an already fractured family.