There is a modern wedding custom in which the new couple each takes one candle and uses it to light a larger candle between them. The larger candle is referred to, in most circles, as the “unity candle,” symbolizing the new life and journey these two people are starting. It’s a beautiful symbol, one that my wife and I displayed at our own ceremony.
After the unity candle is lit, the two individual candles are replaced, still burning. Now there are three candles: one representing the man, one representing the woman, and one representing their new unified life together, one flame created by both of theirs. Some also interpret the unity candle as representing Christ Himself, as the author and foundation of marriage as He intended it, and showing that He has found a home in this marriage. Further analogies to this interpretation point to Him as the literal and symbolic “light of the world.” Call it what you want, all of these can ring true.
Sometimes there is a different twist on this custom. The couple, after having lighted their unity candle, blows out their individual candles. This is to imply that now they are no longer two “single people” but one “married couple” entering a completely new phase of their life. I suppose some could justify this symbol with a Genesis 2 reference to the man and woman becoming “one flesh” or Matthew 19’s “So they are no longer two, but one,” but there may be some context issues there. I wonder if there is some connection here to the post-modern mis-conception that marriage means losing your identity as an individual. The questions and comments raised by this confusion permeate Sex and the City:
Smith & Samantha: “The first two years were all about you. The last three years are all about me.” “I love you, but I love me more.”
Miranda & Steve: “I never meant to hurt you… it’s killing me.” “It’s killing YOU? … You broke US!” “I changed who I was for you.”
Carrie & Big: “I need to know it’s just us.” “I let the wedding get bigger than Big.”
To blow out each others’ candles saying “me” and just focusing on “us” is to miss the point. So is each “me” candle competing with each other for attention, forgetting there should be an “us” candle which is part of both “me” candles. The “us” candle represents what it stands for: unity. For unity to exist, there must still remain two separate beings to unite.
The ideas represented by these images are most readily made clear in the film by Steve and Miranda, the most realistic couple in the film. They each make the mistake of focusing too much on their “me” candles and neglecting the unity they should be celebrating along with who each of them is individually. There is a very interesting scene in the film as they sit in the marriage counselor’s office, which is in itself a rare thing to suggest in our modern culture which simply jumps the gun to the “d” word, which is never even brought up in the film. The backs of their heads, with the counselor in between them, dissolve briefly into two towers that are part of the same building. They are starting to remember that there is something keeping them connected.
When the counselor recommends that Steve & Miranda think of a place they can meet each other to start their relationship fresh, they hit it right on the mark to suggest a bridge. A bridge is not a bridge unless it connects two pieces of land. Without the bridge, all you have is two individuals. With the bridge, you still have two individuals, but a third thing that is keeping them together. Or let’s say the bridge was instead the top point of a triangle, and the two individuals were the other two points. The closer those two points come to the top point, the closer they are to each other.
One observant fan noticed the number three is a recurring theme in Sex and the City: All the “threes” in the movie probably represent the “volumes” Carrie wrote about her and Big. The apartment was the 33rd viewing (well, 33rd building), the magazine cover on top of Vogue in Carrie’s apartment had a real estate dollar figure on the top with lots of threes in it, this was Big’s third marriage, there were three of the girls still living in NYC, the estate house in Mexico was number three etc. I guess third time’s a charm or… these things always come in threes.
Funny, candles can also come in threes. Almost like… a trinity.
I couldn’t help but wonder, is it really “just us?”