There are a ton of ways to honor the special people in your child’s life on his or her Mitzvah day and one of the easiest is a candle lighting ceremony.
What is a candle lighting ceremony?
A candle lighting ceremony is an often included piece in a Mitzvah party. It includes the guest of honor calling up special people to him/her to light a candle. It’s certainly not mandatory, but many families choose to include it in their celebration.
Here are 13 tips (in no particular order) to make your candle lighting ceremony rock!
1. Script it and Practice
Do you really want your 13 year old ad libbing it? Work with your child to craft 2-4 sentences or 4-8 rhyming lines about each guest. You’ll need more than just notes or bullet points to ensure your child doesn’t go “off script” and say something awkward, freeze up or get stage fright. Practicing reading through the script to make sure your child feels comfortable and confident with what they’re going to say.
2. Keep it moving
A candle lighting ceremony can get very long for guests who might be waiting to see if they’ll be called up to light a candle. A script (see #1) and a good DJ will keep things moving along so you can get back to dancing, eating and shmoozing.
3. Involve the kids
Sit the kids on the dance floor so they stay engaged during the ceremony. It can get long and they can get antsy. They’re more likely to behave better if they are in sight of their buddy.
4. Bring extra candles
Candles break easily. Be prepared with at least 2 extra candles, just in case. You can instruct your Event Planner or DJ not to unwrap those candles unless necessary so they can be returned. Or better yet, you can use them for Shabbat next week!
5. Honor the people who can’t be there
The first candle is often a “memory” candle or a way to honor people who cannot attend the celebration due to illness, infirmity or because they are no longer living. This is a special way for your child to connect to the person s/he is named for as well as any treasured family members or close friends who are no longer with us. A moment of silence is appropriate but not necessary.
6. Have a “Shamash” candle
Just like on the Chanukah Menorah, you need a way to light the other candles. Don’t make people futz with matches or a lighter in front of the whole group, have an extra candle for them to use to light their candle and a candle holder. If you don’t want to have an extra candle, you can always use the honor candle (see #5) as the shamash. However, if you’re planning on placing the candles directly into the cake or some other immovable object (see #7), a shamash and candle holder are absolutely necessary.
7. Decide what type of candelabra you will use and what it will go on
You can go simple–putting candles in a cake–or more elaborate–a custom candelabra that fits with the theme or includes your child’s name. Decide a few months out what you’d like to do so you have time to purchase or make the candelabra, if that’s what you want to do. Don’t forget what the item is going on and how that item is getting to where it’s going! Ideally it will be on some sort of table with wheels, so it can easily be rolled to its location. However, if nothing appropriately sized with wheels is available, you’ll need a few people to carry the table. Plan for this!
8. Pick music for each candle and get it to your DJ in advance
While your guests are walking up to light the candle, it’s appropriate for music to play. It’s always fun to include a favorite song of the person being honored or a song that describes your relationship with them. Classics include: “We are family”, the theme song from “Friends” and “Lean on Me”, but you can get creative here! Getting the songs to your DJ well in advance allows him or her to have the music cued to the exact right place, so you get the best lyrics and aren’t listening to the long instrumental intro and never get to the good stuff.
9. Be strategic about the order and who is included
A typical order is:
- Relatives (Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles, Cousins, More distant relatives)
- Family Friends
- Friends of the Mitzvah Child
- Immediate Family (Parents, Sibling)
You don’t need to include all of these people, but skipping from maternal grandparents to family friends and then back to cousins, is awkward for everyone. Think through you guest list and if there is anyone who might feel slighted if they aren’t included. You can always call up small groups of people (like all family friends who have Passover Seder together each year) to cover more ground with a single candle.
10. Be careful!
Your 13 year old is playing with fire. Literally. There will be an open flame of some kind. Make sure that all candles are placed back down on the table before the candle lighter gives your child a hug. No hair on fire! You may need to get some sort of candle holder for the express ability to put down the candle.
11. Get a photo of each candle lighting group
Make sure your photographer is ready and poised to take a photo of each group as they light the candle and a quick posed photo after the candle is lit. These photos are of the people who are most special to your child!
12. Decide on 13 vs. 14 candles
Often there is a 14th candle for good luck and that can be the candle that the guest of honor lights. If you’re going to do this, make sure it is clear who is inviting the guest of honor to light the candle. Will it be parents, the DJ, someone else? They should have a script too!
13. Count your many blessings
The party is all about celebrating your child’s accomplishments and the role of all of the special people in his/her life. How lucky are you that there are so many wonderful people to share it with!?!?