Sweet 16 Candle Ceremony

Sweet 16 Party
Sweet 16 Party

A girl's 16th birthday marks a very special milestone in her life, and holding a sweet 16 candle ceremony can make the occasion even more special as she celebrates this day with her family and friends. Get advice on how to set up this ceremony.

Create a Sweet 16 Candle Ceremony

The candle ceremony is a big part of any sweet 16 birthday party, and it's often one of the highest points of the event after dinner and cake. It's at this moment when the birthday girl shares her feelings about the most important people in her life as she lights a candle for each of them. Traditionally, a total of 16 candles are used to represent each year of the girls life so far. Here are more details that will help you plan the ceremony.


Here are the items you'll need for the ceremony.

  • 16 candles - Traditionally, the color of the candles is selected to match the girl's dress, but it's really a matter of personal preference. The size and shape of the candles are also a personal choice, but the main thing to keep in mind is that they are supposed to burn for a few hours while the rest of the celebration is going on. Since even small votives will burn for two or three hours, the cost of the candles can be relatively inexpensive. If the sweet 16 girl would rather have a little more drama, tapers or pillar candles are excellent choices.
  • 16 candle holders - These will need to match the type of candle selected, generally meaning votive cups, taper holders or flat bases for pillars. Hurricane glasses also look quite lovely and offer a little more protection to keep the candles burning. Some party shops even offer a large holder base that will hold all the candles as one unit, but your choice of candle style is then limited to what will fit in that base.
  • Ceremonial table - This might be a regular eight-foot banquet table or something a little smaller. The important thing is that it is large enough to arrange the candles on, and that the girl can easily reach the candles to light them.
  • A tablecloth and skirt - This is to cover and decorate the table. Select a color that complements the candles and the rest of the party decor.
  • A butane candle lighter - You can find this item at virtually any grocery store. It's much easier and safer to use a lighter rather than burning matches to light each candle. The birthday girl should practice lighting it a few times so she knows how to do it when it's time for the ceremony.
  • Personal notes or a printed program - This is optional. Some girls are very confident and have no difficulty just stepping up and sharing their feelings as they light each candle. Other girls are a little more shy and may feel more comfortable if they write down what they want to say ahead of time and use those notes during the ceremony. A hand-written note or a printed program also makes a nice addition to a scrapbook page about the event.

Setting Up

Before the party begins, you'll want to set up the table for the ceremony. Try to choose an area that is in full view of the guests, but not in a high traffic area where the table might get bumped and knock the candles over. Remember that the candles will be burning for a while after the ceremony, and you don't want them to become a fire hazard.

  • Lay down the tablecloth, and attach the skirt around the edge.
  • Arrange the holders in an attractive way that still makes it easy to light the candles when the big moment arrives.
  • Add the candles and any other decorations you'd like to have on the table. Just make sure your decorations won't come in contact with the flames.
  • Place the candle lighter on the back of table out of view.

The Ceremony

Decide at which point in the party you want to hold the candle lighting ceremony, and then a member of the girl's family can announce that it's time and ask everyone to gather around. The girl might like to begin by thanking everyone for coming and letting them know there are a few things she'd like to say. Someone should dim the lights, and then she can proceed with the ceremony.

  • Traditionally, the first candle is lit in honor of the girl's parents, since she wouldn't be here today without them. This might be an especially poignant moment if one of the parents is no longer living. The candle could also simply be lit in honor of whoever has raised her.
  • The second candle is typically lit in honor of the girl's siblings. This might be a fun spot to inject a little humor into her comments, but the overall message should express her love for them. If she doesn't have any siblings, she could light a candle for her grandparents instead.
  • The next four candles are traditionally reserved for other members of the girl's family who have played special roles along the way in her life. Perhaps they did something especially kind for her or taught her a valuable lesson that helped her grow into the young woman she is today.
  • The next eight candles are devoted to her friends, and she can say something special about each one of them and perhaps a special time they shared together.These friends are also often included in the sweet 16 girl's "court" if she has decided to make that part of her celebration.
  • The 15th candle should be reserved for her best friend(s) of all.
  • The 16th candle is sometimes reserved for the girl's boyfriend, but it's also fine if she wants to use this last candle to make a wish for her future instead.

At this point, it's time for everyone to sing Happy Birthday, which signals that the ceremony has come to an end.

What Happens Next

Once the candle ceremony if completed, a family member can announce that it's time for the sweet 16 girl to share a special dance with her father, or another male member of her family who has significance in her life if her father can't be there. Once that dance is finished, it's time to open up the dance floor to everyone and let the party kick into high gear.

A Ceremony to Remember

A girl's sweet 16 only comes along once in her life, so it's important to make the day as special as possible. That doesn't necessarily mean that the party has to cost a fortune. It just means that great care should be taken to make sure she's surrounded by the people who love her most, and that those who are the most important to her are there to celebrate with her and let her know how much she is loved.

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Sweet 16 Candle Ceremony