Sweet Sixteen Candle Lighting Ceremony

Sweet Sixteen Candle Lighting Ceremony

By Shayn Satten, “Teen Entertainment Specialist”

Many DJs know that there is a Candle Lighting Ceremony involved with Bar and Bat Mitzvahs; however, this ritual can also apply to Sweet sixteen birthday parties.

Most of my first time celebrants come to me with a very important question. They always ask, “How do I plan my Candle Lighting Ceremony?” In this article, I am going to provide you with a compilation of my research.

How and When

This is the first thing that is necessary when planning a Candle Lighting Ceremony.

Over the years, I have seen many unique approaches to the ceremony, including special bases for the candles, sand pouring ceremonies, and interesting variations on the standard version (explained below).

There are many themes and ideas that can be used to make each experience a memorable one for an event. Another key element for the ceremony is the time during the event at which it happens.

I have seen it range anywhere between the beginning and end of an event. However, usually it happens sometime after dinner.

Candle Lighting Order

Before the ceremony begins, I recommend that the celebrant have what I call a “Candle Buddy” to help her. This trusted person’s task is to hold each candle while the speeches are being made, and then take the microphone and hand over the candles to be lit by the Sweet sixteen.

The “Candle Buddy” should also monitor the candles from falling over, and make sure that the birthday girl’s dress and hair are kept away from the flames. It is always a good idea to have safety precautions.

The standard order for Candle Lighting begins with an immediate family member. Most often, a mother, father, or both parents at once.

The second candle is sometimes used for the other parent, but usually is set aside for their siblings or grandparents.

Depending on the size of the family or number of guests at an event, this can sometimes run into the third and fourth candles.

Generally, the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth candles are for the rest of the family. This is when you see waves of aunts, uncles, cousins and other members of the family rise for the occasion.

Candles seven through fourteen are then for friends. School friends, childhood friends, activities friends, youth group friends, and summer camp pals.

Number fifteen is the best friends’ candle. These are usually people that the celebrant has known for a long time. The speeches connected with these friends can have several funny moments, and some very sentimental and emotional parts, so be prepared for a good laugh and teary eyes.

Finally, there is candle number sixteen. The sixteenth candle can change depending on whether or not she has a particular guy that is special to her, like a boyfriend or a best guy friend. It could also be a memorial candle to remember someone special, and finally, it could be dedicated again to mom or dad at the end instead of the beginning to highlight the importance of the person in their life.

On some occasions, Sweet Sixteen’s like to have a seventeenth candle that is optional to light. The can be used as an inspirational or good luck candle. However, these are rarely seen at most parties I do.


I encourage the celebrant to say something meaningful in about two minutes for each speech.

Anonymous speeches are a lot more fun and keep people guessing, excited, and engaged in the ceremony.

Alternatively, the person can be announced at the beginning of the speech and then talked about embarrassingly. For people she is very close to, the speech can be longer with more intimate detail. Overall, quality is paramount over quantity.

As the DJ it is important to keep in mind that people sometimes take significant time to move and organize themselves. So be prepared with enough music to fill the gap of their transitions, usually 30 seconds to a minute in each direction, and approximately a minute for lighting, standing, and picture posing before sitting down. The entire ceremony should be kept to 30 to 45 minutes.

Candle Lighting Ceremony Format:

  • The Speech is read about the individual.
  • At the end of the speech, the Sweet Sixteen asks the person to come up and to join in lighting the candles.
  • The DJ plays music as they walk up.
  • They switch the microphone with the candle.
  • The Sweet Sixteen and the honoree light the candle together.
  • Many people use this as a good photo opportunity. So then they will pose for the picture.
  • The DJ then fades the music out while they return to their seat.
  • They switch back to the microphone and repeat.

My Final Suggestion

Be prepared and don’t wing the ceremony on the day of the event.

During an initial meeting ask your Sweet Sixteen girl to prepare a list for you with the names and relationships of the people she is honoring, as well as an artist and song to be played for each honoree.

Finally, don’t just stop at cueing up songs and being prepared behind your booth. These ceremonies can be very emotional and stir up many teary eyes, so pack a small box of tissues in your DJ equipment and pop out at the first tear drop.

This will show that you are concerned, paying attention, and care about the ceremony. Perhaps it will even land you a bigger tip, and acknowledgment leading to a referral.

If you entertain at Sweet Sixteen birthday parties and have never done a Candle Lighting Ceremony before, now you know how. Perhaps even if the ceremony is not requested by a client you can recommend it, which will add to the value of the event itself and to you as a DJ.



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