Tips for Holding a Candlelight Vigil

December 21, 2015

Holding a Candlelight Vigil


Memorial Ideas for Loved Ones

While not an appropriate memorial for every loved one taken from us too young, in cases such as natural disaster, illness, or homicide, a candlelight vigil can be a beautiful way to memorialize and honor the deceased, while (if appropriate or necessary) calling attention to important issues or events taking place in his or her community.

A candlelight vigil is dignified, respectful, and offers a way to unite a community around a common cause, while doing justice to, and beautifully celebrating the life of the loved one being honored. It is a healing event; an opportunity for the community to come together and mourn as one.

Planning a Candlelight Vigil

While we have all seen examples of beautiful, moving candlelight memorials, when it comes time for us to actually plan and execute one, things can become more uncertain. We may be dealing with our own devastation and grieving process; if the cause of death was violence-related there may be additional trauma to process, or even additional violence to defuse.

The following set of Frequently Asked Questions is designed to help you – and your community – process your feelings of grief, and move through the phases of mourning until you achieve  the sense of relief, peace and serenity so important to our closure.



Where is the best place to hold a candlelight vigil in memorial for a loved one?

This depends on the type of death and the true purpose of the vigil. If you’re holding the vigil simply to mourn the untimely loss of a member of the community, the site of the death may be an appropriate location. However, if part of the goal of the memorial is to draw attention to the issue that caused the death, holding the vigil on the capitol steps, in front of a courthouse or other appropriate government building would be in order.

The location should be easy to find for folks from all over the area, and you should have an indoor backup location reserved in case of inclement weather. Parks, community centers, churches, legion halls, and auditoriums are all appropriate locations as well.

Make sure to hold the vigil at a time when the candles will have their most powerful visual impact (dusk or after), but not so late that mourners of all ages cannot attend.



What is the best way to notify people regarding the service?

As with other events, in today’s connected world, Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and other social networking platforms are the most efficient way to let people know about the vigil, although there are factors of etiquette to other family members and friends to consider. Please see our blog posts on how to go about announcing the death of a loved one on Facebook, and how to set up a Facebook memorial in a sensitive and responsible manner for more information on this. Evites are also a quick and easy way to let people know about the memorial.

If you believe that publicity beyond your immediate circle of friends, family, contact list, Facebook friends, and Twitter followers would be beneficial to your cause, it may be in your best interest to reach out to local news media. Contact information for news directors at local radio or TV stations should be readily available on the websites of these media outlets. Community newspapers or local interest blogs may also be strong candidates with good neighborhood penetration and an often activist take on community involvement. Many of these outlets have news tip hotlines or online contact forms as well.

If you have enough time prior to the vigil, and the basic writing skills, a Press Release is an appropriate way to notify the media of your vigil. A sample can be found here: Keep it as short as possible (under a page is best) and put the important information near the beginning. Make sure to close with your contact information.



Where can I get supplies and other candlelight vigil ideas?

Candles, drip protectors, wind screens, candlelight vigil kits, and other supplies are available at many church supply shops, craft stores, or online such as:


It’s a good idea to order these supplies well ahead of time if possible and have a plentiful supply on hand at the vigil, for those who did not bring their own.



What should the program include?

The program at your candlelight vigil should include a speaker/master of ceremonies to keep the event running without any hiccups. They will introduce other speakers, lead prayers, and keep the service focused on the reason for the Candlelight vigil.

Ideas for other speakers or activities include
  • Respectful music

  • Moment(s) of silence

  • Other speakers who will share their experiences with the deceased or with the cause associated with the vigil