How to Organize a Candlelight Vigil

It's easy to organize a candlelight vigil.

Learning how to organize a candlelight vigil can draw attention to causes, events, anniversaries, people, or even tragedies that you wish to memorialize or gain media coverage for. Putting a candlelight vigil together is fairly easy to do, and it's an inexpensive way to gather people together for a common goal.

What Is a Candlelight Vigil?

A candlelight vigil is an event where people gather, light candles, and show their support. This support can be for a cause, to remember an important date, to quietly protest, or in remembrance of someone who has passed away. There are many reasons why candlelight vigils are organized, including:

  • To raise awareness for a disease or illness
  • To draw media attention to a cause or injustice
  • To mark a historic or otherwise important anniversary
  • To show support for families of missing children
  • To remember fallen soldiers
  • To pay tribute to the deceased

The main point of a candlelight vigil is to provide a quiet and comfortable setting where groups of people can meet, support each other, and spread a message. There are no hard and fast rules that need to be followed when learning how to organize a candlelight vigil.

Tips on How to Organize a Candlelight Vigil

As far as event planning goes, a candlelight vigil is quite simple to set up. One thing to consider right away is that you'll need help. Ask friends, family, and co-workers if they would be interested in volunteering, or approach a group of like-minded folks to see if they would like to help out.

The main goal is to get the word out that the vigil will be taking place so that you'll enjoy a large turnout. There are, however, several things to consider first.

Location and Time

The first thing that needs to be decided is the location for the event. Most are held outdoors on public property, like a neighborhood park, or even right in front of city hall. Consider the following things when choosing your location:

  • The place should be easy to find for participants from all over town.
  • The location can relate to the reason for the vigil. For example, if the event is religious in nature, hold the vigil outside a church.
  • Ideally, you should have an indoor option available in case of bad weather. Indoor vigils can be held in community centers, auditoriums, or legion halls, for example.

Once you've selected a location, choose a date and time that will work for the occasion. Make sure it will be dark enough for all of the candles to have an impact, but not too late at night that participants of all ages would have trouble attending.


To keep things running smoothly, someone should be designated the main speaker or master of ceremonies. This person will address the crowd, and introduce any other speakers who will be on hand. Depending on the reason for the candlelight vigil, speakers could provide:

  • Speeches to inform and motivate
  • Memorials
  • Sharing of experiences
  • Poetry, prayers, or prose

In addition to speeches and readings, music can be used during the vigil, either recorded or performed live. For speeches and music, you'll need to find audio equipment like microphones, and amplifier, and speakers that are suitable for outdoor use.


Of course you'll have to have a supply of candles on hand for participants to light. Order these in advance so that, if it looks like you'll end up with a very large turnout, you'll have time to get more. Or, if you're a skilled candle maker, you can make your own simple candles for the event.

Plain white candles are generally used, but you could consider using colored candles, or even feature several personalized memory candles if they would suit the occasion.

Getting the Word Out

Once you've got everything in place for the event, you'll need to spread the word so that people will be able to attend. There are several ways to advertise a candlelight vigil, including:

  • Posting printed fliers in neighborhoods, stores, and public bulletin boards
  • Taking out a small ad in the local newspaper
  • Contacting local media with details of the event
  • Contacting relevant groups (for example, cancer clinics for a vigil to raise awareness about cancer)

Word of mouth is also an important and valuable source of contact. Tell as many people as you can about the upcoming vigil, and ask them to tell anyone they know who might be interested in attending.

The Candlelight Vigil

The candlelight vigil itself can be as fancy or as simple as you want to make it. Consider having the speeches, followed by lighting the candles, and a moment of silence (if appropriate). Since vigils are held for such a wide variety of reasons, you're really only led by the mood of the event and what would be appropriate for the participants.

How to Organize a Candlelight Vigil