Tips for Organizing a Moving & Memorable Candlelight Vigil

Planning a candlelight vigil is a thoughtful and powerful way to pay tribute to a person, community, or cause.

Updated February 1, 2024
People holding candles during vigil

Learning how to organize a candlelight vigil can bring attention to causes, events, anniversaries, people, or even tragedies that you wish to memorialize or gain media coverage for. If you'd like to put a candlelight vigil together, it's surprisingly easy to do. Plus, it's an inexpensive and meaningful 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
Need to Know

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.

RelatedMeaning of a Candlelight Service

Tips on How to Organize a Candlelight Vigil

woman with candlelight during vigil

As far as the event planning goes, a candlelight vigil is pretty simple to set up. One important consideration 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 biggest undertaking is getting the word out about the vigil so that you can guarantee a large turnout. There are, however, several things to figure out first.

Event Location

The first thing that needs to be decided is the location of 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 for participants to find from all over town.
  • The location can relate to the reason for the vigil. For example, if the event is religious in nature, you can 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.

Date and Time

Once you've selected a location, choose a date and time that will work for the occasion. Dusk or just after sunset is usually the preferred time for vigils. Make sure it'll be dark enough for all of the candles to have an impact but not so late at night that participants of all ages would have trouble attending.


To keep things running smoothly, someone should be designated as 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 event, here are a few examples of what to say at a candlelight vigil:

Quick Tip

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

Candles for the Vigil

candlelight vigil

Of course, you'll need to have a supply of candles on hand for participants to light. Order these well in advance so that you'll have time to get more if it looks like you'll end up with a very large turnout. 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. 

Flameless LED vigil candles are a great alternative to regular candles, particularly if you plan to have kids there. Some of these are even water-resistant, which means they'll persevere no matter what the weather's like. 

Related: Ideas for a Candlelight Memorial Service

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:

  • Post printed fliers in neighborhoods, stores, and public bulletin boards
  • Take out a small ad in the local newspaper or the paper's website
  • Contact local media with details of the event
  • Post on social media and encourage others to reshare
  • Contact relevant groups (for example, cancer clinics for a vigil to raise awareness about cancer)
Quick Tip

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.

Planning a Meaningful 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.

Tips for Organizing a Moving & Memorable Candlelight Vigil