By Leslie Scanlon from February 2013 Issue
Nothing says romance like candles. Haven't you seen that part of the movie, where the hunky guy pops open the door to show the gorgeous lady a room strewn with flowers and lit by a hundred glowing candles, then drops dramatically to one knee to pop the question? Wildly romantic—right up to the moment when one of those acres of candles nicks the diaphanous curtain waving in the ocean breeze and catches it on fire.
Fires caused by candles are all too common: the National Fire Protection Association estimates that from 2006 to 2010, U.S. fire departments responded to nearly 12,000 home fires a year caused by candles, resulting in an average of 126 deaths a year and more than $438 million annually in property damage. Some candle-related fires start because a candle is left burning without anyone to watch it; many when the candle is knocked over or placed too close to something else that ignites. So, consider the alternatives. Flameless candles provide an option when you want to set the mood but also be safe.
Flameless candles that set a mood
Some flameless candles add ambience through scent as well as light. Battery-operated candles are available in a variety of clever designs, and some models come with timers—switching off automatically after a set time.
One option is an electric candle warmer, which acts sort of like a hot plate—the candle sits on a plate atop a decorative warmer, then the electricity melts the wax of the scented candle, releasing aroma without even having to light the candle. Other models appear more like a lampshade, heating the wax candle from above.
For those who are looking for light but not for scent, try small decorative LED (light-emitting diode) candles, which are often about the size of tea lights, and are lit by a small LED light controlled by a switch. LEDs are extremely energy efficient, long-lasting, and don't get hot. Some models—popular at wedding venues that don't permit open flames—are submersible, so they mimic floating candles, or can be used at the bottom of a vase or in centerpieces. Some of the tea lights have a "flame" that flickers and can be used in outdoor luminaries.
Another option for a warm, romantic ambience is Christmas-style strings of lights, which some people leave strung merrily in their homes all year-round. While white lights will simulate candlelight most closely, the lights come in a range of colors and festive designs—including heart-shaped for Valentine's Day—and are available in both indoor and outdoor models.