The rules for lighting the Shabbat candles are very strict. Shabbat commences exactly 18 minutes before the sun sets. The Shabbat candles have to be lit at that time exactly. No lighting is allowed after that. Candles lighting is often followed b by people attending service.
Shabbat candles can be lit in two ways. The first is the traditional Ashkenazic way and the second is the way that the Israeli Rabbi Ovadia Yosef is trying to revive, i.e. the Sephardic way.
For both you need the same things:
A clean table that is no higher than chest level and not lower than the knees. Waist height is best.
Clean candles or lamp
Matches or a lighter
A source to get the Shabbat candle lighting prayer or siddur
Foil or a metal plate
Tzedakah box which is optional
Tradition is that charity or Tzedakah is given prior to lighting but it’s not mandatory. Women may or may not wear a head scarf.
The Ashkezanic way was the way that the Eastern European Jews followed. Keep clean candles in front of you. If you are married keep two. It can be lit by either men or women. Next each candle is lit and the match is placed on the foil or metal plate without blowing it out. Shabbat is received the minute the candles are lit. Now wave your hands around the candles three times and bring them slowly to the eyes and say the following blessings…
“Ba-rooch A-taah A-do-nai
El-o-hey-nu Mel-ech Ha-o-lam
A-shair Kid-ish-a-nu Be-mitz-vo-tav
Ner Shel Sha-baat
Translated it means -Blessed are you, Oh lord our G-d, King of the universe. Who has sanctified us with thy commandments and commanded us to light Sabbath candles.
The Sephardic tradition is a little different in the sense that the blessings are said before the lighting of the candles and there is no waving of hands.
It does not matter what kind of candle you use, white, unscented, scented, or colored. They are all okay. Girls three years and above who have undergone some education can do this mitzvah.
Waving of hands is an individual preference, some do it three times, and some two and some even seven. Ask your local shul, temple or synagogue if you want to know the preference in your area.
Shabbat lighting must be kept away from pets and young children who may bump in to it and cause a fire. Keep them in a safe place before lighting but once lit they cannot be moved so assign a place accordingly.