Nothing compares to physically having all of your loved ones by your side on your wedding day. But by honoring deceased relatives and friends in a way that feels true to your relationship, it allows those people to be there in spirit.
One of the greatest issues couples struggle with when planning their wedding is how to honor loved ones who have passed. Whether you choose to acknowledge this person's absence publicly for your guests to share or privately for you alone, deciding how best to do this can be quite challenging. You want to strike the right balance between acknowledgement of your loved one while at the same time maintaining a joyous mood for your happy occasion.
Before planning a memorial tribute, you and your partner should both consider these important points:
How fresh is the wound?
Your want to recognize your loved one without casting a melancholy mood over the celebration. If they passed away a few months before the wedding, you’ll need to handle a tribute differently than if you’ve had time to properly grieve. You have to find your personal comfort level. No one wants the happy couple to be crying at the altar if they aren’t tears of joy. And even if you think you're strong enough to hold it together, you also need to take into consideration the tribute will affect your guests.
How much attention do you want to draw to your tribute?
Grieving is a very personal matter. Consider whether you want your tribute to be for your eyes only or if you want a public message to recognize your loved one. You can also do a combination of the two. If you are planning a public tribute, we recommend informing others who were close to the deceased ahead of time so that they are not caught off guard.
What would be most appropriate for that person?
Think about the personality of the loved one whom you wish to honor. Did they love being the center of attention, or did they prefer to stay out of the spotlight? What were their favorite activities, hobbies, and interests? What connected you and helped you form a bond? Taking a look at your relationship with this special person will help you decide what tribute is most appropriate.
Here are our suggestions for some lovely but sentimental ways to include those who have passed on in the celebration of your special day.
Dedicate a part of the ceremony to that person.
For one of your readings, choose your loved one’s favorite poem, story or bible passage. Play their favorite song as you walk down the aisle. If your loved one spent summers with you at the beach, to do a sand ceremony in their honor. You can even use sand from their favorite beach. A moment of silence is a powerful way to recognize a lost loved one. Typically, the moment of silence happens right after your walk down the aisle. You can also keep things short and simple; include an “In Loving Memory” section in your ceremony program.
You can have your florist wrap all the bouquets in ties your loved one once wore or even cut a piece out of their clothing and have it sewing into the bodice of your wedding dress to keep them close to your heart. This can even become your ‘something blue’.
Wearing something that reminds you of that person is one of the most private ways to honor a lost loved one—no one will even know unless you tell them. This is a great way to keep that person close to your heart without drawing attention to their absence. Wearing your grandma’s earrings or using one of her brooches in a bouquet or boutineer can keep them close. Even wearing their wedding ring in addition to your own can be a lovely, subtle tribute to those you’ve lost. You can also incorporate a favorite photo, a handkerchief, or another little memento into your bouquet or as a pocket square in your jacket.
With wonderful sites such as Spoonflower, you can have a scanned copy of a cherished photo of that person or a handwritten note that you’ve held on to printed onto the fabric of your choice and then sewn into your wedding gown or the lining of your jacket.
Hanging tiny framed pictures from your bridal bouquet or a single photo from your boutineer is another lovely way to have them walk you down the aisle. Even create a simple bracelet using a loved one’s wedding band or carrying a family heirloom, like this prayer book, with you down the aisle
A physical reminder of the person you’re missing, perhaps an empty seat in their honor, is a strong way to recognize a lost loved one. Placing a single rose or small bouquet on the chair either before the ceremony starts or as a part of the ceremony can be a lovely addition. You can also reserve their place at your ceremony with one of their prized possessions. Keep in mind, though, that looking out and seeing an empty seat while you’re exchanging your vows may trigger sad feelings.
If you choose, some couples will include a moment where they share a treasured memory of their loved one as part of the ceremony, hold a framed photo of that person during this time to re-enforce their connection.
Dedicate a part of the reception to that person.
If you feel that including them in the ceremony might be too difficult for either you, your partner or your guests, you also have the option to include them in the reception instead where they won’t be the central focus. By setting up a photo display with a special message at the reception such as “We know you would be here today if heaven wasn’t so far away” is a lovely way for couples to honor both both of the living and of the deceased. By featuring a collection of family wedding photos at the reception, this is a nice way for your guests to take a trip down memory lane, filling their hearts with love and joy.
The addition of a single candle on an entryway table or near your cake display can also make a strong statement.By using a flameless candle, this can reflect that this person’s memory will live on forever.
Using something that your loved one gave to you is also a lovely, subtle way to incorporate their memory into your special day. For example, if you received a beautiful pair of toasting flutes as an engagement present using them for your toast can make them even more meaningful to you. Speaking of toasts, you can also gather all of your loved one’s relatives and toast their memory with their all-time favorite drink. It’s a great way to bring the family together for a meaningful moment.
And finally consider your favors. Did your loved one battle cancer? A donation in their honor to the American Cancer Association makes a wonderful and meaningful wedding favor. You can also consider their favorite treat like a small box of fudge from their favorite candy shop. It is sure to bring back great memories for those who knew them.