Couples often ask us if there is a right way to incorporate into their wedding the memory of someone they have lost. It’s a heavy topic, but one that is important to address because there is a certain amplification of grief when it comes to planning your wedding, knowing that they won’t be there.
Whether it’s a grandparent, parent, sibling, or close friend, today’s post will give you tips on how to incorporate your loved one’s memory into your day.
As you read through the post, our hope is that you will see an idea that helps you capture your relationship with that person and their memory in a way that is special to you. Some of the ideas are apparent to everyone present, while others are more subtle, but all of them are precious ways to remember your loved ones who you wish could be with you on this special day.
Your wedding is a celebration of you and your significant other making this commitment to each other. We are confident that the person that is no longer with you wouldn’t want you to have a sad, heavy heart all day. But you are human, and you miss them, and that’s ok.
We have found that it can be very cathartic and healing to take some time to remember them before the excitement of the day starts. You can gather some of the people who were close to them, siblings or parents, and share some memories and some tears before getting ready and enjoying the celebration of the day.
The ceremony is by nature, the more serious part of your wedding. Everyone is already seated and quiet, and there’s no loud music, which makes it an appropriate time to honor your loved one.
That being said, a lot of couples don’t want to dwell significantly on the loss of this person, but they just want some touch of them in the ceremony somehow. So it really needs to be what speaks to you and the level of involvement you want in your ceremony, or any part of the day, really.
Have a moment of silence: This is a really nice way for everyone to be able to just stop and smile as they remember them for a moment. You can have the officiant announce: “We are going to have a moment of silence to remember those who have passed, who we wish could be with us here today,” and then name them. If you are religious and include a prayer at the beginning or in place of a prayer, this is a really good place to include a moment of silence.
Use a particular song: This can be a subtle but powerful way to honor their memory during the ceremony. Use a song that they loved or that was special between the two of you somewhere in the ceremony. You can even find an instrumental version of it
Read a poem: If your loved one had a favorite poem or even a passage from their favorite book, it can be really sweet to have someone share it during the ceremony.
Dedicate a chair to them: You can leave a chair in the first row empty and place a picture of your loved one on it. This is another way to honor them that is subtle and something many guests probably won’t even notice, but it holds a special significance to you and the family members who are sitting near it. You might say, “I just want to be able to look up while I’m at the altar and see a picture of me and grandma right up front,” and we think that is really sweet.
One time we had a groom who had recently lost his mother. As he walked down the aisle, he carried a single red rose with him and placed it in an empty chair in the first row. Nothing was said, but it was a beautiful symbolic gesture that meant a lot to him and the guests who knew her.
Include them in your bouquet: You can wrap your bouquet with one of their scarves or include a piece of jewelry of theirs right into the bouquet. If you do this, remember to secure the item tightly and remove it before tossing the bouquet, if you choose to do that. You can also memorialize the entire bouquet using one of these ideas.
One of the most common ways we see couples honor lost loved ones at their weddings is to set up a memorial table. This is a great idea, especially when there is more than one person you are remembering.
The table is most often set up in the foyer near the guestbook, but if you don’t want it to be the first thing people see when they walk in, you can set it up anywhere you like.
You can include photos of them with a sign that says something like: “if heaven weren’t so far away, you would be here today,” and a candle. It’s just a simple yet powerful way for you, as the couple, along with the guests who knew them, to be able to honor their memory.
Gathering the items for the table is also a good job to entrust to a friend or family member who wants to help in the planning of the wedding and doesn’t yet have a responsibility assigned to them.
Honoring your loved ones during the reception is a way to really get creative and integrate some of the things they loved into the party.
Include them in a toast: One unique idea we have seen is a wedding where the bride’s father had passed away. To honor his memory at the reception, his brother, the bride’s uncle, gave a toast. During the toast, he opened one of the bride’s father’s favorite beers and said, “this one’s for John,” and set it on the sweetheart table.
Bring in something they loved: At another wedding, the grandparents were no longer here, so the couple set up a table with a chessboard that guests could play throughout the night. It was something that most of the guests didn’t even realize why it was there, but the family knew, and it was just a special little touch to add to the day.
Save a seat for them: Here in Texas, we have seen a few times where the bride’s dad is no longer with us, so they saved a seat for him at the parent’s table by putting his cowboy boots and hat on the chair. Some people will have a place card for them as well. If you had a set saved for them at the ceremony as well, you can simply have a family member or the coordinator be in charge of moving the items over to the reception.
Play a slideshow: Slideshows during the reception are fading out as a trend, but people still do love seeing pictures. What we have seen more of lately is instead of playing a formal slideshow after dinner, the couple will have one playing on a loop throughout the night on a smaller screen. It can be set up on the signing table or even played during the dinner on a larger screen.
In the slideshow, you can include pictures of you and your new spouse as young people and also include pictures of the loved ones you have lost.
As we mentioned briefly above, music is a wonderful way to honor your loved one’s memory at your wedding. It has a powerful way of being really touching and bringing back memories.
A word of caution as you consider incorporating songs to remember them; they can be so powerful that it affects the entire atmosphere of the wedding.
We had one instance where the bride requested that we play “You Should Be Here” by Cole Swindle. It’s a beautiful song that makes people cry even if they haven’t lost anyone close to them. The result was a very heavy and emotional moment for the bride, her sisters, and almost everyone else there. It was an absolutely beautiful moment, but it did quickly change the celebratory atmosphere of the dance.
We followed up the song with another slow song, slowly shifting back to the joyous atmosphere of the dance, and it ended beautifully. It is just good to be prepared for the possibility of emotions hitting hard when you incorporate certain songs or memories into your day.
Playing a song in their memory can be a really happy occasion too. For instance, at the couple’s request, we played a song with the announcement. “If you didn’t know our bride’s dad, he was a huge Van Morrison fan, so we’re going to play Brown Eyed Girl. I invite all of you to come out and bounce around and dance as we remember him through this song.”
While we are on the topic of emotional moments, it’s worth mentioning the importance of informing your DJ or MC of any sensitive areas they should avoid throughout the night.
In our DJ planner, we have an area that asks about sensitive situations so that we can be prepared to not do or say certain things.
For example, we had one couple ask that we not play any Louis Armstrong songs because their grandma had recently passed, and they had played a lot of his songs at her funeral. It was very helpful to know that because we do have Louis Armstrong on some of the playlists, and it allowed us to simply exclude those and carry on.
Another example is if the father of the bride isn’t present and she is having someone else walk her down the aisle. The father and bride dance can also be adjusted to fit the situation so that you can play a song your father loved in the case that he has passed away or change the situation altogether to fit the special person that you are dancing with for that moment.
You can also inform the DJ if, for example, your parents are divorced and haven’t been in the same room in years. That way, they can avoid common announcements, such as getting all of the parents on the dance floor.
A quick heads-up can go a long way in avoiding certain awkward situations throughout the day.
We feel for any couples going through the wedding planning process without someone, and that’s why we wanted to address it here. We really know how much this day means to you, but also how much not having that person there means to you.
It can be a hard path to walk. We do understand that it’s going to be sad, but can also be really healing in a lot of ways to cry and to feel those emotions. And that’s okay.
Including lost loved ones in your day is a question that comes up often in our planning process with couples, and if you are navigating this situation, we want you to know that you are not alone. There are many ways to include their memory, as we have talked about today, but if it’s something you are still struggling with, we are here to help you make a decision that is right for you. Simply book the virtual planning package that fits your needs, and we will chat on a zoom call to help you in any way we can.
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