Weddings are the happiest days of our lives, and in them we celebrate love; love for our new partner, love for the two families come together, love for all the friends near and far, and love for those gone and fiercely missed. This last one can be the most difficult one to honor, and to do justice to, on a day so joyous. This is a topic very close to my heart; both my family and my husbands’ had experienced very difficult loss and grief in the years running up to the wedding, and we both wanted to feel their presence, but also didn’t wish to cause our guests too much sadness. We wanted to find ways of remembering them that were respectful, peaceful, and happy, and would stay with us forever.
Some important aspects that we found ourselves reflecting on were:
- How intimate is the wedding, and how much attention would you like to devote to the tribute? Depending on the size and content of your guest list, you may find that this personal matter is one you would rather honor more or less privately. A private tribute is no less powerful, so make sure you do whatever you feel most comfortable with. If you’d like to do something more public, it may be kind to let those closest to the deceased know ahead of time.
- How much time have you and your family had to grieve? If a loved one has passed away very recently, it may be that neither you nor your guests are ready to address it openly without the grief causing too much pain. Emotions will be running high, so make sure you don’t ask too much of yourself or your guests.
- What would they have liked? The personality and nature of the person / people you would like to honor may determine which type of tribute is most appropriate. Do take some time to reflect on that, and on the nature of your bond and relationship.
I’ve listed here some ideas for those couples wishing to reflect on this, and I sincerely hope they help in finding the most wonderful way to fill your wedding day with the memories that matter most.
Photo by me, personalised albums by And So They Made.
Albums and frames of photos can be beautiful ways of sharing the memories with your guests, and can be very versatile too – you can make the photo corner as subtle or as visible as you would like, and you can make it a beautiful area for guests to enjoy with candles, flowers, and other mementos of significance to you. This gives both you and your guests the opportunity to remember and reminisce, while not overwhelming the celebrations. For our wedding we had four albums placed alongside the guestbook, two of photos of my husband and I over the last 12 years, one of photos of our friends and family on their wedding day, and one of photos of my beautiful mom ♡
Charity Favours and Donations
Photo by Ed Peers.
Many charities offer special donation frameworks specifically designed for weddings, and can be such a beautiful and meaningful way of paying tribute to a loved one – particularly if they battled an illness in their day. For our wedding, we chose donations to Cancer Research in lieu of favours, and personalised a small message and pin at each person’s seat. You could also ask for donations as on option for your wedding gift as well, and make a huge difference to a very important cause.
Photo by Koby Brown.
If you can, think about whether there are any special places, near where you live or abroad, that have played a special part in your relationship with those you want to memorialize. Perhaps somewhere you grew up together, a happy holiday location, somewhere they’d always wanted to visit – or maybe somewhere that reminds you of them because of the scents and colours. This can be something very personal to you, and will fill your day with their memory.
Photo by Toward The Moon.
Your wedding stationery will be an integral part of your wedding day, and can be a great way of including some dedications to loved ones that are no longer with you – which guests can then keep if they so wish. The order of service for your ceremony, for example, is a lovely place to have a small note that guests can read while enjoying the peace of the wedding ritual. Depending on the type of ceremony you are having, you may also like to dedicate one of the readings to a loved one, light a candle for them, or decorate the area with something that reminds you of them, and in doing so make them part of the most important part of your wedding day.
Toasts and Speeches
Photo by Nicole Berrett.
For a more public tribute, consider whether you would like to mention your loved ones in a toast – perhaps cheering them to a favourite drink, telling a meaningful anecdote, or simply joining your guests in a moment of silence together. For our wedding, I chose to give a short speech before my husband in order to mention all those we had lost, and, in particular, to mention my wonderful mother – whose absence I felt so intensely that day. Even though I practiced the speech tear-free many times over, and am fairly confident when speaking in front of crowds, repeating it in front of friends and family on such a momentous day did have me sobbing by the end of it! Do consider how that moment of vulnerability might make you feel in the case that you find yourself unable to finish the speech.
Mementos and Reminders
Photo by Layers Photo.
This is a private, quiet way to honor a lost loved one that keeps the memory close to you, while not affecting your guests unless you choose to share it with them. For our wedding, I chose to incorporate one of my mother’s necklaces and brooches into the ribbon that tied together my bouquet. For the groom, it could be cufflinks, a tie, a watch, or an accessory – for the bride, it could be the dress, jewellery, shoes, lace from a garment tied to your garter, or some hair adornments. You could also think of any gifts you received from them that you could use on the top table, like glassware or tableware. Or you could even use their favourite flowers or colours in the decor, their favourite food or recipe in the menu, a favourite song in your playlist, or their favourite quotes or books as inspiration for the styling.
Save Them a Seat
Photo by Lindsay Campbell.
Another way of paying tribute could be to save them a front row seat at your wedding ceremony, and perhaps decorate it with a photo or flowers. This is a very physical embodiment of someone’s absence, and I would only recommend it if you feel you will be able to process that visual on the day without it triggering too much pain or sadness.
Photo by Paper Antler.
There are some beautiful, symbolic options you could consider – like releasing sky or sea lanterns (though do be careful if your surrounding area has many farm animals or wildlife as they can be very harmful!), balloons, doves, or even butterflies. Consider how you can make this moment a happy memory, and how to capture it in a photograph you can keep forever.
Moments of Quiet
Photography by Angela Zion.
Your wedding will be filled with excitement, people, and the buzz of all the wonderful things to come. Consider giving yourselves some time alone, either before or after the wedding, to reflect on the friends and family celebrating with you; remind yourselves of all the love surrounding you both, and take a moment to remember those you have lost. They may not be walking alongside you, but they are with you, always ♡
If you want to discuss some ideas, or need some help in finding the most appropriate and personal way to honor your loved ones, I’d love to help.