Your special day is quickly approaching and you couldn’t be more excited! Except you know that someone is missing and that special person you lost won’t be able to share your wedding day happiness with you. With that heartbreak you may be looking for ways to honor your lost loved ones on your wedding day.
Before we get into some ways to honor your lost loved ones, there is one important thing to consider: yourself. How are you healing from this loss? Is it still fresh and painful, or do you feel more at peace and able to discuss fond memories? This can play a huge role in how you approach honoring your loved one.
If the loss was recent and you’re still very much in pain, you may want to consider a more subtle remembrance such as a keeping a photo fo your loved on in your bouquet or suit pocket. More public and bold displays may invite guests to ask questions about your loved one, so you want to be mindful to how you’re feeling. Most importantly, be honest with yourself about where you are with your healing process. Know that there is no right or wrong way to honor a lost loved one. However you honor your loved one, you are doing it in a way that is respectful, loving and the best way for you.
How you can incorporate your lost loved ones into your wedding day:
1. Incorporate something meaningful of theirs into your bouquet. This can be something as simple as a set of keys, pieces of jewelry, cuttings of fabric, or even small images. If you’re wearing a suit, you can include a picture in your suit pocket, or sew a piece of fabric onto your tie. Here are some simple and beautiful mini picture holders to add to your bouquet.
2. To honor multiple people, set up a photo display including an image of each person you would like to honor. This can be arranged in various ways. We have seen frames and candles on a small table or one larger collage photo board, or even attached to a beautiful tree. Make sure to get permission from the venue first!
3. Play a song that reminds you of them. Whether it be their favorite song or one that you made a memory together. If your grandmother was a fan of sweet love songs, one might be perfect to walk down the aisle to. If your friend loved the best energizing party songs, play this as you open the dance floor. Feel free to have the DJ announce the meaning of the song so your guests know just how special it is, or include a note about it in your wedding program.
4. Have someone give a speech in memory of this person. You could do the speech yourself, or a family member or friend could speak on their behalf to reminisce on their lifetime. You could also incorporate a moment of silence for this person or people, or finishing the speech with a toast of their favorite drink.
5. If this person was originally meant to be a part of the wedding, save a seat during the ceremony for them. Lay a small bouquet on their seat with a photo, and for men perhaps a boutonniere, cuff links or a special tie. If your loved one was in your wedding party, you can ask a bridesmaid or groomsmen to hold a photo of them if you’d like them to “stand” at the altar with you. During the reception, these items can be moved easily to save a seat.
6. Ask for donations to a relevant cause instead of wedding gifts. If you lost someone to breast cancer, ask your guests to direct the money they would have spent on a wedding gift to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Or, consider doing the opposite if your budget allows. Instead of sending your guests home with a wedding favor that may just end up collecting dust – make a donation in their name. This gesture will stick with them much longer than any physical object could. Give each guest a card telling them that you donated, what charity you donated to, and who it was on behalf of.
7. If you’re a fan of tradition – follow in your loved ones footsteps. If your grandparents got married at the most beautiful church in town, or you’re the same size as your mother, consider wearing her dress or getting married in the same church. Include this information in your program so your guests know just how special that detail of the day is.
8. Incorporate something they loved. If your grandma was famous for her cookies, have some available for dessert, or passed as a pre-reception treat.
9. Light a candle in that person’s memory. This can be unique – pick a candle that matches your ceremony. Maybe a fun votive, a lantern, whatever you and your loved one would have liked best.
10. Wear something of theirs, or have it integrated where you can see it. A groom might wear meaningful cuff links, or as the bride you wear a piece of jewelry that belonged to your loved one. For a more permanent option, sew something of theirs into your dress, or into the groom’s jacket. This way, you will have a piece of them with you every step of the way.
Six months before my wedding day, we lost my brother-in-law, who was also our Best Man. The loss was incredibly hard for us and my husbands family. We chose to honor him in a few different ways both for our ceremony and reception. For the ceremony, we left a space in our wedding party line up where he would have stood. Our programs listed the wedding party with his name and an “In loving memory” noted. In our family formal photos, we took photos with a canvas picture of him.
For the reception, we included a small table display of candles and pictures with a sign. We also saved a seat for him at our reception, with a sign. My husband also changed into a maroon suit during the reception that his brother planned to wear for his own wedding. We also chose to have toasts during the Rehearsal dinner instead of during the wedding reception for a more private and intimate setting where we felt more comfortable to be crying and vulnerable since the loss was still fresh. Many of these things weren’t announced or made publicly known to our guests, but it was meaningful to us.
Remember, your loved one will be happy with however you decide to honor them. If you’re having a tough time deciding how to honor them, take into consideration their personality. If your grandma was over the top and loved to be the center of attention – maybe share the spotlight with her for part of your wedding. If you’re honoring a friend who was a bit more shy, honor them in a more subtle way. There are endless opportunities, and no right or wrong way.
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Bianca Nichole Events is a wedding planner in Austin, and will travel to San Antonio, Fredericksburg and the surrounding Texas Hill Country area.