Weddings are all-things hearts and joy, right? Unfortunately, weddings may become the source of some sadness for some couples. Especially if you’ve experienced the death of a loved one who would have played an important role in your big day.
In all the weddings that we’ve supported, we’ve seen many unique ways to recognize a lost loved one throughout wedding planning details. Here are our top 15 ideas for you to consider.
Before we get into the actual ideas on how to honor loved ones you have lost at your wedding, these three questions, shared via Bridal Guide, are a GREAT place to start. “How fresh is the wound? Your goal should be to recognize that person—without casting a melancholy mood over your celebration. If your loved one 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; I knew that if we did a moment of silence at the beginning of the ceremony, I’d lose it. I’d be the bawling bride on the altar who wasn't crying tears of joy. And even if you think you're strong enough to hold it together, consider how your tribute will make your guests feel. How much attention do you want to draw to this tribute? Dealing with death 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 (or a combination of both). And if you’re planning any kind of public tribute, we recommend informing others who were close to the deceased ahead of time so that they’re not caught off guard. What’s most appropriate for that person? Think about the personality of your loved one you wish to honor. Did she love being the center of attention, or did she prefer to stay out of the spotlight? What were her favorite activities, hobbies, and interests? What connected you two and helped you form a bond? Taking a look at your relationship will help you decide what tribute is most appropriate.”
There are many ways that you can incorporate your loved one into your wedding ceremony. There won’t be a right or wrong way to do it, and it’s important that you select a tribute (or multiple ways to show tribute) that feels true to the special relationship that you had with the deceased individual of honor.
Bridal Style: Depending on who you are honoring, you consider wearing their wedding dress (or a part of it), veil, or other accessory from their wedding day. If you want to have a ‘something old,’ wear a special piece of jewelry that has been handed down. For something simpler, incorporate a pop of their favorite color somewhere in your accessories, like your shoes. What’s our favorite way to use your style to honor loved ones you have lost at your wedding? Have a piece of their clothing stitched into a special place on your dress in the form of a pattern or a monogram. For example, we’ve seen blue hearts sewn on the inside of the bride’s dress, made from her father’s favorite shirt. (This serves double duty as your ‘something blue’!) You could also clip something of theirs to the inside of your dress or on to your garter. This is a good option if you’d prefer to use it for another purpose at a later date. Ask the seamstress for some ideas because they’ve seen it all.
Groom Style: Like with the bridal style, you could also have a piece of their clothing stitched into your suit pocket or lapel. Custom suit jackets with photos to be used on the lining are also a fun option. And don’t forget about accessories! Wear a special tie, bow-tie, or custom socks. Depending on the loss, you may have access to their cuff links. Or, consider custom cufflinks made from a website like Etsy, with their initials, handwriting, or fingerprint (if you have it available through the funeral home.)
Family Heirloom: Carry a sentimental family heirloom down the aisle like a Bible or a handkerchief that has been passed down from generations that came before you. You could also ask the officiant incorporate the item into the ceremony.
Flowers and Accessories: Incorporate a photo of them on to a special bouquet charm or to clip to a boutonniere. You could also showcase their favorite flower through décor or on programs to help you feel connected to them in a more subtle way.
Seating: Reserve an empty seat with their name or photo placed on it. You could also place a single rose or other flower on the seat here, too.
Memory Table: Display photos or meaningful items at a memory table near the entrance of your venue. This could include special heirlooms, showcasing a favorite hobby, or displaying clothing like a hat or military jacket.
To make it feel like part of the overall wedding theme, choose the design of the tablecloth or picture frames wisely. (You could also incorporate this idea into your reception, either as an actual table or throughout a photo/video slideshow.)
Moment of Silence: Have the officiant read out their name, followed by a moment of silence to honor the role that they played in your life.
Words: Incorporate their favorite quote or their own original words into the ceremony. This could be done through a special reading or incorporated into the program that your officiant has planned. Ask for their ideas in advance as they may have some of their own ideas on how to make the flow feel natural.
Program: Add a note in the program to honor them through a simple statement of remembrance. Here are some tips on how to best do this. Tip: This could also be tied into your other ideas. For example, if you leave an empty seat with a single flower placed on it, you could explain the meaning of this within your program.
As you’re planning your reception, here are some ideas on how to honor loved ones you have lost at your wedding.
Décor: Add signage or décor items in their honor such as a lantern or candle.
Drinks: Incorporate heir memory into a signature drink featuring their favorite alcohol or by incorporating a nickname into the name of the offering. You could also give them honor in a special toast, either done by you, another family member, or member of your bridal party.
Food: Serve one of their favorite meals or cake flavors. This could be a subtle nod to their memory without being obvious.
Music: Add a nod to their musical preferences through songs on your playlist. If you would like, have your wedding DJ make an announcement before their favorite song is played.
Performance: Honor them through a special performance. This could be a song that honors them, a cultural dance, or other meaningful tribute.
Favors: Did they love lighting cigars or candles? Incorporate their favorite items into your wedding favor. In addition to, or in lieu of, favors you could also consider donating to a special charity on behalf of the loved one who you lost. Maybe they had a favorite organization which they volunteered for, or there is one that puts research into an ailment that they lived with. If you go this route, make sure to let guests know through signage or a wedding speech so that they know this was done on their behalf!
While deciding how to best pay tribute to the family member or friend who has died, give yourself time and grace as you narrow down what feels right.
We also recommend asking the professionals that you work with in your planning process for ideas, as well as recalling past weddings you have been to where this has been spotlighted.
We hope you are able to use this as an opportunity to share your loved ones memory and to lean on your significant other through this time of remembrance. We hope that these ideas were helpful as you consider how to honor loved ones you have lost at your wedding.
[Photoshoot in the spotlight: Brittani and Andrew in Dallas, Texas by Jillian.]
The Joy Team