Honoring a Loved One on Your Wedding Day


April 2013 marks the one-year anniversary of the tragic loss of my father.  Now, I’m fortunate because my father played a very big role on my wedding day in 2010.  He walked me down the aisle, he serenaded our guest with a love song made famous by Elvis during the ceremony, he sang another lovely song as our first dance at the reception and of course, he helped us with planning details of our perfect fairytale wedding.  As devastated as I still am about the loss of someone so special and so close to me, I am grateful for these memories.  I can’t begin to imagine what that day would feel like without him and my heart goes out to anyone who has to plan their wedding without a parent, grandparent, sibling or any other close friend or family member.  But, there are several popular ways that you can remember those special loved ones on your wedding day.

During our wedding two of our grandmothers were too ill to attend and we had lost several family members who could not share our day with us.  It was important to us to remember these individuals, so we added these very personal words to our wedding program and asked our Reverend to say a few words of thanks for their roles in our lives and to mention them by name during our ceremony.

Invocations of Those Not Present

We would like to acknowledge those who played a role in bringing us together today, but who could not be physically present.

Name, relationship to bride/groom

We also remember loved ones who have passed and were not able to celebrate with us today and who have taught us, and continue to teach us, what love is.

Name, relationship to bride/groom

Here are some other simple and powerful ways to remember your loved ones on your wedding day:

  • Light a candle before or during your ceremony in honor of the loved one.
  • Add a framed picture of your loved one beside the guestbook.  Consider asking your photographer to take a picture of you and your new spouse holding the framed pictures.
  • Write a poem about your loved one and add it to your wedding program or frame it and place it in a noticeable location during your reception.
  • For religious ceremonies, scheduling a moment of silence during your ceremony is an excellent way to remember your loved one.
  • Save your loved a seat during your ceremony.  Add a reservation card with their name and perhaps write a memory about the person.  I have also seen couples place a bouquet of their loved ones favorite flower on a chair to physically reserve their seat.  I’ve heard of others who have placed a personal item of their loved one, such as shoes or a jacket, on their reserved chairs as well.
  • Prepare a toast in honor of your loved one before the meal is served at the reception.  Or if you have a religious ceremony and will be saying a prayer before the meal is served, you could mention your loved in during your prayer.
  • Wear something that reminds you of the person or that was given to you by the person.   In my case, I added a butterfly broach to my wedding dress that belonged to my grandmother who could not attend our wedding day.
  • If there are multiple people that you’d like to honor, set up a photo table at your reception and write a special memory on a decorative postcard and place it in front of each picture.

The most important thing is to balance the mood of a memorial to a loved one with the joyous occasion of your wedding.  You want tears of joy and not sadness on this very special day that you have spent time and money to plan to the very last detail.

If you have recently lost a loved one, then you’ll need to handle a tribute differently.  If you’ve had time to grieve perhaps the wound would not be as fresh.  Everyone handles grieving differently, so keep others in mind as you plan your occasion.  It might be helpful to communicate with your family beforehand about your plans so they aren’t caught off guard.  Nonetheless, it’s your wedding and honoring a loved one is just as important of a detail as all the other features of your day.

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