Happy Friday, my lovelies! Today’s advice post is a little less cheerful, but deals with something that unfortunately affects many brides and grooms as they organise their weddings. I know what it’s like to lose someone you love, and it is just the worst. Whether it’s a recent loss in the run-up to your big day, or someone long-missed whose absence is especially felt on big occasions, many of you will have a parent, one or more grandparents, a sibling or an old friend on your minds. And while a wedding is the happiest of occasions, it’s also a celebration of history and community, and I think an important time to acknowledge those who are part of that history, whether or not they are still around. But how to include a tribute without lessening the joy?
I think the first thing to think about is how recent and raw the loss is – for you and for others. While you never stop missing someone, it does get easier to talk about them without breaking down as time goes on, and to smile over happy memories. A moment of silence is a special thing to do, but if a tragedy has only recently happened, it may be better to choose more subtle and private means of remembrance. Talk to others close to the person who has died and see what they feel capable of dealing with as well. There are many public ways of paying tribute, but there are also many lovely private ones, and I have included suggestions for both here. There are no hard and fast rules; do what you feel comfortable with and what is appropriate to the person’s memory. Most importantly, remember that all a wedding is – a celebration of love, and life, and the moment – is all the more precious because those moments don’t last forever. Being in that moment and allowing yourself to experience and hold on to all its tremendous joy is the best tribute you can give.
Over the years of reading wedding blogs, I’ve come across some lovely ways to remember loves ones. Here are some of my favourites.
- Think about your loved one’s favourite things, your own most treasured memories and defining moments, and see if you can include them in the wedding design. Perhaps your grandmother’s name was Rose, or sunflowers were a favourite flower, or you remember her making lavender sachets when you were a child – you could incorporate these flowers into your bouquet or place a special vase of them on the ceremony altar. Perhaps your father loved antiques, so you’ll have a vintage element to your reception, or your mother collected owls, so you have your stationery designer include them in your invitation design. Serve a particular food on the menu, or dedicate their favourite song to them at the reception. You could have your wedding at a meaningful venue, or on a meaningful date. The nice thing is, you can keep these touches to yourself or share them with your guests (in the programme, perhaps), but either way you’ll feel something of your loved one is there in spirit.
- The ceremony is often where missing family members are remembered. You could have your minister make mention, asking guests to light a candle in their hearts and minds, or observe a moment of silence. You could incorporate a favourite reading into your ceremony, or a favourite song or piece of music. This couple read out love letters their grandparents had written one another, which I think is a beautiful, original touch. Or simply add a brief mention in your programme. Some couples choose to have an empty seat for missing loved ones, with a flower or photograph on it. If you’re considering this, make sure that the rest of your family know about the gesture and are able to handle it – something this overt could be painful for them.
- Carrying something that belonged to your loved one is a subtle but truly memorable way to have them with you. Many brides now wrap their bouquets with lace from a grandmother’s wedding dress, a treasured rosary or brooch, or a locket containing a photograph. I also love the idea of sewing something into your dress – an initial perhaps, or a heart made of a favourite shirt or other clothing item. This bride created a pouch for the rings from her father’s old tie – such a special idea. Some brides choose to wear jewellery from a family member, or incorporate it into their something new. One of my friends wore a necklace made of brooches owned by both her own family and her husband’s recently deceased grandmother, and that’s something she can pass down to their own daughter one day. Grooms can do the same, with locket boutonnieres or custom photo or symbolic cufflinks.
- Candles and photographs are the traditional way to remember someone, and there are lots of options here too. Light a candle during the wedding ceremony, or have one burning on a table at the reception. A table of photographs (or a wall, or a memory tree) is also a lovely idea, especially if you use wedding pictures to reflect the joy of your own day and honour your predecessors’ own marriages. Or choose representative or favourite items instead of photographs, and display them on a table at the ceremony or reception.
- There are also some lovely ways to involve your guests. I loved how at this wedding, guests were invited to take a flower and wear it in their hair during the ceremony to remember the bride’s grandmother, or how at this wedding, the guests were given little buttons in memory of the groom’s father. Some brides and grooms are choosing to make donations to cancer or other charities instead of favours – I especially think this idea works when you instead give your guests small pins or ribbons to wear, and you’ll be really touched by how many of them will.
- Finally, the most simple way to mention someone is during the speeches, as many grooms already will do. This can be a very emotional moment, so keeping it brief is perfectly acceptable. Speak from the heart. I love the idea of a special toast, especially if it’s a favourite drink (you could do this after the speeches with just close family if you’d prefer). What I like best about this is the celebratory nature of a toast – and after all, celebrating those we love alongside the new marriage is what it’s all about.
Picture credits – Row 1: Karen Buckle Photography/Imbue Weddings via Style Me Pretty (left); John Robert Woods (centre); via Style Me Pretty (right); Row 2: Youkeun Oh Photography via Style Me Pretty (left); KMI Photography via Style Me Pretty (right); Row 3: via Wedding Bee; Row 4: via 100 Layer Cake; Row 5: Anna Rozenblat/Johnny Miller via Martha Stewart Weddings (left); White Truffle on Etsy (right); Row 6: Charlotte Jenks Lewis via 100 Layer Cake (left); Sequins & Candy Photography via Burnett’s Boards (right); Row 7: Beacon Hill Photography via Bitchless Bride; Row 8: Imago Vita Photography via Style Me Pretty; Row 9: Dinglewood Design on Etsy (left); Tana Photography via Style Me Pretty (right); Row 10: Christian Ward Photography via Rock My Wedding; Row 11: NGG Studios via Style Me Pretty