Weddings are an amazingly emotional day from the tears in your eye when you finally meet your partner at the top of the aisle, to the laughter that escapes when someone wipes out on the dance floor (don't worry, they're ok!) But amidst the happy tears, mile long smiles, and high on life feeling you get, sometimes there's still something missing. Usually that something is a someone. Someone who you always imagined would be at your wedding, sitting in the front row, or joining you on the dance floor.
In cases where someone has passed away, many couples look to find a way to honor or acknowledge that person or people. But what should you do? Below you'll find 10 ideas for how to both publicly or privately honor a loved one who can't be at your wedding.
When you publicly honor someone, you are doing or saying something at your wedding that others can see and will notice.
1. Set up a memory table
The table can be as elaborate or as simple as you desire with one key focus: a picture of the loved one(s) who have passed away. You could add a quote, poem, message of some sort, or maybe just some flowers to personalize the table.
2. Place a flower on an empty chair
This gesture is either worked in with the processional or the ceremony itself. If during the processional, a designated member of the wedding party is given the duty to take the time to place a flower (or flowers) on an empty chair marked for the loved one. If during the ceremony, ideally, this moment would be worked out with the officiant as they explain the meaning of the gesture.
3. Make a speech
At some point during the night, you take the time to grab the mic and when thanking everyone, mention those who you wish could be there.
4. Have a moment of silence
During the ceremony (or at some point during the reception), have the officiant pause to acknowledge those who are unable to be present, and ask guests for a moment to remember them.
5. Light a memory candle
Designate a small table and place a candle and a small sign on it that describes the candle's significance. During the ceremony or the reception, take time to light it in honor of those who have passed and leave it burning all night.
6. Have a memory section in your program
As simple as it sounds, at the end of your program, have a special section ("In Loving Memory" for example) as a special dedication for the ones you've lost.
When you privately honor someone, you are doing something at your wedding that is not meant to be noticed by others, but makes a personal connection to a loved one who is unable to be there. This doesn't mean that guests won't notice, but you as a couple are not worried about whether or not anyone else understands.
7. Wear something special from (or that reminds you of) the loved one
Ideas for this are endless. You could wear a piece of jewelry, a tie, use a handkerchief to wrap your bouquet, a veil, etc.
8. Leave an empty chair in the first row
Some guests may wonder why there's a chair with no one in it in such a prominent place, but the sentiment behind leaving a chair open for the loved one is a subtle and silent way to honor the important place they had in your life.
9. Ask the DJ to play a certain song
When meeting with the DJ to work out your music schedule, pick out a song that reminds you of the loved one you want to honor. When that song comes on, if you're not on the dance floor, excuse yourself and boogie on down while remembering the good times.
10. Choose a reading inspired by the loved one
When meeting with the officiant about the structure of your ceremony, ask them if including a specific reading that honors a loved one would work with the ceremony proceedings (this shouldn't be an issue at all if you're doing a secular ceremony).
Some people wonder whether doing these things may make them too sad on a day that's "supposed to be all happy." The decision is certainly a personal one. But if you're contemplating it, having a conversation with your partner about what may work for the both of you is certainly a great place to start.
All the best,