Let's talk about wedding day memorials

Corset, bouquet and photos of Dad and Mamaw
Photo by Heidi N Photography

It's Memorial Day here in the US, so we thought we'd take this time to talk one difficult reality of many folks' wedding days. Sometimes weddings can be a painful reminder of the absence of loved ones… but they can also be a beautiful opportunity to memorialize those family and friends who have passed away. Like how Tribesmaid Jernni added these little photo charms of her Dad and Mamaw to her bouquet. Or how Offbeat Bride reader Breanna Scott commented recently:

I'm cutting apart my bouquet and giving it to all of the vets at my wedding in honor of my dad who was a vet and passed in April of colon cancer.

For those of you who have lost someone you love, you have our sympathies… and our ideas about how you can memorialize your loved ones at your wedding.

Grooms boutonniere tribute to his late dad
Photo by Nick Evans Photo

Offbeat Bride Tribe member kimberhill says, "We wanted to honour his dad who passed away several years ago without it being too overwhelming for guests. We found an Etsy seller who put a photo onto a charm and we then had a friend make the paper flower boutonniere and combined the 2 elements."

Photo by Sheila Teruty
You could honor your departed loved ones by saving them a seat at your ceremony and/or reception.

memorialSet up an altar to display framed photos of your loved ones.

grandma's buttons
Photo by Becca Riedell
Tribesmaid Lindyshoes' grandma was an avid seamstress, so the buttons looped around the wedding bouquet was Lindy's tribute to her grandma.

Create a secret letter memorial, like Tribesmaid Inthecorridors' very sweet little flower memorial for her grandmother.

Jodi and Mark A Wedding day-9322
Photo by Matthew Turner
Print photos of your lost loved ones for your memorial candles.

wed.jl.brianbouquetWalk down the aisle with a memorial bouquet that includes a photo of the person who would have escorted you.

il_570xN.361570364_sl2yThis necklace from Etsy seller GreenGrassGifts has a piece of lace from a wedding dress embedded inside resin. You could wear a piece of your late mother's or grandmother's wedding dress around your neck. More memorial jewelry ideas over here.

8341024195_5baf1d2ed8I love this idea from Offbeat Bride Beth:

One of the most meaningful moments to me was the moment I showed my mother my bouquet. My father died when I was 14, but I still wanted to make sure he walked down the aisle with me, so I'd tied his signet ring into the middle of my bouquet. When mum saw it her face just lit up.

[Read more]

MemorialLight a candle (or several) in honor of those who can't be there. Like Jess B's sweet photo and candle altar she set up for her step dad who passed away five weeks before the wedding.

Ashley_and_Josh_00609
Photo by Beatrice Katcher and Michelle Awe

The trumpet on the chair memorial is perhaps the most tear-inducing. Ashley explains:

Four and a half years ago we lost our newborn son, a week after he was born… We named him Miles Davis, and about a year after he passed we found this sweet toy trumpet in a vintage shop. At the ceremony, we had a tiny chair with his trumpet on it. There was also a piano in the venue that we set up as a memorial for him, with his pictures, the cast of his feet, a baby blanket I had crocheted, and all the trumpets we have been collecting over the years. Being able to acknowledge him, and the gifts he'd given us, meant so much.

[Read more]

Not quite seeing something that might work for you wedding? Check out our archive of wedding memorials.

So what ways are you, or have you, memorialized your loved ones on your wedding day?

  1. Thanks for posting this. These are great ideas.

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  2. I absolutely LOVE all of these ideas! I have been trying to figure out how to honor my mom on my wedding day and these just gave me some great ideas!

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    • I'm finding it hard to honour my Mum at the wedding too. I hope you find a way that works for you xx

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  3. These are all great ideas!

    I got married 5/18/2013. My husband's mother passed away after a 6 month illness on 2/2/2013. I know that although he played it down some, her absence was felt that day…by both of us. We had a memorial candle with his parent's wedding photo (they are both deceased) on a table next to where we were married and we honored them at the beginning of the ceremony.

    My sister-in-law also did this amazing thing where she had a handkerchief made from a portion of my mother-in-law's wedding dress and I carried that around my wedding bouquet. It was a special way to connect me to her on that day.

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  4. This is exactly the kind of post I need. We have lost too many people close to us; among them being my first fiance and his wife (that initial "I understand what you're going through" is what we originally bonded on). I was trying to think of a way to include them on our day because without them, we wouldn't be the people we are today, in turn meaning we might not have been right for each other. Some of these ideas would be so perfect for us, thanks for this post!

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    • Thank you for posting this. I lost my first husband at the same time my boyfriend's wife left him. Our previous relationships are eerily similar and we bonded over finally finding someone who knew what the other was going through. Not sure we'll ever get married, but we've talked about having a commitment ceremony, and I've wondered how I would incorporate my late husband into the day. I absolutely believe that without our previous relationships, we wouldn't have been the people we are today, and may not have been right for each other.

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  5. This is beautiful. So many great ways to honor the people who are there only in spirit. And the roses made out of musical scores. Breathtaking!

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  6. My parents both passed before I met my husband. They had a seat, a bench my Dad had made. My sister made a quilt square of their favorite shirts which she placed on the bench during the processional. My parents oldest siblings placed carnations for them in their memory. We listed grandparents from both sides and my parents names in the program.
    We had our ceremony on a covered bridge. During the ceremony, until the "now pronounce…", there was a gentle "farmers rain". We call it "Tears from Heaven".

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  7. I think the link to the other wedding memorials is broken? It doesn't work for me.

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  8. My mother passed away when I was 3 and, more recently, my father passed just 10 months after I began dating my FH. To honor their memory, we're getting married on their anniversary (6/12). At the venue, we will have memorial candles with photos of them next to their wedding album from 1971! They would have been married 42 yrs! We also have an "In Loving Memory" section in our wedding day program.
    Good luck to you all and I hope you all can find the perfect way to memorialize your loved ones!

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  9. I liked seeing a few puppy pictures up there. It's nice to be able to remember our fur-kids during our wedding.

    We got clay figurines of all our cats for our wedding cake and included an angel cat for my baby who died a few months before the wedding.

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  10. We are memorializing lost loved ones in a number of ways at our wedding- first, a short mention at our ceremony. Our guestbook table will feature wedding photos of parents and grandparents. I'm wearing jewelry belonging to one of my grandmothers, and using vintage goods inherited from or made by lost relatives in our decor.

    The biggest tribute at our wedding is definitely that we are having our ceremony and reception at my grandfather's home. He built the home to my late grandmother's dream home specifications, so it's the best way to feel close to her on that day!

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  11. Thank you for this! I've been trying to figure out a way to honor my mom who passed away when I was 21. I was going to do the empty seat thing, but may include the letter in my bouquet.

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  12. My grandad passed away 4 years ago just before my cousin's wedding. They lit a candle during the ceremony for all those who couldn't be with us. FH and I are getting married on what would have been his 90th birthday and think it's a nice way to remember him (since we are having a very minimal ceremony)

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  13. 3 out of 4 of my grandparents have passed away, plus one of my cousins. I was very close to all of them so I am including them in a few ways. I have been given my Nana's wedding dress that I am allowed to do what I please with it. There was a strip of lace along the bottom of it that I have unpicked and am wrapping it around my bouquet. I have also cut out a piece of it (Nana had already attacked it with the scissors) in to the shape of a heart. I have also been allowed to unpick the lining of my Grandad's favourite hat that I have cut in to the shape of a heart and have been given one of my other Grandad's shirts that I have also cut in to the shape of a heart. The three hearts are being stitched together to the inside of my dress where my heart is. I am also going to create my bridal hanky (and one for my flowergirl – my Nana's great grandaughter) out of Nana's wedding dress.

    I am having a Catholic wedding so a prayer will be said and a candle lit at the start of the ceremony and before we say Grace at the start of the reception.

    I am also having a memorial table at the reception saying 'We know you would be here if heaven weren't so far away'.

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  14. What are good songs for a non Father daughter dance?

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    • My older brother walked me down the aisle and we did a brother/ sister dance. I went through a lot of options but decided on "Lean on Me". Straight to the point and just a great song.

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  15. I wanted to share this idea I had for honoring departed family members. My fiance's parents have both passed away and it is important to me to have them at our wedding. I found these glass vials in the jewelry section at Michael's and I put a bit of each of his parent's ashes in them so I can attach the vials to my bouquet. I know it might be a bit morbid to some, but we are very aware of and comfortable with death in our relationship. And we are getting married in a cemetery, so it seemed even more fitting.

    http://www.pinterest.com/pin/471681760944109247/

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  16. It was important to us to have a way to honor those who had passed before we got married… especially since my best friend had passed away before he was able to be my "Man of Honor". So, we went with something simple. It was a framed paper with a vase next to it with roses – one for each person.

    So we went with this:

    "We would like to remember our loved ones who are surely here in spirit today:

    Name they were known by – who they are.

    "Forever you're a part of me, forever in the heart of me" "

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  17. My husband and I felt it was important to use to honor our loved ones who were no longer with us as well. My husband's best friend passed away suddenly before he even got to ask him to be his best man. My grandmother also passed away before our wedding. My aunt had given me a pin that belonged to my grandmother and it was perfect, it was a circle with alternating red and purple stones (our color were red and purple), I pinned it onto the stem of my bouquet. My husband's family owns a print shop so we took in his favorite picture of his best friend and had it converted into a large canvas. He built a wooden easel so we could display it on a special table that was set up. It turned out very beautiful. We also wrote our own ceremony and had a small moment for those who were not with us.

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  18. Love these suggestions! My hubs knew I was sad about my grandma not being at our wedding so for the Valentines Day before our wedding he gave me a locket with her picture in it so I could have her with me all day. When my brother got married I did the same for him with a pocket watch rather than a locket.

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  19. My paternal grandparents passed away 11 months before my husband and I got married, We was really close to them and it was devastating that we weren't able to physically share my big day with them. As a memorial, we filled their lolly jar with jelly beans, had it at the church during the ceremony and had small versions of the same jar as bonbonnaires. It was our way of sharing a bit of the people who had meant so much to me and my husband.

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  20. I had a friend with floral arranging experience put together the bouquets. I had scoured sales for high quality artificial flowers for months before passing them over to her. We took a brooch that belonged to my grandmother and that was meaningful to me even before the wedding and stuck it into the ribbon tying the bouquet together. To the guests at the wedding, it was a piece of pretty bling, but to me it was a way of having my late grandmother with me and it continues to make my bouquet and the photos of it much more special.

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  21. This is wonderful. I love the pictures attached to the bouquet and the secret letter. My fiance lost his brother just a little over 2 years ago, and we have been trying to find a way to honor him at our wedding without it bringing everyone down. These are wonderful ideas and I definitely will be using one of them to memorialize him :)

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  22. My fiance lost his mother when he was 13 to brain cancer. Ever since we were together I've wanted to do something special for her, I feel her presence daily in his soul and very being. On a trip last year (months before we were engaged) to his family cabin where he grew up, he and his brother and father went through his mother's hope chest to consolidate some items. He came home with what, to some, may have just seemed like junk; their best guess was that she owned this bracelet with the intention of someday fixing it, but what I got was a baggie of random beads and him asking if I would like to use it for any of my crafts. At first, I didn't know what to do with these ordinary wooden brown and black items, but I knew I wanted them. Now, my plan is to use to them in my bouquet as a custom string-wrap for the stem, attached to a locket with her picture inside. He felt an empty seat would be too upsetting for his father (and stepmother), and he didn't want to make too many waves of sadness when it's supposed to be a happy day. I haven't told him yet, it's going to be a surprise, but I really want her there with me/us that day, and can only hope I have her blessing. <3

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    • That sounds like a lovely idea. My mom also died of brain cancer when I was a teenager. My siblings and I struggle with keeping her memory alive, but it is important to us now that we are married and starting families. At our wedding last fall it was very important for me that she be remembered (there were flowers from her garden in my bouquet, I wore her wedding band as my something old, I had a picture of her and my grandfathers attached to my bouquet, their names were mentioned at the ceremony, and their pictures were on a memory table at the reception). It was also very important to me and my husband that my dad (and step-mum) and other family members be comfortable with how we were remembering my mom and other relatives on both sides. None of our spouses ever met our mother so it is a big job for us to keep her memory alive. We have very supportive spouses (and extended family) so that really helps. Both of my grandmothers passed away before I was born and as an adult I am sad that my parents didn't talk about them more growing up. I learned a lot about both of them when my mom was sick and after she died but I wish it was a more regular thing. My cousins have done a great job teaching their kids about my mom (they were all born after she died but all of them know her name, can identify her in pictures, they visit her grave, some of them even talk to her), so when I have children I am going to follow their lead.

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  23. My fiance' just lost his grandmother unexpectedly exactly 2 months before our wedding date and she left behind a big box of jewelry that was to be left to my fiance's mother. I was just asked to go through and pick out items that I may want and I found a beautiful blue topaz ring that I will wear on my right hand on the wedding day so it will be my "something blue and something old" and also up to this point I was waiting on my fiance' to buy the "official wedding ring" and I also found a very unique gold, diamond and pearl ring in his grandmother's jewelry box that his mother said I could have, and I will use that was my wedding ring now and when people ask about it, I can proudly say that it was his grandmothers :) I would take something that has sentimental value over something brand new any day.

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  24. It's the start of my wedding week (this Thursday is The Day), and I lost both of my parents to cancer. I made a locket with each of their pictures on each side that I've attached to my paper flower bouquet. It's so bittersweet- never thought both of my parents would miss my wedding; doesn't seem fair, you know? These are all lovely ideas, and my love to all of you thinking about who isn't sitting in those seats or walking with you down the aisle. I believe they're definitely still there though. I hope these bring comfort!

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  25. It is so great to see so many other brides also including their loved ones that have past in their weddings. We too are having photos of our past family at our wedding and our bagpiper (who is doing our walk into the reception) will also be playing Amazing Grace as we light candles for our loved ones. I know for some people that is too much of a downer on your big day but its just right for us.

    Love never dies

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