How much of an asshole am I if I don't do a memorial at my wedding?

Updated Oct 12 2015
Zombie Bride Flowers
Thanks to Jennifer for uploading this image to our Flickr pool.
My momthulhu has been pressuring me to do a lot of things when it comes to my wedding. I'm usually able to agree or compromise, but she's telling me that I absolutely have to incorporate a memorial space at the wedding to honor the relatives who have passed away.

Don't get me wrong, I love and miss those guys, but I love and miss them so much that I reeeeally don't want to be constantly reminded that they're not here because they're dead.

Am I a total asshole if I don't do a memorial at my wedding? -Cathy

Offbeat Bride has an entire section devoted to wedding memorials — we're totally down with honoring departed loved ones at weddings. If that's what you feel like doing, then good for you! Rock those memorials and share the very-much-missed with everyone. But what if you don't want to include a wedding memorial?

Do you remember the post about planning a wedding as a father-less bride? The writer of that post, Kelsey, said something that really made me think differently about memorials…

I also knew my dad would have wanted the wedding day focus to be on the fact I was getting married to a man I was madly in love with, and not the fact that he wasn't able to be there. Dad wouldn't have wanted to steal the show. So I felt like keeping the focus on Ian and myself was actually my way of honoring and remembering my dad.

What if a reminder of all the people you love NOT being at your wedding would make you feel depressed instead of touched? Are you suffering from wedding memorial shame? Should you be?

In case you're looking for some more ideas for compromise action, let's talk about options…

Here are a lot of ways to place your wedding memorial front and center:

Here are ways to do memorials on the down-low:

Okay, now that those are out of the way…

Here are ways to not do a memorial at your wedding, but not feel like an asshole:

Just remember: Memorials are not a "must" at weddings. Besides oxygen, NOTHING is a must at weddings. (Yes, you'll totally be an asshole if you don't have oxygen at your wedding.)

  1. I saw a couple include a little memorial note on their programs, so guests saw the memorial, but the couple didn't really have to relive that. A lot of other couples put photos of their missing relatives on the guestbook table–I think it might be nice to do both living family members and those who have passed, so it's a more positive note.

    But lemmie second the nothing but oxygen is a must advice. You don't have to do it. Just tell your mom "they're here with us in spirit, now should these pinwheels be green or blue?"

  2. I went with a brooch bouquet which had things in it for different people, so I carried them with me but it was something only some people knew about, to everyone else they were just part of the bouquet.

  3. I did two things at my wedding to honor my father. I had a locket tucked into my bouquet with pictures of both my parents (Mom was there but very ill; it was a way for them to walk me down the aisle). The other thing I did was for the "father/daughter" dance. I danced with my father's brothers to Somewhere Out There, which Dad and I often sang. Most of the guests had no idea that it was a memorial song as we didn't announce that it was in honor of anyone. The guests who knew got teary though.

  4. Our officiant is making a brief (like 1.5 sentences) reference to "those that could not be with us today" and we're including the same sentence in our programs, but that's it. And even then, it's more of reference to family who is still very much alive but couldn't make it for I've reason our another.

  5. 0% asshole if you don't have a memorial!
    And, even if you have one, it doesn't have to be all gloom and cheesy, like that "We know you would be here today if heaven wasn't so far away" shit you see on Pintrest. We played BigBand Era music. My (dead for over five years…lived into their mid 80's) grandparents both loved that era of music and I have very fond memories of them listening to it. My Hubby LOVES world history from the 1930's-1940's and was excited to play the iPad playlist too. We didn't make a big deal of the WHY and it allowed our guests to enjoy the music without dreading the same wedding cheesiness that the WIC is so proud to shove down our throats.
    I can't stress this enough: the more YOU the wedding day is, (not what you THINK it SHOULD be!!) the more you will enjoy it. And your guests will have a better time too! If YOU don't want something that day, leave it out 🙂

  6. I feel this article might have slightly missed the point by telling Cathy how to do memorials, clearly she would rather have none, so the first answer should be 'no you are not an asshole for not having a memorial, of any sort, at you wedding' then advice on compromises. Anywho, its probably just semantics.

    I wonder why the person pressuring you wants a memorial, maybe by making *you* have a memorial, they are really saying *I* need a memoral, do they need some form of closure to be able to celebrate your day? Maybe they are just projecting their needs onto you, and actually a visit to the cemetary, or to your deceased loved ones favourite place, or just a cup of tea and a chat about old times before the wedding will help?

    • I think OBB was just trying to encompass all options, not try to convince the person to do a memorial. That's pretty common here, I've noticed – that the "advice" questions are more for a jumping off point, not necessarily completely directed towards the OP. It's more in case anyone else reading is wavering about how to approach a memorial (and for not a memorial, the answer would just be, "You don't gotta!" and that would be a very short post.)

    • Absolutely what Kirsty said. Maybe it's the other person needing a memorial. Maybe that person should carry a photo or locket or letter/poem made into a paper flower they wear. Maybe they need a visit to the cemetery. Maybe what they need is a discussion (or a good cry) with you. If you find you need a compromise because it is just that important to this family member, the suggestions of playing a song or style of song at the reception (or if it's a church wedding, maybe their favorite hymn) are good.

  7. Here's why we're not doing a memorial at our wedding:

    It will make us really sad.

    My grandfather died about 25 years ago, and my uncle brought up his absence at my cousin's wedding a few months ago. I was in tears and had to excuse myself and go to the bathroom.

    This is the first wedding in my fiancé's family that his grandmother won't be at. I know we're both already feeling her absence, and I know that his parents and his grandfather will be acutely aware that she's not there, since his grandparents' wedding anniversary is the day after our wedding.

    No one has asked us about any memorial, which helps, but we still wouldn't do one. But in your shoes, I'd challenge that person to put into words WHY they want you to have one. I'm guessing that your mom probably feels like leaving out the memorial means that you're pretending those people aren't absent. I would gently tell her, "Mom, I know that you'd like us to have a memorial. However, I already miss Grandpa very much, and the reminder of his absence on our wedding day will make me really sad. We will not be having a memorial corner, and this discussion is closed."

    And if she brings it up again: "Mom, my answer isn't changing. Anyway, do you like these centerpieces? And what did you think of this week's episode of Scandal?"

  8. We did a very simple moment of silence. Everybody really seemed to appreciate the moment actually. Some of our guests used it as a time to breathe or just take a moment to stop. It was more of a moment where anybody could use the time to their liking. For me, it was a time to reflect on our day and just breath.

    But, I strongly believe it is your wedding and you should be able to have the final say. And no, that doesn't make you an asshole

  9. At my parents wedding, during the signing of their marriage license, my two sisters and I sang a song written by our other sister before she passed. It was beautiful, but so so sad. Everyone cried, even people who didn't know her, or who weren't around when it all happened.
    For my wedding, I don't want that. I don't want a reminder that I'm missing someone so important. I'm having only two bridesmaids, because I wouldn't feel right putting a friend in my sister's 'spot', but I'm not going to make mention of the fact that she isn't there. It's still too raw, and I don't feel guilty for that.
    Plus, my FH never met her, and neither did my friends in the city we live in, so it would only serve to upset my family, and they've been through enough already.

  10. Funny – my mom and I just had this conversation last weekend. She is pro-memorial, but I think it would be too upsetting and give the reception too much of a funereal atmosphere when we want it to be a fun celebration. at the very least, it would be too upsetting for me – this is one of the few times where I'm pulling the "but I'm the BRIDE!" card.

    Our officiant is a family friend and she has suggested a moment of silence at the beginning of the ceremony. Something along the lines of "before we start, a moment of silence for those who couldn't be with us today" to kind of acknowledge the fact that we have dead family members (wow, I don't mean that to sound nearly as awful as it does in my head) without making it a focal point of the day.

  11. I spent a fair amount of time thinking about how to have a memorial at my wedding without it sounding like my (very ill) paternal grampa was dead. I didn't want to do a memorial only for those who had passed on! Since Grampa couldn't be there, I felt that would leave him out.
    So, we didn't do a memorial. I had a heart shaped locket on my brooch bouquet with my Gramas' pictures in it. My husbands bout had his Dad's picture on it. That was it. Nothing more.
    And making the decision to NOT have the memorial really relieved some stress from me.

  12. Delegate!

    If it's truly important to your mum, ask her to deal with it as it will make you too upset. Charge her with finding a nice photo of those she thinks should be honoured and a nice frame for you to display somewhere.

    Or maybe it's worth you two organising a private memorial perhaps the day before or whenever fits your schedules. You and mum go to somewhere special, visit graves or whatever seems most appropriate. That way, you've comprised and had the memorial your mum wants, but you haven't done it during your wedding as you want

  13. I just wanted to chime in that although some very close family members could not be physically with us (including some living but too ill to travel that day) we didn't have any formal memorials and it was OK. Promise. Sidenote: The traditional church service did briefly acknowledge those not physically present.

  14. Cathy, you're definitely not an a-hole for not wanting a memorial at your wedding. Weddings are already an extremely emotional time without adding memorials that you don't want.

    This was something we dealt with a good bit for our wedding. We actually postponed our engagement because my grandmother, who I was very close to, was dying. It still hurts that she couldn't physically be there for the wedding. I really don't think I could have handled an explicit memorial for her at our wedding. We did have a prayer for all of the departed in our families, but that is pretty standard in Catholic weddings.

    We weren't under any pressure for memorials though. We did choose to use some of my grandmother's art for our invitations, since she had drawn the invitations for all of her children's weddings. This felt good for us since it included her, but didn't cast a shadow over the whole day. Not saying you have to, but a memorial that isn't actually on your wedding day might be a good compromise, if that's what you're looking for.

  15. Just got married, and thought our solution might help someone. My husband's dad died when he was six months old, but he is pretty much okay with it now. He says it was rough at points in his childhood, but he's happy with his life as it is and he never really knew a person to miss. He actually "misses" his grandparents (who he was close with until they passed in high school) much more. The point is, he felt funny having our justice of the peace acknowledge any of this in our ceremony — phrases like "people we miss" didn't seem to tell the whole story.

    Our solution: we put pictures from both of our our parents' and all of our grandparents' (living and deceased) wedding days on our guestbook table. It was a subtle way to incorporate them into our wedding, without having to draw attention to it during the ceremony. Plus it was fun to see how fashion styles have changed and acknowledge how the marriages that came before us contributed to our day.

    Anyway, it really worked for us. And our photographer actually took pictures of the set up for our wedding album, so you can actually see our deceased family in some of our "decor shots" and their memorial will exist for as long as we have our professional album. Hope this helps!

    PS – you're not an asshole.

  16. Many of the couples I've married over the years opted not to include a moment of remembrance in their ceremony for a variety of reasons. I've never had anyone come up and complain that it was missing.

    Whether you have one or not should be completely up to you.

  17. We put photos on a single chair of those who had passed. We offered no explanation for it — who they were, why they were all together and why they had the best seat in the house.

    My grandmother had passed away not so long before our wedding and, while we didn't have the best relationship for many years, she and I had a sort of reconciliation while she was coming to terms with her life towards the end.

    I don't even think most of our guests really noticed it was there, to be honest, as we didn't want to draw attention to it.

    I, like you, was on the fence of the memorial. But, I knew that mentions of those who had passed before were going to happen because everything was so fresh. I wanted to make sure there was something I could reference, and that the important people in the wedding knew was there, in case it was brought it.

    I'm not big on sentimentality, but it hit the right notes for us.

    You, however, don't in any way have to do anything if you're not feeling inclined to do so. It is entirely your choice and this may be an instance where you have to slam that foot down and say "this is not what I want and this is my wedding. Respect my boundaries as this is not negotiable to me."

  18. There's nothing wrong with not including a memorial. If you really don't want a memorial, go for it and don't back down.

    However, since I don't know who died or when, be aware that your mom may be the one really missing those people. If she recently lost a parent or a spouse who she desperately wanted to be at your wedding, she may want/need a memorial. You could offer her some sort of option for a memorial ritual before the wedding. For example, if you're into blessings, ask her to invite your departed loved ones to bless the wedding space while you're getting dressed. Invite her to light candles on the reception tables while sending up prayers to your lost loved ones. Let her hold a photo album with memorial pictures during the wedding. If you want to compromise on this one, make sure it's something that won't make you sad. Also make sure that your day-of coordinator or mom-wrangling friend knows to watch out for sadness-inducing behavior and has an idea of how to cut it off.

  19. I think that a lot of the suggestions about "subtle" memorials really miss Cathy's point. I know that I get really, really, really sad at any hint about the deaths of certain loved ones. I'm just not good at thinking about it, and it has a way of completely taking over my mind if there's any little tiny grain of reference to it. And this goes double if I'm even a little bit tired or emotional for some other reason (like maybe getting married). So even something like playing a song in their honor or having a picture in a locket or letting my mom hold a flower that I KNEW was the memorial flower would really mess with me.

    The only compromise that would be acceptable if it were me would be to have a big display of family / loved one pictures that would naturally have a few pics that include the people who passed away. That way it's a celebration of your guests and your family and your past – it doesn't have anything to do with death. And for me, that wouldn't feel like any kind of "concession" to having "just a little" memorial, because it's not a memorial at all. But at the same time, I think you could tell your mom that this is how you're doing the memorial (i.e. let her pretend that she's getting her way) to avoid the confrontation.

  20. I don't believe my sister had a memorial of any sort in her wedding and no one seemed offended that we weren't paying tribute to any of our relatives.

    My SO wanted to have something for his father and brother, but nothing that would make him or anyone else upset. We're just putting a little table in the lobby with a few pretty candles – no photos or anything. We know it's there and his family knows it's there, but it's not in an area where we'll constantly be reminded throughout the day about it. Also, by having no photos/labels etc…people can put their own meaning to what they're there for.

  21. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who doesn't want a memorial at my wedding. A wedding is a time to celebrate and be happy, why would I want to add something in to specifically remind myself of sad things? Nope, not gonna happen. I personally think memorials have zero place in weddings but hey, to each their own. So to those having them, enjoy, but I will not even consider the idea.

  22. We did not do a memorial for the because we wanted to keep the day upbeat and focused on love. This upset some family members, but we firmly believe in something my late grandfather used to say. "Life is for the living."

  23. I really think that you should do what makes you the happiest in this case. Everyone has their own way of mourning. Both my grandmothers passed away last year and I have not been to their graves much and I refuse to mourn the same way as my great-aunt and my grandfather do, by visiting the graves every day and being constantly reminded of the horrible loss we all had to take. I want to remember the good things about the time I spent with them, I for sure have not forgotten them and I certainly never will. And it is a horrible thought for me that they can not be with me on the most happy day of my life so far. But doing (in my sense) empty gestures just because someone else wants you to, does not help anyone. They would have wanted us all to move on with our lifes, it always was the most important for them for us to be happy.

    For my own wedding, I will leave them an empty chair during my wedding, but I think you should totally choose your own way to honour the memory of your beloved ones. Weither it is on a card or a picture or just in your thoughts.

  24. How about a "something old" that's related to the person the OP's mom wants to remember? As in 'something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.' Silly, but since the mother clearly has a stake in this, giving her a traditional hook to go with might get her off the OP's back. A small piece of jewelry, a hankie, a photo in a locket, a favorite flower in the bouquet or table arrangement, even a scrap of fabric that can be sewn inside the OP's outfit — anything that memorializes the deceased relatives but doesn't detract from the day. Make it a project for the mom so she gets off your back & also has some satisfaction.

  25. My Poppa is seriously ill and may not still be with us when me and my FH get hitched. Honestly, he was just recently diagnosed, his diagnosis was sudden, and I can barely think about his absence in my life without crying my eyes out and going to bed. That being said, I don't think I could handle a memorial at my wedding either. It's not like anyone will question my acute awareness of his absence. I think this is one of your situations where your self care trumps the needs of others.

  26. As we were planning our wedding, people kept asking me how we were going to remember my Mom that day. She had died two and a half years prior. She knew my husband, loved him and knew we were completely settled for our lives. I made the decision not to make a big fuss out of her absence for a whole myriad of reasons, least of all I missed her more than I expected during the planning. Plus, she would want us to be focused on us and our marriage. And anything I considered, just seemed forced and surface. I explained all of this ad nauseum for weeks to those who would ask, getting a little more angry (and missing her more) each time someone asked.

    The week of the wedding, I was at the grocery store and saw a package of Velamints at the check out. Remember those square mints? These were in a bag, not like the brick my Mom ALWAYS had, but it was her all the same. I had them in my purse. No one knew but me, but every time I had a mint, it was like a hug from my Mom. It was a last minute and very personal memorial.

    You can do whatever you want or nothing at all. Or, something can pop up at the very last minute.

  27. Reading everyone's stories is giving me so many feelz at work! Good thing I have the allergy season excuse. 😉

    It's also reminding me that your own personal memorials can trigger unexpected emotions in the people you weren't intending them to speak to. Guests who have also lost parents, grandparents, siblings, friends… They showed up to have a good time (hopefully!) and you can end up blindsiding them with something that makes them feel sad about their [person] who is ill or gone.

    My FI and I both have people we miss dearly. People we'd always just assumed would be part of our wedding day when the time came. We elected not to acknowledge them (deliberately, anyway) because some of those losses have been even harder on others who will be in attendance and the only tears we want on our wedding day are happy tears! It doesn't mean you don't love them or miss them. Quite the opposite – you feel those losses *especially* at major life events. Everyone who needs to acknowledge them will already be anyway, just tacitly. Weddings bring enough of their own whacked emotions!

    We want to keep everyone else's focus on the good times at hand and whatever is yet to come. We hope our wedding will be the source of new memories for our families and not just a vehicle to relive old ones. I don't think that makes us assholes.

    The question we asked ourselves was, "What will this add to the occasion that's not already there?" If a photo/trinket/mention of the person will elicit smiles and a feeling of encouragement, then go for it. If it's just going to make you (or someone else really important to you) feel blue, then don't feel bad leaving it out.

  28. My dad passed a couple months before I was married. He was a musician, so for the father daughter dance I played him singing Sweet Home Chicago. I really hadn't wanted to be sad, but I definitely started to tear up. Just before the song I asked my father in law to dance with me, and it's an upbeat song, so I ended up laughing and smiling instead of crying. My siblings were mad I didn't have someone else walk me down the aisle… I walked myself because I didn't want a replacement. It had been important for him while he was in the hospital to try to get better and be able to walk me. It's important to do what's right for you… to change your mind if something else feels more right.

  29. No you're not an asshole. However, there are definitely ways to incorporate something that's not too crazy or over the top. I know my husband and I placed a "For Our Loved Ones" area on the back of our programs for our grandparents who have passed on, and that was all we really needed. Just to have their names seen was a small comfort for us, because it made us feel they were still included, yknow? You do you!

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