Honouring absent family on your wedding day

March 11, 2015

A wedding day is a time for celebration, but for those whose family or friends have passed away prior to the ceremony, it can also be a time for reflection and remembrance. Recognising the absence of some family members, such as parents or guardians who would usually play an important role in your wedding day, can be a delicate situation to navigate.

If a parent has passed away in the few months leading up to the ceremony, sometimes it is easier for the bride and groom to acknowledge them in subtle, personal touches which maybe only they and select guests will notice.

Some may prefer a more outspoken tribute, so that the deceased can be fondly remembered throughout the celebration. Including a lost loved one in your wedding is a highly personal, as well as emotional decision, so take the time to consider what you would like to achieve as well as how your tribute may affect others in the wedding party.

We look at several touching ideas for honouring absent family members at your wedding. 

It's all in the details – A quiet remembrance

If you would prefer your tribute to a parent to be a quiet, subtle affair, you can include them in the setting of your wedding by tying in their favourite colour or flowers in the decorations or the bride's wedding dress and bouquet. You could also wear a small token in their memory like a favourite tie for the groom or a piece of jewellery for the bride.

These are all small touches, which will probably only be recognised by you and other close family members, but it's a nice way to keep the memory of your parent close, whilst not making it the main focus of the day. 

Marking the occasion – Including your guests 

Leaving a space in the front row during the ceremony where your parent or guardian may have sat is another subtle, yet poignant way to remember their presence. Another idea is to include photographs of the family around the reception in the appropriate setting, perhaps of your parents' own wedding day or other special occasion. 

You could also include a mention of those who have passed away in the program, asking your guests to keep them in mind as you celebrate this special occasion. Playing your mum or dad's favourite song is also a touching tribute, as is the simple act of lighting a candle in their honour, either during the ceremony or at the reception. 

Taking a moment to remember

Every family will be in a different headspace surrounding the passing of a loved one, especially if it occurs close to the day of the wedding. If you feel it is right for you and your guests, having a minute of silence in your parent's honour at the beginning of the ceremony is a powerful and often spiritual gesture. 

Toasting departed family members during the reception is another tasteful way to bring them into your special day. For some couples however, it is important to involve absent loved ones more strongly, and might dedicate a section of the reception speeches to them. You can include a favourite story or anecdote, or perhaps a favourite quote so that your mum or dad's presence is truly felt. 

If you're unsure about the best way to pay homage to your parent or that of your spouse at your wedding, talking to other family members could be a source of inspiration. Whether it's a subtle tribute in the bride's accessories or a more bold statement, however you decide to honour your loved ones it should first and foremost feel right for you. While your family and other guests will of course be considered, never underestimate the power of a quiet token to keep those most important close to your heart on this joyful occasion.