A wedding is guaranteed to be one of the most emotionally-charged days that you will experience in your whole life. And this can be even truer when there’s someone very special who is missing from your big day.
Our grandparents and parents are our first role models as we grow up: they shape who we are and who we become. Their support through the defining moments of our lives is fundamental. So when we lose a close relative – and especially if this happens near to the wedding date itself – it’s important to honour and acknowledge their love, guidance and support.
If you’re struggling to feel as excited as you should about your wedding, because there’s going to be an empty space at your top table, then here are some lovely ideas to commemorate either a recently-passed family member or simply a relative, friend or pet with whom you had a loving connection.
If your father has passed away, then why not consider walking yourself unaccompanied towards your beloved? One bride carried her Dad’s silk handkerchief to have a little part of him there with her on her journey.
You could also ask your Celebrant to include some wording at the start of the ceremony about how proud your Dad would have been to see his daughter marry. Or perhaps a brother or uncle could take on the role of male escort?
Many brides choose to have their mother accompany them on that traditional walk into their wedding ceremony; this also works beautifully if Mum brought you up on her own, or you never had a father-figure in your life.
The simplest way for a Bride or Groom to keep memories of a loved one close to them is to carry their photo in a small frame attached to their bouquet or buttonhole. A florist can secure the miniature frame, locket or charm to the handle of your flowers or boutonnière; Etsy has a lovely selection.
Why not incorporate a piece of your ancestral heritage into your wedding ceremony? Some of the more creative ideas I’ve heard about are items of family gold melted down to make new wedding rings for a couple, and hand-fasting cords fashioned using lace from the Mother of the Bride’s wedding dress! Clan tartan may often be seen in a hand-fasting. Recently, a Groom’s father was honoured by using his copy of The Bible as a ring “cushion”.
A memorial table laid out with a selection of wedding photographs from both your families is a subtle, yet comforting, reminder of missing loved ones.
Chalk boards, mismatched photo frames and candles can be very prettily arranged in a dedicated space, perhaps somewhere quiet, that you and your guests may choose to visit for some calm contemplation during the day.
In a bespoke ceremony written by a Celebrant, a short segment can be included to acknowledge and thank any loved ones who have passed away: this can be a particularly poignant moment, especially if the death is recent.
“Let’s now take a moment to remember those beloved family and friends who are missed today, and whose love is still felt strongly in your hearts.”
Consider making a dedication to those you’ve lost, printed on your order of service or wedding programme. Often found on the back page, using wording like “In memory of those who can no longer be with us in body but who will forever be in our hearts” will touch everyone who reads it.
An empty chair or a place setting at the top table could be reserved for the special person you’re missing. But bear in mind this option has the potential to trigger sad feelings if it’s in your line of vision during the ceremony itself.
There’s nothing stopping you paying tribute to a much-loved pet instead of a relative. One couple designed their suite of wedding stationery around their beloved Beagle who was too old to travel to their wedding to be “Best Dog”.
Sadly she was put to sleep just a few weeks before their big day, but having her immortalised in cartoon form on the order of service, menus, and lanyards served as a sweet reminder that she would have joined in the fun if she could!
Lighting a remembrance candle can acknowledge the spiritual presence of lost loved ones, and is frequently chosen as part of a Celebrant-led wedding ceremony. A personalised memorial candle may be lit as part of an opening ritual, allowing the flame to stay burning for the duration of your ceremony.
The most important element of the bespoke wedding ceremonies that Independent Celebrant Katie creates is her couple’s love story. Katie does have a soft spot for a woodland wedding as well as a penchant for G&T!Find Katie's profile here
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