Weddings are always emotional events. It’s impossible for them not to be—they are days dedicated entirely to committing your life and love to another person. You are surrounded by your loved ones and stepping into this next big stage in a pretty grand fashion.
Of course people get emotional! That’s huge!
But it should come as no surprise to anyone when I say that some of the most emotional weddings I’ve ever been a part of are those where someone important isn’t in attendance, not because they couldn’t afford the travel, but because they are no longer here on this earth.
I’ve seen it all in my years as a wedding photographer. Parents who passed when a bride or groom was too young. Siblings who passed unexpectedly just weeks before the wedding. And best friends who helped bring a couple together, but then didn’t make it to see them down the aisle.
Whatever your story, whatever your loss—the emotional fallout of that absence is sometimes all that more poignant on a wedding day. It’s just one of those important days you can’t help but wish your loved ones could be with you the most. And the finality of that loss, alongside the reminder of all the other events they are going to miss… it just makes their absence so much more palpable.
For some brides and grooms, particularly those facing more recent losses, it can feel like the only way to combat that is with a small wedding as opposed to a big celebration. Ultimately, those are decisions you have to make as a pair, and how you come to them is unique for everyone. There are no right or wrong answers here.
But if you do still yearn for that big celebration (or even a smaller event, with an upbeat and happy vibe) there are ways to honor your loved one and to still make it feel as though they are part of your big day.
Wear Something of Theirs
Perhaps your grandmother passed and left you her favorite earrings. Or your brother is gone, and left behind a pair of cufflinks. Donning something from your deceased loved one on your big day can be a subtle way of honoring their loss and feeling like you still have them with you.
Highlight the Centerpiece
Centerpieces can often be a really easy way to honor your loved one with a card (“In memory of…”) and picture tucked into the overall design.
A Photo Wall
Perhaps you want to gather some of your favorite pictures of you with your loved one together, and display them on a wall in your reception area to be admired and to serve as a reminder of the person who can’t be there.
Moment of Silence
During your ceremony, you may want to request your guests observe a moment of silence in honor of your missing loved one.
Light a Candle
On your entryway table, use a single candle to stand in that person’s memory.
Borrow From Their Wedding
Look at pictures from your loved one’s wedding, and adopt certain details (for instance, the flower arrangements) as your own.
Reserve a Spot
Leave a seat towards the front of your wedding venue open, marking it off with a photo or note in honor of your loved one.
Visit and Leave a Memento
If possible, try to visit the grave site of your loved one on your big day. Consider leaving behind something from the wedding itself (maybe a piece of cake, or even your wedding bouquet) so that you can feel as though you’ve given them a glimpse of what that day entailed.
The possibilities really are endless when it comes to honoring a deceased loved one. You just have to ask yourself how subtle or bold you want to go, and then get creative from there.