A modern wedding ceremony carries many layers of meaning. For you as a couple it’s primarily to celebrate and acknowledge your commitment to each other, but often it’s also a tribute to family and friends. Those who have helped shape you into the people you are, the people you aspire to be. And to those who have had your back and will continue to as you walk through married life.
For that reason your wedding day can also be a tough day. A day when you can’t help but think of loved ones who aren’t here anymore. People you would have loved to share the moment with, but can’t.I’m often asked to make mention or pay tribute to those who can’t be with us.
For some, mentioning names or going into too much detail brings tears to their eyes. In that case we may just make a light reference to people in general who can’t be there either because they’ve passed away or because they couldn’t make the trip for whatever reason.
There are others who really want to feel the presence of their loved one or loved ones on their wedding day. They want to acknowledge them, pay respect to them and treasure them as part of their wedding day memories.
If you fall into that category, here are some ideas of ways you can create moments and sentiments which have added meaning.
One thing I would say is to start by thinking about the person they were in life. The things they enjoyed, their passions and things you shared.If they loved fashion it can be as simple as wearing something they owned or an accessory you know they would have loved. If they took you for ice cream whenever you were together, consider an ice cream dessert bar.
Then it’s about working out a practical and thoughtful way to give them a little nod up above.
Traditionally, you’ll have a seated area for your ceremony. Family and special guests tend to sit at the front. Save a seat with their photo or a personal belonging.
Attach a locket or small picture frame to your bouquet or boutonniere and carry them with you. Or pop the locket in your suit pocket as an inward reminder. Wear an accessory or item of clothes that reminds you of them. Grandpa’s sharp cuff links, Nonna’s rosary beads, even the perfume or cologne they wore.
At some point you’ll be signing marriage documents. If you’re using a signing table it’s nice to style the table so it looks pretty in photos. You could place some photos there or use other meaningful belongings like an ornament, old record, framed piece of art, war medals – something that speaks to you.
Here’s where you can get creative by using the décor and styling as a subliminal sign of appreciation. Choose a colour palette that reflects their favourite colours.
Use flowers that remind you of being in their garden. These can be in your bouquet, floral decorations or the petals thrown when the ceremony finishes.
Decorate with ornaments that belonged to them or remind you of them. Use a paperweight on the signing table that always sat on your dad's desk. Use mum's basket to hand out flower petals. Add vases or trinkets to the guest book table, signing table or guest tables that belonged to those special people. Even find glassware for the cocktail hour that reminds you of them.
Play a song that reminds you of them either in the ceremony, during the signing or at some point in the evening. It doesn’t have to be announced, it can be a little moment that pops into your head to remind you they are with you.
The more personal the better! If you’re remembering a sibling who passed away you might play their favourite song – calling on the Real Slim Shady to please stand up! It definitely doesn’t have to be sombre or sad, just a little in-joke for you to share.
6. Light a candle
There are two ways you can approach this. You can either display a lit candle on a side table or you can include it in your ceremony.
The way we would include it in the ceremony is to explain the significance of sharing the moment with your guests.
Wording for this might be along the lines of:
Of course, on a day like today, Beth and Andy can’t help but think of family members who have passed away. In particular Beth’s mum Sue, Andy’s nanna Jean and his uncle Ross. I’d like to invite Andy’s sister Kara and brother Zac to come up along with Beth’s dad Rick.
Kara, Zac and Rick are each holding a candle. Andy and Beth are going to light each candle. As they do, we think of these special people and their place in Andy and Beth’s past, their memory in the present and their ongoing presence in their future.
As a married couple, there are ways Andy and Beth wish to keep their memories alive.
In honour of Sue and her love of fresh flowers in the house as a weekly tradition, Andy vows to buy a bunch of lilies every Saturday morning. In tribute to nanna Jean, Beth wants to learn how to make her famous shepherd’s pie. And as a cheers to uncle Ross, they’re both going to develop a taste for whisky. You’ll note, this begins today with whisky sours after the ceremony.
If your loved one was particularly passionate about a certain cause or you are now passionate about raising awareness for the illness they faced, you can think of including a donation in lieu of a party favour or bonbonniere. This can be as simple as buying ribbons or badges and attaching them to napkins, menus or ceremony programs.
Or perhaps they were avid gardeners and you’d like to give everyone a packet of seeds to embrace their own green thumb. You could even add a family recipe on the back to include what the seeds will grow.
Take a moment of silence in the ceremony to think of the people who are not present. A minute to think of them, what they would say if there were there and the values they have instilled making you the person you are now.
Food and drink are big reminders of the people we love. Add one of their personal favourites to your drinks list or menu. Maybe it’s VB tinnies served in an esky. Maybe it’s peppermint chip topped pavlova for dessert. I always think of two things when I remember my nan – Madge – whisky and KitKats. She always used to bring me a KitKat when she came to visit, even when I was way too old to be spoiled by treats. Maybe there’s a whisky/KitKat cocktail I can create for my own wedding…
If you’re game for a mid-ceremony toast I’m totally down for that. It can even be a shot if that’s the only way to drink Ouzo!
Passing on a family heirloom as your wedding ring is a beautiful way to show that the legacy of your lost loved one continues and to honour your spouse – a little sign nan or pop would have approved.Obviously, you don’t have to keep the original setting. You might like to take a few rings to a jeweller and see what they can design to suit your style.The sentiment of the ring having been worn before, having lived a past life with your loved one can be a heart-warming feeling.
If you’re thinking of ways to remember a loved one, talk to your partner about their feelings. They might have some ideas as to how you can honour them in your own way.
Also be prepared for them to share that they aren’t entirely comfortable with it.
Make sure the sentiment is shared by both of you and that you are doing it as much for the person who has lost someone as you are doing it for your own reasons.
If you’d like to mention a loved one who is no longer with us in your ceremony, whether it’s small or in-depth chat to me about ways we can do it make it flow into your personalised ceremony. Email me with your ideas to get the conversation going.