Your wedding day is a joyous occasion, but it can be difficult to celebrate in the absence of a loved one. It’s completely valid to feel the weight of the loss of a cherished friend or family member even amid such a happy time, and choosing to include a meaningful moment or gesture in your wedding is a beautiful way to honor their memory.
There are many ways to pay tribute to a deceased loved one at your wedding, and how you do it is completely personal—some might favor a public commemoration, while others might prefer a more private moment. Before you decide, it’s wise to consider the appropriateness of your idea based on your unique circumstances. This includes:
The best plan of action when choosing a wedding memorial idea is to discuss it with those directly involved before a decision is made. Though your intentions may be good, it’s the most considerate approach.
If you’re all on the same page, and you’re looking for unique wedding memorial ideas, browse these creative ways to honor loved ones who have passed at your wedding, or jump straight to our infographic below.
Keep your loved one’s memory close by reserving a seat for them up front in their honor. You might choose to place their photo in the seat, or another personal item that holds sentimental value.
Your wedding ceremony program is a fitting spot to include a sincere message in your loved one’s honor. This way, everyone will have a chance to read the tribute while still keeping the ceremony proceedings uplifting.
If you’d like a more public commemoration of your loved one, including a reading in their honor at some point during the ceremony is a touching way to pay homage to their memory. The reading could be a poem, book passage, or a quote—whatever you feel is most meaningful. If you’d rather not perform the reading yourself, you can ask your priest or officiant to step in instead.
An alternative to including a reading in your late loved one’s honor is to simply dedicate a portion of the ceremony to sharing about their memory and what they meant to you. Rather than reading a specific quote or passage, you’ll have the chance to speak freely about your relationship with your late loved one and share directly from the heart.
Be sure to consider carefully whether or not this might become too emotional, as emotions will likely already be high on your wedding day.
Another way to honor a deceased loved one publicly (without having to actually say anything if it feels too difficult to speak about) is to include a moment of silence for them at the beginning of the ceremony. Ask your priest or officiant to work this into your ceremony order and have them lead the moment of silence.
Candles are a beautiful way to pay homage to late loved ones and help signify that while their physical presence is missed, they’re still there in spirit. Light a candle in their memory during your ceremony—you can work with your officiant or wedding planner for help with where to include the special moment in your order of service.
If you have an item of your late loved one that holds sentimental value, a touching way to memorialize them during your ceremony is to carry it with you as you walk down the aisle, then place it on a chair reserved for them in their honor.
For a sweet tribute to a late loved one, choose something at your reception to name after them—this could be anything from the bar station (“John’s Bar”) where you serve their favorite drink, or naming a single drink after them (“Grandma’s Lemonade”).
Displaying framed photos of your late loved ones is a beautiful and thoughtful way to honor them and make them a part of your special day. Frame a selection of your favorite photos, then create an installation on your guestbook table so your guests can see and appreciate it, too.
If you’re looking for a unique wedding memorial idea with plenty of character, consider incorporating your late loved one’s favorite dishes into your wedding day menu. This might be an old family recipe or even their favorite late-night snack—whatever it is, your guests will appreciate such a thoughtful addition.
Is there a particular song or artist that meant a lot to your loved one or simply reminds you of them? Use that tune or collection of tunes in your wedding reception playlist in their honor.
If your late loved one is related to your or your partner’s parents, dedicating your parent dance to them is a truly meaningful way to honor their memory. You can also choose to play their favorite song or pick a song that reminds you of them for the dance.
If you’re commemorating a late family member, the reception is a special time to give a toast in their honor. If you don’t want to perform the toast yourself, ask a close family member or whoever is giving toasts to share a cherished memory or sentimental story in their honor.
Your wedding favors can be used as a sweet token of remembrance, and offer a unique way to leave your guests with a piece of your loved one’s memory. This could be anything from incorporating their favorite candies or choosing something you know they loved—if your late grandfather loved cigars, for example, you could send your guests home with his favorites along with a note explaining the token.
Reserve a designated space at your reception by setting up a table filled with framed photos, sentimental objects, and anything else that holds meaning to the person whose memory you’re honoring.
A unique and interactive way to pay homage to late loved ones is by creating a memory box. Have a space where guests can take a card and write down their memories with your loved one for you to look back on later. Place it on your guestbook table or on a memory table if you’re creating one.
Having a custom illustration made is a creative way to give recognition to late loved ones at your wedding, and with so many talented illustration artists out there, it’s a chance to create something truly special to display in your loved one’s honor. If you choose to designate a seat for them at the ceremony, you might place the illustration on their chair for guests to see.
Displaying a plaque or sign is one of the simplest ways to pay tribute to late loved ones. Have one made (or make one yourself) with a touching message in their honor.
If you have a penchant for creating things yourself, a DIY wooden sign in honor of your late loved one is the perfect way to pay your respects. Going the DIY route also means endless possibilities in how you choose to customize your sign, which could include names, dates, and a thoughtful message.
Whether you wear your loved one’s handkerchief, wrap a symbolic rosary around your bouquet, or carry a sentimental trinket or object with you down the aisle, there are countless ways to incorporate a late loved one’s family heirloom to feel like they’re close to you on your big day.
There are a variety of factors that go into choosing a wedding location and venue, like the time of year, number of guests, and so on. But if you’re wedding planning in the midst of losing a cherished friend or family member, you might also consider choosing a site that holds meaning to the deceased loved one.
Adding a piece of your late loved one’s jewelry to your wedding day ensemble or sporting their cufflinks with your suit is a beautiful way to keep them close to your heart for each moment of your big day. That way, you’ll always wear your loved one with you, from the ceremony until the day comes to an end.
Candles are an excellent way to symbolize that a late loved one’s memory still burns bright in your heart, even if they’re physically absent. If you’d rather not light a candle publicly during your wedding ceremony, choose a private moment to light a candle in their honor instead. It could be on the morning of your wedding day while you get ready, or with close friends and family directly after the ceremony.
For a sweet and subtle way to keep your late loved one close to you on your wedding day, place a small photo of them in an ornamental case like a locket, and pin it to your attire. You can choose if you want the photo to be outwardly visible, or you can place it somewhere more discreet so only you and your partner know it’s there.
An alternative to pinning a photo of your loved one to your attire is to add their photo to your bouquet so you can keep them close as you walk down the aisle. Simply add their photo to a heart-shaped locket or small charm and affix it to your bouquet.
Surround yourself with your late loved one’s memory by incorporating their favorite blooms into your floral decor. You might use their favorite flowers in your bouquet, or use them to adorn your reception tables. You can also simply choose to incorporate flowers and plants that symbolize remembrance, like statice, rosemary, pansies, and gladiolus.
Finding ways to incorporate your late loved one’s memory on your wedding day doesn’t have to be done traditionally. For example, maybe they weren’t fond of flowers, but they really loved butterflies. In that case, you might incorporate butterflies into your decor or favors. Anything that holds meaning to you and your late loved one can be woven into whatever part of your wedding you choose—don’t be afraid to get creative.
Take pinning a trinket or photo to your attire a step further by having a memory of your loved one sewn into your wedding day attire, such as a cutting of their shirt or a small monogram. Bring your idea to your seamstress for their input on how to best incorporate it into your suit or dress.
If your late loved one was an older family member, a truly personal way to pay homage to their legacy is by sporting a piece of their wedding attire in your own wedding day outfit. This could mean going all out and wearing their wedding dress as your own, or simply incorporating a single piece, like their veil or tie.
If you’d rather not put on a public display in remembrance of your late friend or family member, set aside some time for a private moment at some point during the wedding instead—either with close friends and family who knew them or even with just you and your partner. This allows for a moment of stillness amid the hustle and bustle of the big day in which you can have the chance to pay your respects privately.
Uphold the memory of your late loved one by requesting donations to a special charity that mattered to them in lieu of a wedding registry. Alternatively, instead of providing wedding favors, you might consider making the donation yourself. Create a sign at the guestbook table indicating your donation in place of favors, along with a note detailing the significance of what the charity meant to your friend or family member.
The quotes and readings below can help you add a more personal touch to any wedding memorial signs, speeches, or readings in honor of loved ones no longer with you on your wedding day.
“And when the stream that overflows has passed, a consciousness remains upon the silent shore of memory, Images and precious thoughts that shall not be and cannot be destroyed.”
–William Wordsworth, The Excursion
No winter without a spring And beyond the dark horizon Our hearts will once more sing …. For those who leave us for a while Have only gone away Out of a restless, care worn world Into a brighter day
–Helen Steiner Rice
When loved ones have to part To help us feel we’re with them still And soothe a grieving heart They span the years and warm our lives Preserving ties that bind Our memories build a special bridge And bring us peace of mind
May the roads rise up to meet you, May the wind be always at your back, May the sun shine warm upon your face, May the rains fall soft upon fields And until we meet again May God hold you in the palm of his hand.
Life can never stay the same No matter how we try Our hands can never stop The clock of life from ticking by But love remains, unchanging In the care of sorrowing hearts For as the love of life is stilled The love of memory starts.
If I should die and leave you here a while, Be not like others sore undone, Who keep long vigil by the silent dust. For my sake turn again to life and smile, Nerving thy heart and trembling hand to do Something to comfort other hearts than thine. Complete these dear unfinished tasks of mine And I perchance may therein comfort you.
–Mary Lee Hall
If I should die before the rest of you Break not a flower nor inscribe a stone Nor, when I’m gone, speak in a Sunday voice, But be the usual selves that I have known. Weep if you must Parting is hell. But life goes on. So sing as well.
Not, how did he die, but how did he live? Not, what did he gain, but what did he give? These are the units to measure the worth Of a man as a man, regardless of his birth. Nor what was his church, nor what was his creed? But had he befriended those really in need? Was he ever ready, with words of good cheer, To bring back a smile, to banish a tear? Not what did the sketch in the newspaper say, But how many were sorry when he passed away?
What though the radiance which was once so bright Be now forever taken from my sight, Though nothing can bring back the hour Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower; We will grieve not, rather find Strength in what remains behind.