There’s a reason they call it your Big Day. Everything is magnified: the laughter, the colors, the joy, and yes, the loss. 

It’s normal to miss a loved one on your wedding day, and there are so many sweet ways you can honor and include them in the festivities. 

Weddings Can Be Tough When a Loved One Is No Longer With Us

It’s supposed to be the happiest day of your life.

But, on a day when you’re surrounded by all of your biggest fans, it’s hard to ignore when one of them isn’t sitting there with the rest of your home team.

You want your loved one to be there, celebrating this moment alongside you, and it’s important to remember that they want that same thing too!

You crave their support and advice.

Nerves, butterflies, and pre-ceremony jitters are all completely normal. You might seek advice, need some encouragement, and want someone to calm you down.

It can be really tough to not have a parent or a sibling there to offer you advice, but remembering and honoring them can bring you some peace. 

Even a small, personal reminder may help keep them close to your heart, bringing you peace and joy on your special day.

It hurts that they cannot see your special day.

You’ve been dreaming of and planning this day for what feels like forever. It’s going to be beautiful and end up just right for the celebration. 

Knowing your loved one will not be there to see it - to sit at the ceremony, to taste the cake, to break it down on the dance floor - that is hard. But, there are so many tasteful ways you can incorporate the memory of your loved one into your wedding day to make them a part of such a joyous occasion!

It feels like others don’t relate.

It will be a bright and joyful occasion, so it can be hard when you feel your guests don’t understand how you feel your loss magnified, finding a sad spot in the midst of such celebration. But you are not alone. 

Others who lost this same loved one, or even face a similar situation themselves, will understand and be honoring and remembering your loved one with you. 

Your loved one was on your home team after all, and so the whole team will be feeling it too, trying to bring the light of your loved one’s life to the party.

It’s Okay to Feel Sad on Your Special Day

Your wedding is an emotional day because it is a big moment in your life. A milestone.

It falls in line behind events like driving your first car, high school graduation, 18th and 21st birthdays. 

It’s natural for you to want your loved ones, your supporters, your home team by your side. So here are some ways to honor and keep your loved one close on your big day.

Honoring Loved Ones During the Ceremony.

This is it. The big moment. Your loved ones are gathered around, all of your close friends and family. Be it 5 or 500 people, you will still feel your loved one’s absence. 

And, there are so many ways to honor them and keep them close in the big moment. From keeping a seat open from them, to lighting a candle in their honor, to releasing butterflies or reciting a poem –– the options are endless, and can be as personal as you want. 

Wear your mom’s wedding dress.

If you’re a bride, and the loved one you are missing is your mom, this could be one of the greatest ways to hold her memory close.

A wedding dress is quite possibly the dress that matters most in a woman’s lifetime. Many take their moms along on the quest to find that “perfect dress”. But maybe, if it’s your mom who is missing, making her wedding dress be yours could be what makes it so perfect.

If you can’t wear her dress (maybe it has yellowed or the fabric is too fragile), don’t lose hope! Here are 5 ways to incorporate your mom’s wedding dress into your big day, keeping her memory close throughout the celebration!    

Carry a family heirloom down the aisle.

Hold onto something concrete that connects you to your loved one throughout the day. Maybe it’s wrapping your bouquet in a family rosary or a bracelet worn by a mother or grandmother. 

It could be as simple as wearing a piece of your loved one’s jewelry, a simple bracelet or even their wedding ring. 

You could even have a memorial diamond created from their ashes or hair, so that a literal piece of them is walking down the aisle with you. 

Add a photo to the bouquet.

The bouquet is a great place to hold mementos of a loved one during the ceremony. Think of adding a heart shaped locket or a small charm to the bouquet wrap with your loved one’s photo inside.

For brides who have lost a father, this can be a deeply special way to still have him walk you down the aisle. 

Choose meaningful accessories.

Accessories offer another tangible way to keep loved one’s close in both the ceremony and the reception. Having a piece of your loved one’s memory up close, just for you, can be one of the simplest and most meaningful ways to carry your loved one during the ceremony and into your new future.

For brides, it may be wearing their loved one’s jewelry, a pendant close to their heart, a shoe charm, or even a swatch of a loved one’s tux sewn into their gown.

For grooms, it may be their father’s or grandfather’s cufflinks. Maybe it’s a swatch of their mother’s gown wrapped around their boutonniere, kept close to their heart. 

Add a photograph to the altar or register table.

Especially if you’ve lost your grandparents, this can be a sweet way to remember their spirit is still with you during the ceremony. 

A sweet photo, maybe even from their wedding, could allow you and your partner to remember their remarkable legacies that live on in you as you take this big step in your life.

This way they can be a part of the ceremony and your certificate signing photos.

Walk down the aisle to one of their favorite songs.

Maybe your loved one played the violin, or just a certain cello piece. You can honor your loved one and request that the band play their favorite instrument or song as your guests arrive at the ceremony.

Choose a meaningful escort down the aisle.

If your father can’t be there to walk you down the aisle, the question rises of who will be your escort. It’s a big moment, so it can be hard if there’s no obvious choice.

Maybe your grandfather, a brother, a cousin or an uncle you’re close with can step in. While someone may stand in for your dad on your big day, he cannot be replaced. But having your escort wear something of his - his tuxedo jacket or favorite tie - can be a sweet way to honor him.

Leave an empty seat in honor of them.

Many couples choose to leave seats empty during their ceremony, reserved in honor of the loved ones whose absence they are feeling. Keeping a seat reserved for them can be a thoughtful way to both include and honor their memory in such an intimate moment, one you know they would never truly miss.

Sew a note into your gown.

Stitching a note into your bridal gown can be a sweet, subtle way to honor your loved one. Maybe it’s their name, a nickname only you called them, their favorite bible verse, personal mantra, or phrase.

Groom’s can wear a father’s tie or cufflinks.

For grooms, the absence of a father is deeply felt in the preparation for your wedding day. In the quest for thoughtful avenues to keep them close during the ceremony and celebrations, wearing your father’s, brother’s or grandfather’s cufflinks or tie can be a sweet way to honor and remember them.

Way to Honor Loved Ones During the Wedding Reception

While inclusion in the big moment of your wedding ceremony is important, carrying the memory of your loved one into the celebration that ensues afterward can be just as important!

Acknowledge them in a special toast.

It can be short and sweet. Maybe even a sibling or close friend says your words, if it’s too much for you to carry.

But in a spirit of joy and celebration, sweetly mentioning your loved one and their missed presence can be a touching way to include them in the joy that follows your wedding ceremony. 

Play some of their favorite tunes.

While your grandfather may have loved the cello, maybe your grandma had a thing for anything and everything by Elvis Presley! Playing some of your loved one’s favorite songs to sing and dance to can keep the mood bright and their memory close.

Have a wedding memorial table for them.

Having a small table with an “In Loving Memory” wedding sign can be a sweet way to honor your loved one at the reception. Maybe you handwrite and frame a quote to honor them, or a favorite quote of theirs. Guests can see this table as they come in and reflect on your loved one’s memory for a moment as they enter the reception venue.

Include their favorite floral arrangements at the tables.

Did your loved one adore sunflowers? Maybe they always had peonies or roses growing in front of their house. Incorporating your loved one’s favorite flowers, the color and scent that made them smile, can be a manageable way to carry the brightness of their memory into the celebration of your wedding reception.

Include their favorite drinks.

Offering their favorite drink on the bar’s menu for the reception can help carry your loved one’s light and memories of their fun spirit into the reception. 

Fun names can honor your loved one and keep the mood bright. If your Grandma would be out there on the dance floor with a daiquiri in hand, honor her spirit that way! Call it “Grandma’s Dancin’ Daiquiri!”

Your guests will smile, hit the dance floor, and honor her memory in celebration. 

Incorporate a favorite food.

So maybe it doesn’t compliment your dinner selection perfectly… and that’s okay.

If your loved one was a fan of perfectly golden french fries, serve them up in their honor! Call them their favorite fries on the menu for the rest of your home team to see. Your partner and anyone else who knew your loved one will smile at their memory.

The Last Word

There’s a reason people love weddings. Weddings are happy. Weddings are bright. Filled to the brim with excitement and anticipation, a climactic moment overflowing with love of every kind.

Weddings can also be really tough. If you’ve lost a loved one, a member of your home team who you always pictured sitting in the front row, it will be tough to see their seat sit empty. Not seeing them smile and laugh at the reception might be really hard.

No loved ones want to miss out on your wedding day. You know they’d want you to dance your heart out, laugh, smile, and celebrate your big day to the fullest. They are always with you in their spirit and memory, and hopefully you now have a few more ideas of how to keep them close on your big day.