As wedding planning gets underway, many couples start thinking and talking about loved ones who’ve passed on…and who therefore won’t be present on the big day. Honoring a lost loved one in a way that’s elegant, meaningful and appropriate to a marriage ceremony can be a challenge, so we asked eight people who made it happen to share their stories.
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When I got married, my dad had already passed, so I walked down the aisle by myself. I didn’t want anyone else to take his place. I had a red carnation as part of my bouquet of flowers, which symbolized him. He was from a deeply Polish family, and red carnations are a popular Polish symbol.
— Lori Ann, Virginia
My husband didn’t want to do anything extravagant for his late father. We lit a single large white candle and set it next to a single white rose at the altar with us during the ceremony.
— Lindsey, Missouri
We placed candles on each side of the altar for the relatives we wished could have been there. For my grandfather, who had died less than a year before, we had a candle made with his name on it and put it right next to where my husband and I knelt during the ceremony.
— Christina, Kansas
Both of us had lost a parent by the time we were married. We placed my dad’s signature cowboy hat and several of the milk-glass vases from Eric’s mom’s collection atop the piano in the front of the church. Everyone who knew our parents instantly recognized these personal mementos when they entered the church.
— Carri, Kansas
My grandfather passed away three days before my wedding. Our family is of Russian heritage, and polkas are a big part of family weddings. So at our wedding, I danced a solo polka in my grandfather’s honor.
— Kara, Connecticut
For my wedding, I decided to use music to honor those we had lost. I played a few specific songs both in my ceremony and at my reception. For example, we played “Let There Be Peace on Earth” during our ceremony, which was my grandmother’s favorite. I feel that music is very personal, and it brings so many emotions and memories to the surface.
— Holly, Pennsylvania
To honor my husband’s grandmother who had passed away shortly before our wedding, we had three of her great-grandchildren walk down the aisle with a garland of her favorite flowers. They hung the garland on the unity candle, and we noted the significance of this gesture in the program.
— Amy, North Carolina
We made a donation to the American Cancer Society. At the reception, we placed bookmark-sized notes at each seat informing our guests that a donation had been made in memory of friends and family that we’d lost to various forms of cancer.
— Barb, Kansas