Shortly after Joanna lost her mom at age 22, she made plans to wear her mom’s gown at her upcoming wedding. She also thought about wearing a flower crown, just like her mother did on her wedding day. In the end, though, Joanna didn’t do any of those things. Her tributes were more reflective of her mom’s personality. The wedding car, for instance, was the car her mom drove: a VW Beetle. Looking back, Joanna says she felt surrounded by love at her wedding, through the loved ones who were there and by the gentle reminders of her mom. And that is what matters.
“My advice — there’s no right or wrong way to do this,” Joanna later wrote for One Fab Day. “For me, time didn’t heal, but it helped. If it’s still painfully raw, maybe allow things settle in a bit more. It’s hard to make decisions in the midst of grief.”
Well said, Joanna. If you find yourself in a similar position, if a deceased loved one has been on your heart as you’ve been planning your wedding, only you can decide what, if anything, will be the best way to honor that person. You don’t have to do anything; you don’t have to limit your tribute to one thing; and you can change your mind as many times as you need to as you make your plans.
“Honoring a loved one who’s passed is completely personal — it’s a private moment for others, a display table for some, or an ode in food or music choices to some,” wedding planner Tay Wall told Brides magazine.
The point is to do what gives you the most peace and comfort. This is truly one of those times to trust your instincts.
The only exception to this rule, I would say, is to ask yourself if anything you’re doing could be difficult for others at your wedding who are feeling the same loss.
‘Thinking of You’
If you would like to do something special to memorialize a loved one at your wedding, and you’re not quite sure what that should be, here are some possibilities for inspiration.
• Setting aside a seat in their honor. A saved seat can serve as a poignant reminder of the loved one you’re thinking of. You can go a step further, if you’d like, by displaying photos, mementos, or a letter written to the one you’re thinking of on the chair.
• Incorporating photography. Displaying photos on a reserved chair is one of many photography options. If you (and any guests close to your loved one) are emotionally up to seeing images of a late loved one, you can create a special photo table in their honor, add a photo to your bouquet, or work some photos of your loved one into your reception slide show. I suggest images that capture your favorite memories.
• Being creative with your wedding elements. For example, if you will be getting married under the chuppah — a canopy used during Jewish weddings — you can incorporate jewelry, clothing, or other meaningful items into its design. An article in mlive.com described a couple that exchanged vows beneath a custom chuppah made from squares of fabric that family members provided. The bride said it felt like she and her husband were married under the love and good wishes of her family, which would have made her late father happy.
• Keeping something special with you. Carry or wear something meaningful, maybe a piece of jewelry or something your loved one wore when they were married.
• Bringing back one of their favorites. Another way to feel your loved one’s presence is to add a special touch — maybe song, food, poem, or flower — to your wedding that reflects their taste.
You Don’t Have to Be a Rock
One other piece of advice to consider as you plan your wedding: Don’t feel you have to appear to be strong or happy. It’s perfectly normal to be dealing with mixed emotions during this time.
Tiffany Ayuda, who lost a cousin to cancer before her wedding, interviewed Dan Wolfson, PsyD, a psychologist specializing in grief, for a feature about loss and major life events for NBC News Better.
“Grief never goes away,” Wolfson told Ayuda. “It is something we all learn how to adapt to. The intensity of grief changes over time. One of the big things that helps us adapt to loss is to make space for these emotions. This allows you to re-engage with your life and have a vision that’s meaningful in the absence of your loved one.”
Wolfson also encouraged those planning personal events to practice self-care, whether that takes the form of leaning on friends, journaling, or joining a bereavement group.
Ultimately, honoring a deceased loved one in your wedding can be a source of healing and a way to make your wedding richer. You shouldn’t feel obligated to do this, but if it will give you peace, I encourage you to add a tribute that feels right to you and those closest to you.
About the Author:
Roger Igo is the founder and CEO of special events venue, The Bell Tower on 34th, along with Excellent Events, and Venues in Houston. He is the author of “Keep On Going, The History of The Bell Tower on 34th,” a former radio host, a graduate of CEO Space International, and an alumnus of The Disney Institute.