Quite often weddings are sweet-sad occasions on which the absence of someone really loved is felt acutely. I have performed many weddings where a parent of either party has passed away recently or even a long time ago. Sometimes it’s doting grandparents who are missed, or a special friend. On an occasion like a wedding these loved ones are conspicuous by their absence, and it is comforting to invoke their presence with special rituals.
It’s appropriate to say something in the introduction to the ceremony to acknowledge loved ones who’ve passed away, even to light a candle to them at the beginning. A brief acknowledgement is all that is necessary, as after all the purpose of the day is to celebrate life and new beginnings.
Sometimes words needn’t even be used: I did one ceremony where an empty chair was left in the front row with a note acknowledging that the seat was reserved in memory of a dad taken too soon. On other occasions I’ve seen objects placed on the signing table as a symbol of the person absent – a favourite ornament, a photo, a family heirloom.
Sometimes a wedding can even be held on the birthday or the wedding anniversary of a loved one who has passed, just as a gesture of love and gratitude for what has gone before.
One of the weddings I conducted for the LGBTQI community was for two men who had been executives on CAMP in the 1970's. In the introduction they particularly wanted to acknowledge the support of their parents during their 50-year relationship. One of the couple’s close friends had commissioned their wedding cake – she was terminally ill and tragically died before the wedding. The cake was therefore an encompassing and powerful symbol of their missing her, her contribution to and her excitement about their wedding. They told me this cake had “ taken on a life of its own”.
There were no tears, just a warm appreciation for the love that has made up life and the progression to this moment of marriage – joyful, fulfilling and with great days to come.
Other ideas you could include:
- Pin their photos to your bouquet.
- Stitch a photo to the heel of your shoes so they are always with you throughout the day.
- Set up a memory table with photo's and a few personal items.
- Reserve a seat and place a photo or flower on the seat or hang the photo's around a tree.
- Include a family recipe.
- Play a song that you associate with them throughout the wedding.
- Add an "In Loving Memory Of" tribute on your program with the rest of your ceremony details.
- Place a flower arrangement in their honour at the altar.
- Have a moment of reflection.
- Light a candle for them and have it throughout the ceremony.
- Give a toast.
- Make a donation to a charity that your loved one supported.