Couples often want to honor loved ones who aren’t present on their wedding day and who have been an important part of their life. You likely are envisioning your wedding day being surrounded by loved ones. But what about family and friends who cannot be there to physically celebrate, like loved ones who are ill or deceased? Honoring these special people through rituals can help couples feel connected to these people on such an important occasion.
Officiant and Life-Cycle Celebrant Janet Dunn provided a variety of ideas for how to remember loved ones who aren’t present on your wedding day and wrote sample scripts you can use in your ceremony.
HOW TO HONOR LOVED ONES IN YOUR CEREMONY
As the focal point of your wedding day, your wedding ceremony is a natural place to honor loved ones who can’t participate in person. Janet Dunn provided a few ideas to place this moment of remembrance and some sample language to inspire you.
Wedding Ceremony Welcome
The officiant’s welcome to your wedding is one place to mention a word of remembrance. As you welcome those who are physically present, it’s easy to take a moment to acknowledge those who are not. Here’s some sample language for a welcome statement that honors loved ones:
Sample Welcome Script 1:
Welcome. We appreciate that you’ve come from near and far to join us for this joyful ceremony. PARTNER and PARTNER are thrilled that you could be here to share their most special day with them. They also remember other loved ones who cannot be here to share this moment with them today. Both those who were simply unable to attend and those who have passed away. We hold these people dear in our hearts today.
Sample Welcome Script 2:
Welcome everyone. PARTNER and PARTNER thank you for your presence here today. They ask for your blessing, encouragement, and lifelong support for their decision to be married. They would also like to acknowledge those who could not be here but would have loved to share in this occasion, particularly LOVED ONE. We hold their memories close to our hearts today.
A Moment of Silence in Your Wedding Ceremony
Janet crafted some beautiful sample scripts that you could use to honor loved ones during your wedding ceremony with a moment of silence. This may directly follow the welcome, or go before your vows or recessional. Note that there is no “right” place for this; it’s what feels most natural for your specific wedding ceremony.
Moment of Silence Script 1:
At this time, we’d like to take a moment of silence to remember those who are not here with us. Even though they are not here physically, they are a part of the foundation that makes PARTNER and PARTNER the people they are today. May we always remember NAMES. Though they are absent physically, we invoke, through our thoughts and prayers, their loving presence.
Moment of Silence Script 2:
We would like to take a moment to recognize those that could not be here today. While they may not physically be with us, PARTNER and PARTNER feel their love and support.
Light a Candle
Candles are a common symbol of remembrance. They’re also readily available and simple to add to a ceremony. Be sure to check with your venue for restrictions around candles first! Here’s a heartfelt sample script for this act:
Candle Lighting Script:
Love has gathered us here today to witness the joining of PARTNER and PARTNER. Had NAME been here today, they would have been incredibly proud to be celebrating this marriage with us. Still, we feel their presence with us, as they surround us with their spirit and shower us with their love. It is in their memory that we now light this candle. Let us all bow our heads for a brief moment of reflection to acknowledge NAME’S presence here with us.
A Memorial Chair During the Ceremony
Saving a chair for your loved ones is a physical reminder of their presence and love. To make it more personal, you could put a framed photo of them on the chair and something small that reminds you of them. (Ex. A stuffed fish for your grandfather who loved to fish.) Or you may choose to hang a sign on the chair that says “In Memory Of NAME” with a flower.
You could also hang photos from loved ones’ weddings down the aisle. This is a wonderful way to acknowledge the marriages that came before you.
Choose Readings That Remind You of Your Loved Ones
Incorporate meaningful readings into your ceremony that remind you of your loved ones. At my wedding, we read a modified version of a book about love my grandma used to read to me. She was ill and unable to attend in person, and this felt like a special way to honor her.
You don’t have to explicitly say why each reading was chosen, so this can be a subtle way to honor a loved one if that feels more true to you.
In addition to your ceremony, there are several ways to honor your loved ones throughout your day.
A SENTIMENTAL ACCESSORY
Wearing something that reminds you of your loved one can be a tangible way to feel a connection to them.
For example, making a pin with a photo charm of a loved one pinned to the inside of a suit coat is a simple way to keep their memory close. This can be displayed in a shadowbox frame after the wedding too.
Using an item of clothing from your loved one, you could create a variety of accessories, including a pocket square and flowers to pin to your hair. I’ve also seen couples sew a heart-shaped piece of fabric into the bottom of a dress, or inside of a suit coat.
If you have access to a loved one’s wedding dress, I highly recommend looking into Ceci Leibovitz’s jewelry. Her pieces are truly lovely and you can create a necklace or cufflinks for your own wedding day (and beyond). (Ceci Leibovitz is part of our 2022 Vermont Weddings Gift Guide.)
You may also choose to wear a piece of your loved one’s jewelry, such as a pair of earrings.
A BLESSING BEFORE DINNER
A pre-dinner blessing or prayer is another natural place for a moment of silence and/or an acknowledgement of the loved ones who aren’t physically present.
CREATE A PHOTO DISPLAY
Many couples create a photo display with pictures of their love story and from parents’ and grandparents’ weddings. If you’re doing something similar, you can include photos of loved ones in this display as well.
You could select their wedding photos (if applicable) or photos of you with them. This collection is often displayed on the welcome table, a guest book or favor table (if different), or dessert table. Sometimes couples will also add a remembrance candle to the display.
HONOR YOUR LOVED ONES IN YOUR FLOWERS
Janet suggests displaying a bouquet of flowers at your ceremony spot or altar with flowers symbolizing your loved ones. You could also include symbolic flowers in your bouquet, such as their birth month flower or a favorite bloom. Either of these options is a beautiful way to subtly pay tribute to your loved ones.
A third option is to tie a ring, charm, or a ribbon of lace (from a loved one’s dress) around your bouquet. (I recommend having someone in charge of removing this and safely storing it after your ceremony.)
Preserving your bouquet after your wedding is a wonderful way to remember both your wedding day and your tribute to your loved one. Tanglewood Floral Preservation creates custom keepsakes such as trays, ornaments, and decor pieces using your flowers and resin.
FOCUS ON LOVE – PICK WHAT WORKS FOR YOU
No matter how you choose to honor your loved ones, what matters is that it feels authentic to you and helps you connect with their love and your partner. “Whether you use words, candles, flowers, or moment of silence…remembrance is what affirms the connection. On a day when two hearts join, focus on the love,” says Janet. It’s up to you if you choose to do something explicit, or if you’d prefer to keep the remembrance more private and personal.
Finally, it’s natural to feel sadness or disappointment that they’re not able to physically celebrate with you. While weddings are a joyful occasion, it’s natural to feel a range of emotions during such a momentous occasion. Focus on the love, and do what feels right for you.
We hope these ideas help you to authentically celebrate your loved ones and feel their loving presence on your wedding day.
Officiant: WEDDINGS BY JANET DUNN
Photo Credits: WEDDINGS BY JANET DUNN | COURTNEY CANIA PHOTOGRAPHY | ISORA LITHGOW CREATIONS | JENNA BRISSON PHOTOGRAPHY | KELSEY CONVERSE | K LENHART WEDDINGS | IDENA BEACH PHOTOGRAPHY | JULIA LUCKETT | AMELIA MARIE PHOTOGRAPHY | KELSEY REGAN PHOTOGRAPHY | COLETTE KULIG PHOTOGRAPHY | DANIELLE ALLENDORF | IDENA BEACH PHOTOGRAPHY