There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to personalising your wedding day – from your vows and your speeches to your entire wedding vibe, it’s your call as a couple. This is especially true when it comes to honouring and including a deceased loved one on your wedding day. There’s no ‘right’ way to acknowledge a much-loved friend or relative who is no longer with you and it may prove too painful to do so – this is your day and it’s imperative that you do what feels right for you.
Whether you centre a part of your ceremony or reception around them or choose to have a moment of reflection alone in the run-up or week after the wedding, opt for the tribute that brings you the most comfort. The following ideas might hit the spot, or they might not. Take your time deciding and let your nearest and dearest know what support you need from them.
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1. Include Them in Your Order of Service
Whether indicated as a member of the wedding party or acknowledged in a citation at the end of your order of service, incorporating a dedication to a deceased loved one in your wedding order of service is a simple, meaningful way to let your guests know that a friend or relative is very much part of the day in spirit. This can also be a lovely way to include them if mentioning them aloud is too upsetting.
2. Sew Their Memory into a Dress or Suit
It could be a simple monogram, a note they once wrote or a cutting of a shirt or scarf they wore often, but carrying a loved one with you on one of the most special days of your life is a beautiful way to involve them from start to finish. Work with your seamstress or tailor to sew in a ‘memory’ – it can be outward facing so that guests can see it or hidden so that only you and your partner or wedding party know it’s there.
3. Add a Tribute to Tour Veil
If you’re wearing a veil, consider sewing in a loved one’s name or a personalised message or quote that reminds you of them. You could then display it in a frame after the big day as a long lasting nod to the fact that they walked you down the aisle.
4. Wear a Piece of Their Jewellery or Cufflinks
A parent’s wedding ring can be strung onto a necklace or worn alongside your own, a locket could hold a picture of them or you could wear a family heirloom in commemoration. Many jewellers also specialise in creating bespoke pieces using diamonds, gems or metal passed onto clients from loved ones or down the generations. That way you’ll always wear a loved one with you, from your engagement and/or wedding day onwards.
5. Add a Photo or Trinket to Your Bouquet
Tie a small framed photo, ring or trinket belonging to them to the ribbon of your bouquet to carry them with you in a subtle but personal way. If you’re planning a handfasting ceremony you could also attach momentos to that, or use a scarf or tie belonging to a deceased loved one as your handfasting cord.
6. Include Their Favourite Flower in Your Bouquet
Just as Meghan Markle incorporated Princess Diana’s beloved white garden roses in her bouquet, so weaving in a favourite flower of a deceased friend or relative makes for a touching expression of your love for them. You could add ‘their’ flower to your overall floral design for the day or dot forget-me-nots in vases or in your bouquet for a traditional gesture of remembrance. You could then lay your bouquet on a loved one’s grave or dry your flowers after the wedding for a private homage.
7. Wear a Perfume That Reminds You of Them
If they had a signature scent that you happen to like too, give it a spritz while you’re getting ready and dispense a little into an atomiser to keep with a member of the wedding party throughout the day.
8. Reserve Them a Seat at Your Ceremony
Reserving a seat pride of place in front of where you’re getting married is a symbolic way to show your love for a relative who can’t be there. You could place a flower or photo on an empty seat or alternatively an item that makes you think of them – perhaps a hat they used to wear all the time or an ornament they treasured.
9. Dedicate a Reading to Them
Whether it’s a religious reading, a poem, song lyrics or simply a passage or excerpt that reminds you of them, consider asking a relative or friend who also knew them to read it during your ceremony.
10. Play ‘their’ Song
You could play their favourite track as you walk down the aisle, sign the marriage register, for your first dance or to kick off the party – anything goes.
11. Use their Hankie
Chances are you’ll need to mop up both happy and sad tears on the day so if a loved one had a handkerchief that’s been passed down, tuck it in your pocket or ask a member of the wedding party to keep it handy during the ceremony and speeches. It’ll serve a practical purpose while also reminding you of them.
12. Light a Candle
Lighting a candle in the memory of a deceased friend or family member is a reflective, spiritual act that can simply involve you and your partner, close family or mark the opening or closing of your wedding ceremony with all of your guests looking on. You could also light a candle as you’re getting ready or in the days before the wedding if you’d rather honour them one-to-one.
13. Make a Memory Table
Decorating a memory table with joyful photos, flowers and keepsakes allows both you and your guests to appreciate a dearly departed friend or relative at quiet moments throughout the day. Reserving a space just for them means that you can demonstrate just how special they are and were to you without you needing to explicitly say anything, plus you can drop by with a glass of champagne whenever you fancy and remember happy times while celebrating a seriously momentous occasion.
14. Incorporate Them into Your Wedding Menu
If your dad’s favourite Friday night meal was fish and chips, why not scale it down for a canapé? From your granny’s revered Victoria sponge to a friend’s knockout cocktail recipe, personalising your wedding menu, dessert table, wedding cake or late night snack in remembrance of someone you miss is a tribute that no-one will forget. Speaking of cocktails...
15. Raise a Toast
Whether you opt for fizz or your loved one’s usual order (or both), raising a toast to relatives and friends who are no longer with you is a wedding tradition that allows everyone to pay their respects.
You could also include them in your wedding speech by way of anecdotes or simply sharing qualities that made them so important to you and what they might enjoy about your big day. If you’re struggling to put your feelings into words, speech and script writing experts Speechy can help you to get your points across and honour your loved one in a sensitive, celebratory way. They also have a few golden nuggets of advice if you are mentioning a deceased friend or relative in your wedding speech:
“Keep your tributes towards the end so you don’t get choked up too soon. If you feel that you are about to cry, try looking upwards. It is said to be physically impossible to cry if you are looking up. Of course, everyone will understand if you do cry.
“Look to friends and family too – both during the speech and for advice beforehand. They’ll hopefully be able to help you through the mixed emotions you’re feeling.”
16. Devote Your Favours to Them
A wedding favour in memory of a loved one proudly displayed at every place setting will encourage guests to discuss a departed loved one or raise awareness of a charity or cause close to their heart. Charity wedding favours range from the simple to the useful to the highly decorative (felt llama in a tux anyone?), or make a batch of a friend or relation’s prizewinning marmalade or sloe gin for guests to take away. You could explain the meaning behind the favour in your toast or speech, or simply let the dedication do the talking.
17. Meet Them at the Bar
Arrange to meet your partner, friends or family at the bar during the reception and have a private moment to toast to a much-missed loved one. Even better if you ask the barman to prepare their signature drink. If they loved nothing more than a cup of tea, meet by the tea and coffee spread and raise your cups to them. If this feels too emotional on the day, consider having a drink or meal in their honour before or after the wedding day with those close to you and let it all out.
Decided to give a speech and toast a loved one? Here’s your ultimate guide to giving a bridal speech.