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  • Writer's pictureSydney Schatz

Five Ways to Honor Those Who Can’t Be There on Your Wedding Day

In my opinion, this is a very important topic to talk about, but can sometimes be a little difficult and pull at your heartstrings. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees in life and sometimes there are people who you wish could be present and part of your wedding day, but they are instead watching over from above. However, you still want to find a way to honor them and feel their presence, even if they can’t physically be there.

That said, today I want to chat about five ways to honor those who can’t be with you in person on such a special day, but who also deserve some recognition for the role they played in your life to get you to where you are standing now.

1. Photo display – This is probably the most common and classic way you have seen special ones honored on a wedding day, but don’t be deterred, this can be done very tastefully and will always be unique to you because of the people in those photos! One option is to set up a “memorial table”, staging photos of those loved ones whom you wish to honor. Another option is to find a fun old ladder, maybe restore it a little, and use the rungs as steppingstones to lay out those special moments and people who you want to recognize and remember. The last idea is super fun if your wedding venue of choice has a cool or big tree on the property near the ceremony or reception area. Get some twine, wrap the tree, and hang some photos with clothes pins – emulating a “family tree”, again, honoring those who helped get you to where you are now, but can’t enjoy this milestone with you in person.

Looyenga Photography

2. Reserved chair at the ceremony – The first time I saw this was back in 2016 when a client’s father had passed due to cancer when she was a teenager. At the ceremony we reserved a chair just for him with his favorite hat and most dashing framed photo. Little was this bride aware, but her mom also added her own surprise to this chair. Before the bride’s father passed, he actually recorded a very special message to his little girl specifically for her wedding day, her mom put this message into a bear, and that bear sat on the reserved chair at the ceremony smiling away. During the ceremony when they got to the part where the bride wanted to recognize her father, what was also recognized was the message that he recorded just for her. Don’t mind me as I melted into the ground in a puddle of tears. If this idea speaks to you, grab that favorite item and the picture that emulates the person whom you wish to honor most, and reserve a chair just for them at your ceremony! Front row!

3. Special song dedication – This one really tugged at my heart when I had a client honor her father this way a couple years ago. Not only did she have her two brothers walk her down the aisle, but she also shared a dance with both of them to their dad’s favorite song when the father/daughter dance traditionally would have happened. Again, don’t mind me in the corner surrounded by a bunch of used tissues. Following this, the DJ invited all the guests who knew the father of the bride onto the dance floor to honor his memory with another one of his favorite tunes! Really helped break that ice and get guests onto the dance floor, enjoying a happy moment instead of wallowing in the fact that such a special and important person was unable to attend the wedding.

Cassie Trottier Photography

4. Photo charm – Think of this idea like a locket, held close to your heart. Take your favorite photo, turn it into a charm that can be wrapped around your wedding bouquet and proudly hold that person close as you walk down the aisle. You can also do this inside a tux lapel, behind a tie, or even in the lining of a wedding dress. This can be a photo, personal message, or just a heart with everyone’s names woven into it so you know all those people are there to support you in spirit.

5. “Share a toast” – Each family situation is unique and different. If there are several people in your life you are hoping to recognize, I would focus on a display in option #1. However, sometimes there is just one or two or three people whom you wish to make sure they are honored at some point on your wedding day. This “share a toast” idea can then be a great option. At the end of dinner & the conclusion of speeches, simply raise a glass (either with drink in hand or with shot, if venue allows) to those who will always live in your heart. Tell a quick story or memory about that person in a way that makes everyone smile. This idea can also be a little less formal by setting up a welcome memorial table of sorts. In addition to the framed photo of this special person on a table, add a sign that says “share a toast with _______” with some plastic shot glasses and a bottle of their favorite alcohol. PLEASE, if you like this idea, clear it with your venue first!! Alcohol laws and regulations are very serious for venue permits & their contracts.

There are those people in our lives who leave their mark, help shape who we are and who we become – sometimes they are blood related, sometimes they are not, but no matter what they mean the world to us! However, sometimes life has plans that don’t allow them to celebrate some of the biggest milestones with us in person. That just means you need to find another way to honor their memory or presence, so get creative! What are some other fun ideas you have seen to incorporate these important individuals into a wedding day?

And if you want some other ideas about how to be creative with your wedding plans check out these posts…

Five of the Best Songs for Walking Down the Aisle

Five Favorite Late-Night Snack Options

Five Wedding Traditions and Where They Came From

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