Many of us have experienced those familiar pangs of sadness on what is meant to be a completely joyful day. When a loved one is absent—for any number of reasons, but especially for having passed away—it can feel like the day isn’t complete and like we aren’t either.
There’s no way to make that sadness go away completely and nothing can truly replace the feeling of having them with you in person.
But there are a number of thoughtful ways that you can honour absent loved ones throughout your day.
Bring Photos—And Lots of Them
Having photos at your wedding is a great way to create a feeling of closeness and familiarity. This goes for everyone, not just those that are absent—it is a joy to encounter photos of you and your best friend (now MOH) at age 15, or of you and your father or mother when you were small.
When it comes to absent loved ones, setting up your favourite photos of them in prominent places can help make it feel like they’re present. You might set up a lovely portrait on a chair in the front row for your reception or on your registry table.
Some people may even hold these portraits as they undertake their Father/Daughter dance, or a similar wedding tradition which that absent person would have been part of.
Include Favourite Poetry, Passages, or Prayers
At weddings, there are many opportunities to include important passages from our lives. Where typically, we may read out our own favourite poems—in our vows or in a toast—you could opt to honour the people you miss by reading a passage for them.
This could be a poem that reminds you of them or perhaps their favourite prayer.
Taking the time to share these passages aloud with your guests conjures a moment of collective remembrance, creating a very moving, supportive experience.
If you’re worried about turning on the waterworks in front of your entire guestlist, consider taking a quiet moment to read these passages in private and hold your own communion with your absent loved one.
Design Your Bouquet in Memoriam
We probably all know our own astrological sign by this point—whether you want to or not. But many people don’t realize that there are also flowers associated with each month of the year.
With this in mind, consider including the flower affiliated with the birth month of your loved ones in your bouquet. Alternatively, simply include flowers that your loved ones especially preferred or a flower you once saw growing in their garden. Anything that reminds you of them is an excellent choice.
Including flowers dedicated to specific people is a very special way to honour the people you love. Those flowers will be there as you walk down the aisle and as you stand at the altar. They will be in many of your wedding photos. And they are not only lovely to look at, they are often fragrant, too—making the experience of your dedication feel that much more special.
A Seat at the Table
If your loved one would have joined you at the head table or been seated at a table near yours during dinner, consider setting a place for them, too.
You might rest a photo of them at their place setting … even pour a glass of their favourite beverage. This doesn’t change the fact that your loved one isn’t there, but it is a very meaningful way to create a physical space for remembrance.
You can also rest your bouquet here or leave a collection of photos for your family and friends to look through together. The act of collective remembering and reminiscing can take the sting out of missing your loved one on your wedding day.
Acknowledge Absent Loved Ones
For some people, it may be easier to not bring up the absence at all. And you should be respectful of those wishes where you feel it is appropriate. But if you want to reminisce and share about your absent loved one, there’s no better time than a toast.
Do keep in mind that “short and sweet” is often the best route to take, even when reminiscing. There will be guests present at your wedding that may not know your absent loved one and they should not feel left out.
But taking a few minutes to express your gratitude for everyone’s presence, to tell a story or anecdote about your loved one, and to share in your remembrance for a moment will be an experience you’ll remember forever.
Enjoying the Day in Memory of Loved Ones
While we may desperately wish for the real thing, finding ways to honour our absent loved ones throughout the day can bring us a deep sense of comfort.
A great way to honour your absent loved ones is to ensure you savour and enjoy your wedding day. While you may feel sad, it is still a very special and happy occasion to marry someone you love. Finding ways to be happy, excited, and to enjoy yourself in spite of this absence is something you owe to yourself and the people around you.
After all, they may not be present, but they would certainly wish you every happiness. Perhaps the best way to honour the people that love us is to pursue that happiness for the rest of our days.